Aspects of Cooperative Learning

What is Important in a Cooperative Learning Environment?

In this lesson, we are going to be learning about the important aspects related to cooperative learning. Largely, this lesson will help you to get more comfortable with cooperative learning and to help create a "checklist" of the important aspects of cooperative learning. As there are a variety of types of cooperative learning (which we will discuss later), this lesson is going to serve as an overview of the general aspects common across all types. This sub-sections to this unit will help you to answer the following questions:

  • What should the teacher do before starting a lesson with cooperative learning?
  • What should the environment look like for cooperative learning to be successful?
  • What should my students be doing during this lesson?

If the link is not already up on your browser, please re-open the link for this lesson.

Link for Idea Sharing

What Should the Teacher do Before Starting the Lesson?

While the lesson and lesson plan itself is important for cooperative learning to be successful, there are steps the teacher needs to take and some mini-lessons the teacher needs to teach to the class before implementing cooperative learning. If students are used to more traditional learning styles, they may be unsure how to interact with their peers effectively, and what it means to work cooperatively. Think of this as the "pre-requisites" required for students before starting the big lesson on cooperative learning. Develop a cooperative environment at this time, where students work together to complete more basic tasks (McIntyre).

This aspect of cooperative learning does not need to be taught before every lesson. Rather, it should get students prepared to work cooperatively with one another, understand how to respect one another and listen to each other's opinion, and learn what it means to work as a team, rather than as two to four individuals doing a worksheet.

One way that teachers can help students get accustomed to working together is by having them participate in team building games and activities. Since it is so important with cooperative learning for students to understand how to work together and the importance of whole group contribution, it may be helpful to first show students how to work together and contribute to a group.

When introducing the cooperative learning lesson into your classroom, ensure that students have complete awareness of what you are asking them to do and what is expected of them. This will help to motivate the students to work together to achieve their common goal, when they are aware of what they are supposed to be working towards (Manis).

Check out the website below for some ideas about Cooperative Learning games that can help to learn to work together:

Cooperative Games

What Should the Classroom Environment Look Like?

Classiclassroom.png

Before reading this section, take a moment to think about a traditional classroom set up. What do you see? How are the desks arranged in this classroom? How are the students sitting?

If you pictured a classroom where students are seated in rows, one behind the other, think about how effective this setup is for working together. Placing student's desks in a line is showing them that their attention should be towards the front of the room, and there is little ease in working in groups. When students are asked to work together, it involves a lot of desk moving and a lot of deciding seating arrangements- so more time is wasted on moving desks and making groups.

Now think of a classroom where students are placed in groups of 3-4, and the classroom is easy to move around. Students may have "assigned seats" but they have ease to move around from group to group when appropriate, and there doesn't have to be a shuffle to get into groups. Having an environment that encourages students to work together, rather than making students think that they have to look forward- rather than at one another. In fact, encourage students to face one-another. This will allow students to feel that they are in control of their teaching and learning.

Another helpful strategy is to label the groups of desks or tables. Placing a numbered bin in the middle of the desks or the table will help direct students to where they need to go. Teachers can fill the bins prior to the lesson with necessary papers for the lesson, or guidelines depicting what the important roles are for each student in the group. Having these bins is especially helpful if you wish to differentiate instruction. If you decide to group your students by ability level (which we will talk more about later), you can have one table where the materials can be differentiated to help these students to be successful.

If you wish, check out google images- "Cooperative Learning Classroom Setup" to get an idea of some ways teachers have worked to make their classroom equipped for cooperative learning.

Click to watch a short video and see how one teacher set up her classroom

What Should the Students be Doing in Their Groups?

It is very important for students to be aware of their role in the group, and the roles of their group members. Prior to instruction, the teacher should go over with the students what the roles are and why they are important. These roles may be different lesson to lesson- especially depending on the type of cooperative learning lesson you are utilizing. It might be beneficial to randomly give students their roles so that each student will have the opportunity to engage with different roles depending on the the lesson (Teed, McDarvis, & Roseth). By providing note cards with examples of each role, students can have a quick reminder for what they should be doing and how they should be interacting with one another (ReadWriteThink- see think in references section).

Not only is it important for students to be aware of the roles and their job in the group, they should know what the goal of instruction is. During the group time, students should be working towards the goal, which cannot be completed with the help from each member of the group. This will help to hold students accountable for their actions, and to have an understanding of what they are working towards.

The classroom will probably be noisy- and that is okay! You want the students to be working together and to be engaged in their learning. They should be talking to one another, facilitating conversation, and stepping in when a member of the group needs help. Rather than silent group work, teachers should be encouraging conversations and a steady flow of opinions and understandings in regards to topics. This will not only help the students to learn more, but it will help them to get actively involved in their learning and reach a deeper level of engagement with their learning.

Please read the following link for an overview on some potential roles that students can have during Cooperative Learning:

Cooperative Learning Group Roles

Before Moving On...

In this lesson, we extended our knowledge about cooperative learning. We learned more about what the classroom environment should look like, what teachers should be doing during the lesson, and what students should do in their groups. By learning about these topics, we have began setting ourselves up to learn how to effectively utilize cooperative learning in your classroom. Once you have read this lesson and reviewed the links, please complete the follow exit ticket. If you don't feel prepared to answer these questions, please review this lesson before moving on.

Lesson 2 Exit Ticket

Return to Lesson 1 or Move on to Lesson 3 Cooperative Learning vs. Group Work

Return to Minicourse Homepage

References

Bafile, C. (2011, Aug. 16). Let's cooperative! Teachers share tips for cooperative learning. Retrieved from: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr287.shtml

Manis, C. (n.d.). Cooperative learning: How to assign meaningful tasks to group members. Retrieved from: http://www.dailyteachingtools.com/cooperative-learning-tasks.html

McIntyre, T. (n.d.). Competitive vs. cooperative learning formats. Retrieved from: http://www.behavioradvisor.com/CoopLearning.html

ReadWriteThink. (2004). Cooperative group role cards. Retrieved from: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson277/cooperative.pdf

Romano, R., Papa, L., & Saulle, E. (n.d.). 6 aweseome cooperative classroom games. Retrieved from: http://www.teachhub.com/6-awesome-cooperative-classroom-games

Spies, A. (n.d.). Seating arrangements with work stations. Retrieved from: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/seating-arrangements?utm_source=ReadingRockets.org&utm_medium=Twitter

Teed, R., McDaris, J., & Roseth, C. (n.d.). Student roles. Retrieved from: http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/cooperative/roles.html

ReadWriteThink. (2004). Cooperative group role cards. Retrieved from: http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson277/cooperative.pdf