In my classroom observations I frequently find students working in groups but not practicing or developing cooperative skills. I often find students unclear as to why the teacher assigned the group the task rather than individuals.
I observed a middle school math class where students in a group of four were given 10 math problems to complete. Students understanding of task- ”Work together to get the problems solved as quickly as possible with correct answers.” They couldn’t believe it when I told them the teacher didn’t care how many problem they finished. Her goal was for all four of the group members to understand how to do the problems.
Timothy Quinn, writing in Group Work Doesn’t Spell Collaboration* states that, ”Group work is neither widely used nor as effective as necessary if we wish to produce a generation of learners adept at collaborating— collaboration is neither systematically taught nor modeled for students”.
I have often presented that whatever skills we want our students to practice, we as teachers need to teach the skills and model the skills. Most students have never seen their teacher cooperate. As Doug Reeves noted, most of the research we have on cooperative learning was done by a doctoral student working alone.