TeacherServer.com
Home | How It Works | Stats
Login | Register
     
 
Topic Go Back
 
     
     
 
Article
Posted on September 19, 2012 5:29 pm
Add to Favorites Add to Favorites

Zafer Unal
Zafer Unal
Reps: 957
Planning and Managing Cooperative Learning
Even though people use different terms for collaborative learning such as "group work", "collaborative learning", "interactive learning" etc, they usually refer to same teaching/learning strategy - students working as a team. In a broad definition, cooperative learning can be described as “a teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject”. The effectiveness of this strategy is that each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. The idea is that students work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it. If you train your students to work effectively in groups, the results can be a very productive and fun learning environment.

Benefits of cooperative learning
Research has shown that cooperative learning techniques:

promote student learning and academic achievement
increase student retention
enhance student satisfaction with their learning experience
help students develop skills in oral communication
develop students' social skills
promote student self-esteem
help to promote positive race relations


Examples of Cooperative Learning Activities

Think-Pair-Share: Simple, most-common, low risk cooperative group activity in which students can share and reflect on their ideas or answers with a partner before sharing with the large group. It involves a three step cooperative structure.

During the first step individuals think silently about a question posed by the instructor.
Individuals pair up during the second step and exchange thoughts.
In the third step, the pairs share their responses with other pairs, other teams, or the entire group.


Focused Listing: Focused listing can be used for brainstorming or as a strategy to identify understandings of concepts.

Students are asked to create a list of words that describe or define something - for example “What does environmentally friendly mean?”
Students create their own lists or descriptions, perhaps even sketches of their ideas.
Students get together in small groups to share and discuss their lists - perhaps they are asked to select one they can all agree on or through discussion create their own definition.
This can then facilitate a class discussion.


Numbered Heads Together: One of the problem with cooperative learning strategy is that there will be certain students doing more than others (ex: speaker talking on behalf of group). The numbered heads together strategy ensures that each group member is involved 100%. Here is how it works:

A team of four is established.
Each member is given numbers of 1, 2, 3, 4.
Questions are asked of the group.
Groups work together to answer the question so that all can verbally answer the question.
Teacher calls out a number (two) and each two is asked to give the answer.


Jigsaw: In a cooperative learning activity, students interact with only the members of their group. One way to help break this cycle so that group members also interact with other group members is jigsaw. Here are the steps to “jigsaw”:

Groups with five students are set up.
Each group member is assigned some unique material to learn and then to teach to his group members.
To help in the learning students across the class working on the same subsection get together to decide what is important and how to teach it.
After practice in these "expert" groups the original groups reform and students teach each other.


Three-Minute review: Each member of a team chooses another member to be a partner. During the first step individuals interview their partners by asking clarifying questions. During the second step partners reverse the roles. For the final step, members share their partner's response with the team.

Teachers stop any time during a lecture or discussion and give teams three minutes to review
what has been said, ask clarifying questions or answer questions.


A lot of people assume that cooperative learning is a way for teachers to avoid work because they believe that this strategy keeps students busy, helps them learn from each other therefore frees time for teachers. However, in reality, it is absolutely the opposite. It is a fact that an effective cooperative teaching activity requires much more work than traditional lecture teaching. There is a lot to plan, prepare and think before, during and after the use of this learning strategy.

Planning for Cooperative Learning

Selecting Activity: The first step for planning cooperative learning is to select the type of activity. Teachers should ask themselves “what do I want my students to learn after this activity?” The response to this question will bring the teacher to the next decision whether this activity will be a short term (in class group work) or long term (group science project assignment). Once the decision is made, teacher should now be able to think about the type of activity and start planning for it. It is recommended for especially beginning teachers or teachers with new students that first group activities selected for the lesson should always start from easy activities such as “think-pair-share”, “focused listing” and later move to complicated ones (round table).
Organizing Groups: Selecting members for each group is very important step and a daunting task. The first thing to consider when organizing groups is to always start slow with small number of people for each team. This is especially recommended for beginning teachers or interns since small groups of students are much easier to manage and assess. You can start with pair, then three students, then four and so on. Secondly, groups should have members with different levels of ability (group alignment by achievement level). Avoid forming groups with all apples in one group and all oranges in another.

Also, avoid creating/changing groups too often. For example, you can form different groups with different members from the same class (same students) for different subjects such as math, science, reading etc.

Planning and dividing tasks: Teachers not only determine the overall task (or the end product), they should also determine the tasks each group member will be working on. Even though higher grade students can divide the work to be done among themselves, a teacher always should plan and divide the work and lost them on their group work task description. Different roles should be assigned to help students understand different perspectives and/or share responsibility in accomplishing the task. Each role should require every student to contribute equally in terms of time, effort and learning process. For example: a student assigned for the task of designing and printing a newsletter on topic will learn less about the topic than another student working on summarizing the literature review of the topic published in the newsletter.
Evaluation / Assessment: Evaluating a group work is very different and can be more difficult than evaluating an individual on a test or writing assignment because teachers must consider both group performance and individual student performance. In fact, depending on the type of activity, the followings are the items to consider when assessing a group work/activity.

Assessment of the product: The first type of assessment teacher will be focusing on
is the assessment of final product. Depending on the type of the activity, the final product can be varied from a definition of a new phrase, building a newspaper, a group science project, to a group final paper. Teacher should always have a checklist or rubric to be used for this evaluation. Teacher can do the entire evaluation, or ask other groups to participate as well. Involving other groups in the assessment of a group product can help students understand each project better. Again, the focus of this evaluation is only the final product.

Assessment of group work: The second type of evaluation focuses on the process group followed for creating the final product. In cooperative learning, both product and process are important to teachers and students, therefore both should be reflected in evaluation – although the weight teachers accord each will depend on learning objectives for the course and for the assignment. The criteria for this type of evaluation can include the coordination of the presentation of the final product, cooperation among group members, equally shared work within the group, understanding of the subject by each member etc. Again, teacher should always have a checklist or rubric to be used for this evaluation. Teacher can do the entire evaluation, or ask other groups to participate as well. The focus of this evaluation is the group working together.

Assessment of individuals: If this is done carefully, it can provide many benefits. Although the end product is very important, the assessment of the work of individuals within a group is also important. This evaluation can be done by having students evaluate their own teamwork skills and their contribution to the group’s process using a self-assessment that focuses on the process skills you are emphasizing, e.g., respectfully listening to and considering opposing views or a minority opinion; effectively managing conflict around differences in ideas or approaches; keeping the group on track both during and between meetings; promptness in meeting deadlines; and appropriate distribution of research, analysis, writing. This is also a way to hold individuals accountable for their group work. To motivate individual students and discourage the free-rider phenomenon, it is important to assess individual contributions and understanding, as well as group products and processes. Another way to evaluate individuals is to see if each members demonstrates their learning. This can be done via independent write-ups, weekly journal entries, content quizzes, etc.


Implementation of Cooperative Learning

Start with room arrangement: If you are planning to have students work as a group, seating can be arranged in groups before class rather than asking students move during class time. If there are no tables in classroom, then arranging the desks facing each other can be a solution.
Discuss noise level during group work with your students: Noise level is expected to be higher than when you teach traditionally. Teacher should discuss the noise level with students and inform students that only learning noise from engaged/involved students are acceptable. Avoid asking students to whisper or communicate in writing.
Assign roles for easy traffic: Student movement in classroom during group work should be reduced to a level that it is not a problem anymore. For example, if needed, teacher should assign materials manager, transporter for each group that brings materials from one place to another when needed (dictionaries, maps etc.)
Group attention signals: During group activities, teachers may have to interrupt students to provide additional directions, make transition to another activity, provide feedback for the whole class, modify assignment/task, ask to reduce noise level. During these interruptions, teachers are advised to use signals rather than a long conversation between teacher and students. For example, anytime you need students to stop what they are doing and pay attention to what you have to say, you clap, students respond – “thumbs up” or you ring a bell, and students respond “ready”.


When Things Go Wrong: Handling Problems During Cooperative Learning

When a group member does not contribute
Often we have a student or two who struggle within the group context. During this situation, the following steps can be helpful:

First things first: Ask if the individual needs more information and clarity of the task. Discuss specific role assigned to this individual and discuss the possible difficulties. If there are difficulties, investigate what resources or support you can provide and offer them to the individual. If the role is not appropriate for the individual, discuss with the group to see if the role can be switched.
It will be helpful to get close to the student presenting the problem and connect with them for a short while. What they expect is our buying into their role (e.g., inadequate, a clown, defiant, too cool, dizzy, beyond hope, or nothing to lose, etc.). We communicate that we see through this game to a student who really wants to feel competent and loved, and who really wants to take advantage of the work that is in front of them. It may be helpful to remind the student of instances in which they were able to do quality work or work cooperatively with others. This helps shift the locus of control to the student and empowers their choice at this moment. If the role is appropriate for the individual, s/he needs to hear a clear and positive message: “I know you can do this, I expect you to do this, you are capable of doing this, so stop the game you are playing and contribute to your group”.
Also send the message to the group that “you are going to have to make this work”.
If the first three steps are not getting you anywhere, we need to change the direction. In addition to meeting with the group and/or individual group member to address this problem, consider allowing a group to dismiss a member who is not contributing and then providing other options to the student who has been dismissed from a group (e.g., completing the project individually, joining another group, forming a group with other students who have been dismissed).


Student talks too much or dominates the group

Talk to the student privately. Explain that while you are pleased he or she has a lot to contribute, you would like other learners to have more opportunity to think for themselves. Sometimes the student just needs to be made aware of the situation.
Even if you had not planned to assign roles to group members, do so at an appropriate point during the group task, either for all groups or for only the one(s) with a dominant student. Ensure that some roles require significant periods of silence (e.g., summarizer, detective, recorder, observer, timekeeper, liaison to other groups). Alternately, speak privately to the dominant student and give him or her one of these roles.
Ask the entire group to reflect on how it is functioning with questions such as: How well did you complete the task as a group? Did someone take the lead, and if so, how did this come about? Whose ideas are most strongly present in the solution to the task? Was there anything you thought but didn’t actually say?
During long periods of group work, call for regular periods of reflective silence (e.g., after every fifteen to twenty minutes) in which students think (and write) about the points that have been made, contradictions that have surfaced, omissions that should be added, and where the discussion should go next. When signalling for the discussion to resume, invite students who have said little to read out what they have written.

Student talks too little or is “freeloading”

Speak to the student privately to determine the reason for lack of participation, e.g., introversion, fear of looking stupid, feeling unprepared, fearing a trap, feeling unwelcome, past experiences, trying to be cool, lack of reward.
Consider using even smaller groups. Quiet students may feel more comfortable participating in this situation, and “freeloading” students will be less able to coast on the others’ efforts.
Ask students occasionally to hand in their group work notes or their preparation notes.
As when handling dominating students, assign roles to one or all of the group members (see above). Some roles that require active vocal participation are spokesperson, skeptic, organizer, facilitator, liaison to other groups.
Suggest go-rounds (or Circle of Voices), so that each group member has to contribute.
Offer a general reminder, either to the whole class or to a group in particular, that every student has valuable input and that there are no poor questions. Be sure to respond appropriately, then, when students have comments or questions.
Recognize that quantity is not quality. There is a place for silence in discussion.
If the students are shy, consider incorporating an electronic discussion into the course. Students may find it easier to contribute on a class bulletin board, chatroom, or listserv.
Remind students that the content of the group work will be tested on a quiz or test. You could design a test question in which students must summarize their group’s results.


Students are not on task or are chatting inappropriately

Don’t assume that all chatter is inappropriate. Often there is a good reason, even if it is not apparent or immediately connected to the task at hand. One student might be explaining a concept to another student.
Remind students that their time limit for the group task is approaching. They generally expend the greatest energy as the deadline approaches.
Ask before the time limit which groups need more time. Consider observing aloud that most students seem finished (or unproductive), and so you will shorten the amount of time originally given.
If students do not seem to be making progress on the large task, divide the task into smaller tasks, and ask for reports on these sub-tasks throughout the class period.
Praise groups publicly that are acting appropriately, pointing out behaviors that are particularly effective.
Move closer to the chatty students. As a last resort, confront them directly about their chatting, but always give them a chance to explain.


When a group is not making adequate progress
A group may miss several deadlines or may produce work that does not meet your expectations in some way. In these cases, consider a range of possible causes.

One or more group members may be freeloading, a group may not have sufficient scaffolding to perform some of the tasks related to the project, or the expectations for performance may be unclear.
Although meeting with the group leader or the entire group about their progress may seem like the most logical solution, it is possible that students may not feel comfortable asking for additional support or clarification from you.
In addition to reiterating or clarifying your expectations for progress, consider other ways of monitoring the group, such as observing a group meeting or asking group members to submit individual reports on group dynamics.
Votes: +14 / -0 Vote Up This Article Is Useful   Vote Down This Article Is Not Useful  

Comments posted for this article: 24

Charles Owen
Charles Owen
Reps: 49
Thank you.
  Posted on: December 30, 2012 5:28 am

Brianne Blowers
Brianne Blowers
Reps: 102
Thank you this post is very helpful! I think cooperative learning techniques are very useful!
  Posted on: October 13, 2014 11:46 pm

erugyn
erugyn
Reps: 100
I have been learning about these techniques in some of my classes. I found this to be helpful because it reiterated what I am learning.
  Posted on: October 14, 2014 6:35 pm

ezaDyR
ezaDyR
Reps: 100
Cooperative learning techniques vary from teacher to teacher, but after reading your thoughts on cooperative learning, I realize more of the significance it plays in a classroom.
  Posted on: October 15, 2014 9:32 pm

Amanda Smith
Amanda Smith
Reps: 94
Enjoyed this information and plan on doing a lot of group work in my classroom to make the students more comfortable.
  Posted on: October 19, 2014 2:44 am

uLyJaj
uLyJaj
Reps: 99
I think promoting cooperative learning is VERY important in the classroom!
  Posted on: October 26, 2014 1:27 pm

Jen
Jen
Reps: 225
Thank you for the tips on cooperative learning.
  Posted on: February 25, 2015 8:09 pm

Danielle Brock
Danielle Brock
Reps: 100
I enjoyed reading this idea.
I will use this in the future for sure
  Posted on: March 1, 2015 11:11 pm

unuhaj
unuhaj
Reps: 102
I appreciate your comments on cooperative learning. We use cooperative learning a lot at my school.
  Posted on: March 10, 2015 12:18 pm

Sutede
Sutede
Reps: 101
As my classroom will have a wide range of learners and ability levels, I find that cooperative learning groups provide many opportunities for academic success. Group strategies such as collaborative learning and reciprocal teaching helps keep student interests high and maximizes learning. thank you.
  Posted on: September 29, 2015 7:41 pm

Thomas Smallwood
Thomas Smallwood
Reps: 82
This is relevant to my experience.
  Posted on: October 15, 2015 12:17 am

eSyTyt
eSyTyt
Reps: 101
I like how you gave different examples of different types of learning abilities and styles.
  Posted on: October 16, 2015 12:59 am

aTeRaz
aTeRaz
Reps: 201
this article contains relevant information on how to correct problem situations during cooperative learning sessions.
  Posted on: October 17, 2015 5:24 pm

ZuTyse
ZuTyse
Reps: 9
Your techniques are applicable for each and every classroom teacher. Cooperative learning should be utilized in a positive way to increase student engagement and support learning for all.
  Posted on: November 3, 2015 1:57 pm

yDydez
yDydez
Reps: 100
I like how you give examples, very helpful.
  Posted on: October 4, 2016 4:54 pm

yZaHuM
yZaHuM
Reps: 100
I like how your posts are direct and to the point.
  Posted on: October 8, 2016 3:55 pm

sazaXa
sazaXa
Reps: 200
I love cooperative learning strategies. It enforces teamwork and good social skills while also helping children learn. It's important to remember that some students learn better this way
  Posted on: October 12, 2016 7:12 pm

Nicole McVey
Nicole McVey
Reps: 201
I am familiar with multiple of the cooperative learning strategies like think-pair share, jigsaw, numbered heads, etc. as I have learned them this semester. The detail that you went into about assessments and organization are extremely helpful thank you.
  Posted on: October 13, 2016 11:55 pm

nydyra
nydyra
Reps: 202
For me, jigsaw has been the most influential learning strategy. Jigsaw allows students to work together, and then go help other groups as well. This allows students to not only focus on themselves or their group, but encourages the whole class to work together as well.
  Posted on: February 25, 2017 6:05 pm

eqeJaQ
eqeJaQ
Reps: 200
I really liked all the examples you gave, very helpful!
  Posted on: March 1, 2017 1:15 am

aDuZyJ
aDuZyJ
Reps: 99
I am a firm believer in cooperative learning.
  Posted on: March 3, 2017 10:48 pm

Jenna Herberson
Jenna Herberson
Reps: 200
I think cooperative learning is the better way to go but I like that not only are the benefits for each are listed but as well as planning strategies.
  Posted on: March 5, 2017 8:53 pm

Emily Alvarez
Emily Alvarez
Reps: 15
Thank you. So much important information is in this study. I am a huge advocate for cooperative learning so this article was extremely encouraging.
  Posted on: March 6, 2017 4:22 am

azuTen
azuTen
Reps: 217
Great Post!
  Posted on: October 8, 2017 6:11 pm

Reply Add a Comment