The logic at the heart of Mindstack.io is based on cooperative learning and complex instruction.
This pedagogical approach, developed mainly at Stanford University in San Francisco, is part of the socioconstructivist school of education.
The primary purpose of this theoretical framework is to provide each member of a group with the opportunity to participate and learn.
Because the pioneers of this method observed that in any group work, several factors prevent members from taking part in the discussions or from taking the risk of giving an answer. By letting others participate, those who are more passive do not learn as well.
Cooperation works when students consider themselves equal, which does not mean that they consider themselves equal in each skill, but that they have an equal right to participate in the task and to learn.
– Elizabeth G. Cohen, Stanford University
The status problem
The status problem refers to the social hierarchy that naturally develops in a group. Participants are ranked informally more or less highly, depending on various factors: gender, ethnic origin, oral and written fluency, social skills, etc.
This dynamic leads to inequalities in exchanges and learning. Indeed, those considered “low status” participate less, while those considered “high status” are almost always ready to answer and their contribution has more weight in the group.
However, in a group that respects the principles of cooperative and complex learning, everyone has the opportunity to express themselves within a structured framework.
After a few sessions, the gap between those considered “low status” and those considered “high status” is narrowing, allowing everyone to contribute and learn. More emphasis is placed on the quality of ideas and not on the person who formulated them.
Cooperative learning process
Cooperative learning and complex instruction is based on a rationale designed to structure interactions in such a way as to encourage everyone to contribute to the task at hand.
The cooperative process refers to a way to organize group work in a structured way to encourage everyone’s participation.
A complex task requires high-level skills, which require logical reasoning and can be answered by several correct answers. Learners are asked to analyse several variables, exercise critical judgment, justify and summarize ideas to answer the question asked.
Benefits and studies
Cooperative learning and complex instruction have been implemented in many settings, in different ways, from primary schools to universities, for many years.
“There are more than 600 studies on classroom cooperation. […] According to extensive research (Johnson and Johnson, 1989; Slavin, 1990; Abrami et al., 1996), cooperation leads to the following results:
Source : Jim Howden and Marguerite Kopiec, in Ajouter aux compétences, coopérer et apprendre au postsecondaire, p. XII et XIII.
Built in Mindstack.io
The design of the platform and its digital nature have made it possible to integrate two of the components of this pedagogical approach: the cooperative process and the statutes.
The cooperative process is fully managed by the platform. Its presence on the web makes it possible to manage time and automatically support participants in a work sequence rigorously designed to increase everyone’s participation.
Treatment of the status problem
The group dynamics is different online than in person. The digital nature of mindstack.io makes it possible to reduce the negative effects of the social hierarchy. The participants have more time to think about the question and write their answers. The fact that these are shared anonymously means that more focus is given on ideas than on the people who put them forward. The process contributes to positively changing group dynamics.
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