One of the many benefits of cooperative learning is the development of social skills through team building. In order for you and your students to get the most out of your cooperative learning experience you have to start off by having strong teams. The foundation of CL is a solid team, so you can’t rush into this if you haven’t done the prior homework. Tips to get your teams to the right place:
- Come up with a team name
- Develop a team logo
- Create a team handshake
- Have the students fill out “about me” sheets for each other
Another element of CL that you need to consider is how your room is set up. If you have the ability to move your desks or tables, be sure that they are arranged in a way that is conducive to teams. Also be sure that you are able to maneuver the room effectively, that way you can get to each team when needed.
Getting the Ball Rolling
Here is a great video to get you started on cooperative learning:
A key to CL is interdependence. Being interdependent means that each member of the group is reliant on the other members. No one member of the group can do all the work, this is the difference between group work and teamwork. Thinking back to group work in my school days often involved one individual baring the brunt of the work and everyone else just attaching their name to the results. Teamwork requires every member to contribute equally. One way to achieve this is by assigning each team member a role. Such roles can be:
- Materials attendant
- Time keeper
- The communicator
- Data collector
Things to Remember
1. Don’t start too fast
Cooperative learning doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time for the teams to become properly acclimated with one another. Even then, you will still want to take some time for students prepare themselves for this kind of work, as it may be that they have never done anything like it before.
2. You can’t do it every day
Doing cooperative learning everyday is not feasible. The amount of planning that is required, and the time it takes in the classroom, make it hard to have effective instruction. Leaving CL to once or twice a week not only gives you a chance to plan, but it also keeps the students from being burnt out. As well as the next key point…
3. A students grade should be no more than 25% CL
Parents and students may not feel too hot about their grade being dependent on other students work. Even though teamwork is an essential part of today’s work force, and students should be prepared for it, there are still some limitations when it comes to convincing parents.
4. How to assess students doing cooperative learning
Assessment is an essential part of the classroom, and figuring out how to fit it into cooperative learning can be difficult. It’s important to remember the goals you and the class have for the task, and when it comes time to grade try a few of these out:
- Peer/team evaluation
- Group quiz
- Team presentations
- Choose on group members assignment to grade for the team
Here are a few Cooperative Learning Methods
The jigsaw method gives students the opportunity to become the leaders of their own learning. Members of each team become the “expert” on a topic, and them come back and teach the rest of the group about what they learned.
Co-op co-op is similar to jigsaw except that it puts the whole team at the forefront of the teaching. Each team become the expert on their topic and they get to design a lesson for the whole class to lead. This can be very effective when it trying to get students to develop their abilities to work as a team.
The difference between group investigation and co-op co-op, is that in a group investigation the topics students are investigating should be more detailed. They should all fall under the same umbrella, but each member of the group should have their own specific topic that they will contribute to the final product.
Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning
The goal here is for students to have discussions about a specific topic. This can be helpful at the beginning of a unit so you may gauge how the rest of the unit will go, or at the end of a lesson to see how you will proceed. It’s important to keep the questions very open ended, that way students have the ability to take the conversation that the team sees best fit.
Cooperative Learning in the Science Classroom
Science is a collaborative discipline. The scientific community is entirely reliant on the cooperation of individual scientists, scientific institutions, and scientific disciplines working together for the betterment of society. Instilling this in the minds of students will only make them more successful down the road.
You can do it, and so can they. Don’t fall into the trappings of group work, keep in mind team work makes the dream work!