I hope you all don't mind a Brit joining the discussion!
I have only just joined the list so apologies if some of this has gone on before! Perhaps due to culturo-linguistic differences it is not clear to me what 'co-operative' group work looks like. Perhaps this does have a meaning within the USA maths ed community. Is it the same as 'group work' eityher way, this is certainly an issue for us here. I am a member of a team working with beginning teachers of mathematics at secondary level. All of our work is through collaborative group work. Our course only has about three lectures all year - and these are in the first week - so everyone forgets what they are about anyway!
However when our students go into schools - we see little if any collaborative work in schools. (either students of practicing teachers) There will be many factors in this - which will be familiar to most of you. However Eileen Abrahamson mentioned something about learners learning to sit back and be taught. Isn't this what Brousseau called the didactic contract? What Mason calls the didactic tension, (and I am sure others have called it different things. It is not just young children who do this, but we all do it (wow - rash conjecture?!)
Guy Claxton wrote that "most current practice in schools and the way people think about education is still based upon out-dated and innacurate views about learning, whether derived from folk or formal sources. These ideas buried in the minds of teacher,s parents and administrators limit what they can conceive of and therfore constrain their sense if what is possible." (Teaching to Learn)
There might be another source which is to do with the middle class background of teachers. This brings with it certain visions of childhood, authority and so on. It is my contention that collaborative work is a left-wing agenda (Which being left wing I fully endorse. ) It is to do with valuing and sharing, caring and emancipation. We have had in the UK yesrs of a most extreme right wing government which has influenced very subversively the ways of thinking of much of the population. We must remenber also that universal schooling derived in the UK (and elsewhere?) from a private system of education where education was ripped from the community and family where it had been for many years. It was for the rich and powerful. Current schools mirror this and as such are socilaising children into a capitalist culture. To change this - I contend - we need to move teachers to the left.
Might this have something to do with the lack of collaborative work? Jjust a thought!
************************************************************ Peter Gates School of Education University of Nottingham University Park Nottingham NG7 2RD U.K. firstname.lastname@example.org