Education programmes of the previous education departments in South Africa were based mainly on individual achievement and competition. In the new Outcomes Based programmes there is a shift to interaction, shared knowledge and the mastering of a variety of interaction skills. Ned Herrmann’s (1996) theory about the complexity of the human brain, the MI-theory of Gardner (2000b) and Sternberg’s (1997), Litzinger and Osif’s (1993) view of thinking and learning styles form the theoretical framework of this study. This research focuses in the first place on the way that students experience group work and co-operative learning, secondlyon what facilitators know or do not know about MI (multiple intelligences), co-operative learning and groupwork and how they implement the principles in their planning and during contact sessions. The research problem is: To what extend do facilitators in higher education make provision for the learning style preferences and other individual differences of learners during contact sessions facilitated by means of group work and/or co-operative learning? How do the learners respond to these approaches? This mixed methods research is done through observation, semi-structured interviews, a diagnostic questionnaire and a content analysis of study documentation. Study documentation was analysed to determine to what extend facilitators provided for learners’ learning style preferences and other individual differences. The behaviour of teacher training students was recorded over a period of three months and in different group settings. Participants completed a diagnostic questionnaire and the data obtained were compared with their behaviour to determine if there is any correlation between certain learning styles and behaviour patterns. I found that although the questions and assignments leave room for the learners’ differences, there is no reference to MI and learning styles in the study documentation. The theory of co-operative learning and group work is addressed in die study documentation. Learners with high interpersonal intelligence scores participated spontaneously in group activities and co-operative learning. Contrary to this the intrapersonal learners responded in a negative way. Personality clashes, conflict, prejudice, etc. were resolved to a great extend by changing group combinations. Nevertheless, the intrapersonal learner maintains a negative response towards group activities and co-operative learning. There was little or no significant negative behavior observed from learners with high scores in the other seven intelligences according to Gardner (2000b). The outcome of the first contact session led me to the conclusion that co-operative learning and group work are valuable facilitating strategies on the basis of shared sources, knowledge and progress in learning activities. Although the facilitators used these facilitating strategies, I could find no evidence that they took learners’ preferences and differences into account during contact sessions. However, in the interviews it became clear that they are enthusiastic to learn more about MI and learning styles and ways to plan and facilitate according to that knowledge. Facilitators need to know the learners in order to accommodate their diversities in group activities and co-operative learning. Learners, on the other hand, need to know their own abilities, intelligence and learning style preferences. The teaching profession is complex and continuous renewal and amelioration are essential to ensure dynamic and effective learning.
Dissertation (MEd (Curriculum Studies))--University of Pretoria, 2006.