There are many benefits from using Cooperative Learning. Students will appreciate the value of teamwork and make a positive contribution when working with others to solve problems and complete tasks. Students learn research skills more readily when skills are shared through cooperative learning. Cooperative Learning allows students to enhance their ability to manage ideas and information in collaboration with others.
Cooperative Learning allows students to observe, imitate, and learn from each other. Students keep each other on task and share a sense of accomplishment. The encouragement, support, and approval of peers build motivation and make learning an enjoyable experience. In addition, with advances in technology and changes in the workforce infrastructure, the teamwork and cooperation learned through Cooperative Learning activities is of high value for the future success for the students.
What is Cooperative Learning?
Cooperative Learning is a method of teaching and learning in which students form teams for structured activities to achieve a common goal. They are individually accountable for their work, and the work of the entire group. Members of cooperative teams work together and have clearly defined roles. Merely putting students in groups and letting them work together is not enough to constitute Cooperative Learning.
Cooperative Learning should include five essentials:
Students realize that each individual affects the work and success of the others. The work is structured so that students must share information in order to complete their cooperative tasks.
The teacher openly encourages students to help each other. Students share resources with each other, provide constructive feedback, challenge other members' reasoning and ideas, keep an open mind, act in a trustworthy way, and promote a safe feeling for all by reducing anxiety.
Even though students work together, they also perform independently. Each individual's performance is assessed. Students must take personal responsibility for working toward the group goal(s).
Students learn and use appropriate social skills that include leadership, decision-making, trust building, communication, and conflict-management.
To better develop the group process, students must analyze how well they are achieving their goals while maintaining effective working relationships.
What are some Cooperative Learning Approaches?
To be successful, Cooperative Learning tasks are designed by teachers so that students are required to depend on one another to complete the assigned tasks and to master content and skills. There are many Cooperative Learning approaches that are designed to achieve different objectives. When these approaches are used frequently and correctly, students will acquire the positive results of Cooperative Learning. Several Cooperative Learning approaches are described below.
Jigsaw - Each student, in a four to five member team, is given information for only one part of the learning activity. However, each student needs to know all information to be successful. Students work cooperatively in two different teams, their original team and an expert team. All students in the expert team seek the same information, study it, and decide how best to teach it to their peers in the original team. After this is accomplished, students return to their original teams to teach their portion of the lesson to the others in the team. For additional information on Jigsaw go to www.jigsaw.org.
Think-Pair-Share - This strategy can be used before introducing new concepts. It gives everyone in the class time to access prior knowledge and provides a chance for them to share their ideas with someone. Think-Pair-Share helps students organize their knowledge and motivates learning of new topics. There are three steps to Think-Pair-Share with a time limit on each step signaled by the teacher. (1) Students are asked to brainstorm a concept individually and organize their thoughts on paper. (2) Students pair up and compile a list of their ideas. (3) Each pair will then share with the entire class until all ideas have been recorded and discussed.
Send-a-Problem - Students are placed in heterogeneous teams of four. Each team designs a problem to send around the class. The other teams solve the problem. Since all of the teams send their own problem, there are a series of problems solved in this one activity. Results are shared with the class.
Round Robin - Students are placed in heterogeneous teams of four. Each student has an opportunity to speak without being interrupted. The discussion moves clockwise around the team; everyone must contribute to the topic. The team may use an item to pass around as a visual aid to determine who has the floor. Round Table is another version. The difference being that a piece of paper is passed around and each member writes instead of speaks about the topic.
Mind Mapping - Mind Mapping is the process of visually depicting a central concept with symbols, images, colors, keywords, and branches. This is a fast and fun way to take visual notes, foster creativity, stretch students' visual thinking skills, make learning contextual and meaningful, and promote active involvement with the learning content. Pairs of students may create their own mind map or they may simultaneously add to the team and/or class mind map.
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