The nature of cooperation

Helen Nicholson

Many years ago, I was teaching drama to a rather boisterous class of 12-year-olds. There was nothing particularly remarkable about the lesson; the class was working in groups and dramatising part of a Greek myth. The atmosphere, I remember, was lively but quite productive, except for one group who were struggling to make sense of the task. They disagreed on pretty much everything, and no one in the group was willing to forfeit their own ideas or accept someone else’s perspective. I observed the group from a distance, waiting for the right moment to intervene as the arguments escalated. I did not need to wait long, and two boys came to tell me that they just could not work together and asked to move groups. My response was that of most drama teachers, I suspect, I wanted them to stick it out and workout what was going wrong. ‘We just can’t co-operate’, offered one boy, adding, ‘arguing is just our natural selves’. It is an explanation I have been pondering in different ways ever since.

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