7. Cooperative learning
Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement.
Documented results include improved academic achievement, improved behavior and attendance, increased self-confidence and motivation, and increased liking of school and classmates. Cooperative learning is also relatively easy to implement and is inexpensive.
Here are some typical strategies that can be used with any subject, in almost any grade, and without a special curriculum:
Ø Group Investigations are structured to emphasize higher-order thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation. Students work to produce a group project, which they may have a hand in selecting.
Ø STAD (Student Teams-Achievement Divisions) is used in grades 2-12. Students with varying academic abilities are assigned to 4- or 5-member teams in order to study what has been initially taught by the teacher and to help each reach his or her highest level of achievement. Students are then tested individually. Teams earn certificates or other recognition based on the degree to which all team members have progressed over their past records.
Ø Jigsaw II is used with narrative material in grades 3-12. Each team member is responsible for learning a specific part of a topic. After meeting with members of other groups, who are "expert" in the same part, the "experts" return to their own groups and present their findings. Team members then are quizzed on all topics.
Cooperative learning techniques can be loosely categorized by the skill that each enhances (Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005), although it is important to recognize that many cooperative learning exercises can be developed to fit within multiple categories. Categories include: discussion, reciprocal, graphic organizers, writing, and problem solving. Each category includes a number of potential structures to guide the development of a cooperative learning exercise. For example, the category of problem-solving helps to develop strategic and analytical skills and includes exercises such as the send-a-problem, three-stay one-stray, structured problem solving, and analytical teams.
Extensive research has compared cooperative learning with traditional classroom instruction using the same teachers, curriculum, and assessments. On the average:
Ø Students who engage in cooperative learning learn significantly more, remember it longer, and develop better critical-thinking skills than their counterparts in traditional lecture classes.
Ø Students enjoy cooperative learning more than traditional lecture classes, so they are more likely to attend classes and finish the course.
Ø Students are going to go on to jobs that require teamwork. Cooperative learning helps students develop the skills necessary to work on projects too difficult and complex for any one person to do in a reasonable amount of time.
Ø Cooperative learning processes prepare students to assess outcomes linked to accreditation.