June 28, 2013

The 5 basic elements for cooperative learning

The first and most important element in structuring cooperative learning is positive interdependence.
Positive interdependence is successfully structured when group members perceive that they are linked with each other in a way that one cannot succeed unless everyone succeeds. Group goals and tasks, therefore, must be designed and communicated to students in ways that make them believe they sink or swim together.
Teacher Actions
 Set up tasks which cannot be completed without input from each team member
 Reflect on the 9 positive interdependencies and how they can be incorporated into the lesson
 Allowing one student to be carried by the others
 Allowing one student to do the work for the group
 Holding up one person or group as "best"

The second basic element of cooperative learning is promotive interaction, preferably face-to-face.
Students need to do real work together in which they promote each other's success by sharing resources and helping, supporting, encouraging, and applauding each other's efforts to achieve. There are important cognitive activities and interpersonal dynamics that can only occur when students promote each other's learning.
Teacher Actions:
 Present instructions in visual and auditory ways (in language student can understand)
 Check for understanding
 Discuss concepts being learned
 Connect present with past learning

The third basic element of cooperative learning is individual and group accountability.
Two levels of accountability must be structured into cooperative lessons. The group must be accountable for achieving its goals and each member must be accountable for contributing his or her share of the work.
Teacher Actions:
 Keep the size of the group small. The smaller the size of the group, the greater the individual accountability may be
 Give an individual test to each student
 Randomly examine students orally by calling on one student to present his or her group's work to the teacher (in the presence of the group) or to the entire class
 Observe each group and record the frequency with which each member contributes to the group's work
 Color code contributions
 Process individual contributions
 Individuals initial team decisions
 Assign one student in each group the role of checker. The checker asks other group members to explain the reasoning and rationale underlying group answers
 Have students teach what they learned to someone else
 Assign roles, especially gatekeeper
 Use structures like Jigsaw, Numbered Heads, Roundtable, Color-Coded Cards
 Base team scores on individual achievement
 Including group products, tests, discussions and decisions in which individual contributions are not differentiated

The fourth basic element of cooperative learning is teaching students the required interpersonal and small group skills.
Cooperative learning is inherently more complex than competitive or individualistic learning because students have to engage simultaneously in task work (learning academic subject matter) and teamwork (functioning effectively as a group).
Teacher Focus:
Help students develop social skills naturally or by specific teaching of the required skills in the following areas:
 Leadership, Decision-making, Trust-building, Communication, Conflict-management skills
 Provide opportunities for students to ?naturally? use social skills in fun or high interest topics
 Teach, model, chart, process (provide feedback), role play, and reinforce social skills,
 Assign roles and skills and teach associated response modes and gambits.
 Placing students in situations before they have appropriate skills, e.g., placing them in conflict before they have conflict resolution skills

The fifth basic element of cooperative learning is group processing.
Group processing exists when group members discuss how well hey are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships. Groups need to describe what member actions are helpful and unhelpful and make decisions about what behaviours to continue or change. Continuous improvement of the processes of learning results from the careful analysis of how members are working together and determining how group effectiveness can be enhanced.
Teacher Actions:
 Have group members discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships
 Describe what member actions are helpful and not helpful
 Make decisions about what behaviours to continue or change
 Telling students to discuss, cooperate, practice, or produce a product without providing structures, models, and norms to reflect on.

Thanks to Kathy Green, Ontario Canada

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