Cooperative learning strategies-Hammondsport
Why Cooperative learning:
The main purpose of cooperative learning is to actively involve students in the learning process; a level of student empowerment which is not possible in a lecture format. The underlying premise is founded in constructivist epistemology. It is a process which requires knowledge to be discovered by students and transformed into concepts to which the students can relate. The knowledge is then reconstructed and expanded through new learning experiences. Learning takes place through dialog among students in a social setting.
Teaching Cooperative Skills:
When implementing cooperative learning in the classroom and the school, one major issue becomes, “How well do group members manage conflicts?” Cooperation and conflict go hand-in-hand. The more group members care about achieving the group's goals, and the more they care about each other, the more frequently conflicts will occur. When conflicts are managed constructively, they add creativity, fun, and higher-level reasoning. When they are managed destructively, they can result in anger, frustration, and hostility. In order to manage conflicts constructively, students and faculty need to learn the procedures for doing so and become skillful in their use.
- Begin trying cooperative learning with a homework assignment. Students could check their homework in groups, going over each problem and clarifying if there were any questions. The groups could then work each problem on the board.
- When beginning to use cooperative learning, start each class with a short lecture and then transition to a CL activity. As the instructor and students gain experience with using CL, begin the class with a CL activity and then conclude with a short lecture to highlight important points.
- Begin implementation by only using pairs for CL groups. Students who are inexperienced in using CL groups will be more likely to participate with just one other person in the group. Having only two students in a group is also an ideal way to teach key group work skills.
- When beginning CL implementation, only use the technique in one class period. Once you and the students have become more adept at using CL, you can increase it to involve more students/classes.
- Begin with worksheets as a form of group accountability. Students who are inexperienced with CL often have a difficult time getting started or reaching their goals. Having a worksheet to guide them will help the groups set their priorities, work towards their goal, and produce the assessment task.
Implementing Cooperative Learning
After deciding to implement cooperative learning, the biggest challenge will be planning and readying the classroom and students for CL. According to Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1991), there are several tasks that an instructor must accomplish before implementing cooperative learning in the classroom. This section will detail those responsibilities.
After all the preparations, it is time to begin working. During the implementation phase of cooperative learning, the students play the most important role. Some of their tasks at this stage include:
-Intervene if needed- While circulating, if the instructor notices any group conflict or off-task behavior, he/she should intervene.
-Assist with needs- While monitoring the groups' work, the instructor should assist groups with their needs. This might involve pointing out additional resources and/or points-of-view, and it also includes helping the students reflect on the work they have completed and their progress.
-Praise- Students need to know if they are completing the assignment in a satisfactory manner.
As the class begins to work on their CL assignment, teachers need to circulate around the room. It is likely, especially at the beginning of implementation, that the class will still have difficulty focusing on the task and getting along with one another. By moving around the class while the students are working, the teacher will be able to assist any group that is facing these problems, and the teacher can help them resolve the issues. At the same time, the teacher must remember to praise the students and teams who are making an effort to cooperate and who are progressing nicely with the group assignment.
-Provide closure through summarization- The instructor should reconvene the entire group of students. At this point, the instructor can summarize the important points of the lesson/unit. Another suggestion is to have each group summarize their work and points that they think were important. This helps the instructor to know exactly in which knowledge level the groups are working.
-Evaluate students' learning- The instructor should use a rubric to grade/ evaluate each group's assessment task. They should also be evaluated on their group work using a rubric. These rubrics should have been created during the pre-implementation phase of cooperative learning, and the students might have had input into their content. After the instructor has completed the evaluations, it is important that they provide feedback to the students about their product and their group performance. Without this information, the students will not be able to improve their cooperative learning skills.
-Reflect on what happened- Instructors should keep a record of what worked and why it worked each time they undertake a CL lesson or unit. This information can and should be shared with their cooperative learning support group. The instructor should also adjust their lessons based on the reflection and feedback of the students. This will prevent the stagnation of a CL unit; it will grow and change with each group of students.
-Student Reflection-After completing the group work and assessment task, the student's job is to reflect on the work that was accomplished in their group. What worked and what did not work? What would they change or keep next time they work together? The students should also give feedback to their instructor. They should be able to tell the instructor what worked or what was good about this unit, and they should point out what did not work well. This information can be written down or informally discussed in class.