Co-operative learning and adaptive instruction in a mathematics curriculum

J. Terwel, P.G.P. Herfs, E.H.M. Mertens, J.Chr. Perrenet

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The AGO 12 to 16 Project (the acronym AGO stands for the Dutch equivalent of
'Adaptive Instruction and Co-operative Learning') seeks to develop and
evaluate a mathematics curriculum which is suitable for mixed-ability
groups in secondary education. The research questions we will address here
are, first, whether this curriculum is feasible and effective, and, second, what
effects, if any, the context variables time and mean cognitive level of the class
have on learning.

Many mathematics programmes make insufficient allowance for the
differences in intellectual ability that exist in mixed-ability classes. In order to
change this situation we developed a mathematics curriculum with adaptive
qualities. The evaluation of the experimental curriculum was carried out in
two stages. During the first stage the curriculum was used at two schools with
the aim of investigating the feasibility of the programme. Experience with
the implementation of the programme led to some improvements in the
experimental materials. By and large the AGO model appeared to be feasible in
secondary classrooms. In the second stage, which was on a large scale, the
focus was on the effectiveness of the programme. Six hundred students, 13
teachers and six schools were involved in the research. Teachers in the
experimental group were trained in AGO methods and in implementing the
new AGO curriculum. Teachers in the control groups worked with the
existing programme following their usual methods of teaching.

The main conclusion of the study is positive. The AGO model as a whole
proved to be practical and effective in learning mathematics. The AGO model
has a positive effect on the intercept, which means that the mean scores of AGO
classes are higher than the mean scores of non-AGO classes. It may be
concluded that, on the average, students benefit from learning in AGO classes
as compared with non-AGO classes. AGO does not increase or decrease
the differences between students in the same class. As expected, positive effects of two context variables were found: (1) the total amount of time spent in class covering the mathematical content and (2) class composition as indicated by the mean pretest score (aptitude) of the class.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-233
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Curriculum Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1994


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