Along with several of my colleagues at Performance Learning Systems (PLS), I had the opportunity to present professional development workshops at the national SREB, High Schools that Work Conference in Louisville, KY. Knowing that many schools, especially high schools, are focused on increased student engagement I asked Steve Sassaman to share some of the material and issues that were part of his session on Cooperative Learning. If you’d like more details about the items he mentions, feel free to contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Based on my 25 years experience conducting training sessions for educators, I knew going into the workshop that these teachers would be interested in practical ideas that would work in their classroom.
Cooperative Learning is a thoroughly studied classroom teaching technique researched by such notable educators as Robert Slavin, Spencer Kagan, and David and Roger Johnson. These and other researchers have pointed out compelling reasons for high school teachers to use Cooperative Learning:
Compared to individual and competitive classroom approaches Cooperative Learning tends to result in improved interpersonal skills, greater motivation, increased on-task behavior and higher achievement. Cooperative Learning activities give students valuable practice in speaking and teamwork, two valuable life skills.
Throughout the training session in Louisville, I introduced teachers to a series of Cooperative Learning Starters (strategies that take five minutes or less)
· three step interview
· 3 D Model (Direct-Do-Debrief)
· and longer more complex strategies like Jigsaw
We also continually focused on the teaching of interpersonal skills using PALS (Participate, Attend, Listen and Stay on Task) in conjunction with the teaching of content.
Because of teachers’ sometimes less than effective past experiences with implementing Cooperative Learning activities, some questions were raised. Noise, hitchhiking, and grading were issues that came to the surface. These concerns gave us a wonderful opportunity to discuss an important aspect of the Cooperative Learning model — Structure.
Structure is the glue that holds the whole model together. Structure can be created by planning for the effective use of ROPE–
*Obligation to Others
In this era of high stakes testing and assessment grading Cooperative Learning activities is an important concern to be considered. Cooperative Learning practitioners like Chick Moorman suggest that grades should not be given for Cooperative Learning work, but rather should be viewed as practice of skills in subject matter and interpersonal skills. Others suggest that group rewards and group scores for achieving criteria are appropriate sources of student feedback.
On the whole Cooperative Learning is a time-tested and researched learning activity that has important implications for student learning in content knowledge and life skills. Perhaps it is a strategy that you would be interested in exploring further.
Click or more information and tips and see PLS’s course, Achieving Student Outcomes through Cooperative Learning.