I was a student at Aston University in 1994 when I first started using and thinking about cooperative development (CD). So it seems appropriate after 20 years to write something about CD and its importance for me today.
First of all, I believe CD is a potentially very powerful tool to help develop, stimulate and support both reflective practice and developing research ideas. In other words, it can be useful for the teacher who is puzzled about some aspect of their teaching or materials. It can also be useful for the researcher who wants to clarify her ideas.
The key word for me is ‘articulation’. CD is not meant for giving the Speaker advice, suggestions and the benefit of your wisdom. It is much more about holding off from the all the usual stuff in conversation and debate and creating a space in which the Speaker can get further in her thinking. In this space, articulation can happen. A Speaker can feel their way forward, take tentative steps, try out a version of something, feel their way into a topic. It’s hard to put into words. You just need to try it.
I think CD has a key role to play in supporting an individual’s reflective practice (RP). In several articles (e.g. Mann and Walsh 2013) I have argued that reflective practice is often presented as reliant on written form of expression and largely an individual enterprise. However, CD represents a dialogic and collaborative alternative and can support and provide structure to an individuals attempt to get further in their thinking.
In 2002 I completed my PhD and this thesis had a focus on CD. This is available in the ‘Theses and Dissertations’ section of this website. I’ve also written a few articles which are listed under ‘Publications’. I was lucky enough to work with Julian Edge, Keith Richards, Jane Willis, Sue Wharton, Sue Garton, Peter Roe and we met regularly to practice CD. We committed to using CD over a three-year period. We also invited outside ‘Speakers’ such as Mike Hoey, Susan Hunston, Jane Sunderland and many others to try the experience of CD.
I look forward to meeting some of you in the future and if you are curious about CD then perhaps begin with this quick guide to CD – then perhaps have a look at
Mann, S. and Walsh, S. (2013). RP or ‘RIP’: A Critical Perspective on Reflective Practice. Applied Linguistics Review, 4(2), 291-315.