Sunday, February 14, 2010

Assignment Seven: Cooperative Learning

Assignment #7: Complete the 4 part assignment format as you read, reflect, and respond to Chapter 7 – Cooperative Learning.

Remember: Although your course packet asks you to post to blog for parts A, B, C, and D…we are asking that you only post part C and D. We’re trying to make the blog easier to read and more user- friendly. Thanks!

A. Self Assessment of Current Beliefs and Practices:
This component asks you to reflect on how and why you currently use the instructional strategy of Cooperative Learning in your classroom. The intent of this is to activate your prior knowledge of your strategy use so that you can make comparisons as you read the chapter. Below are the questions to help you complete your self-assessment. After completing your self assessment please post a thought or two as a comment (click on comment link below) to this posting labeled Week Seven: Cooperative Learning.

• What is your purpose for using cooperative learning in your classroom?
• What kind of cooperative learning activities do you use with your students?
• Think of a time when you used cooperative learning and was pleased with the results. Why did it work well?
• Think of a time when you used cooperative learning and was not pleased with the results. Why didn’t it work well?

B. Read & Reflect “Research & Theory”: This portion of the assignment asks you to read chapter 7 and reflect briefly on your thinking after reading the “Research and Theory” section for Cooperative Learning After completing your chapter reflection, please post it as a comment (click on comment link below) in the posting labeled Week Seven: Cooperative Learning.

C. Practice: Choose one of the specific “classroom practice” strategies or techniques shared in this chapter to try out with your students (If you are not currently teaching, you may share how you would use this strategy in your classroom). Please post a brief reflection of how this went to the posting labeled Week Seven: Cooperative Learning. Click on the “comment” link below.

D. Final Strategy Reflection: Use the following sequence of questions/prompts to reflect on what you’ve learned about both the strategies presented in the chapter and what you’ve learned about yourself as both a teacher and a learner. Please post your brief reflection to the posting labeled Week Seven: Cooperative Learning by clicking on the “comment” link below.

How has the information you read in this chapter on Cooperative Learning effected your thinking about teaching and learning? What have you learned about yourself as a teacher and learner? Use the following questions to assist you in writing a brief strategy reflection:
• How might I change how use cooperative learning in my classroom?
• What is something you now understand better about cooperative learning?


NancyNoice said...

C. Practice:
My students are currently working in Cooperative Groups. We are working on a Colonization Project. While sailing over to the New World from Spain, France, or England, each child wrote in their journal/log which of the 13 Colonies they would like to settle. I then put them into (Interest) groups according to which of the regions they chose - New England, Middle, or Southern Colonies. They are now working to complete 10 activities where they have to research specific facts about their region. I didn’t use the Formal Roles, but that might be a good idea. I think it might organize the groups a little better. Maybe roles like Researcher, Task Master, Teacher Contact, etc. My groups are between 3 and 4 per group because I see this is a “smaller is better” activity. Out of the three heterogeneous classes I have doing this Unit, 2 of the classes are excelling and succeeding. The other class, with a lower academic level of kids and less group work ability is struggling. I will continue to work with that class on group work expectations.

D. Final Strategy Reflection:
I love cooperative learning. I have always thought that kids should have the opportunity to work in small groups as much as possible. After reading the chapter, specifically the end, I learned that groups can be done too much or used in the wrong situations. I will review how I use groups in specific units to make sure they are effective and successful.
In my school, we use ability grouping for Math and Reading. This has been a controversial practice for many years, but the building really focused on the process to make sure it was good for all students and our test scores proved that. However, this year, after closing a school down the way, we have found ourselves with a huge amount of new staff to our building who don’t share our ability grouping ideals. We are also going through the School Wide Title process and rethinking our ability groupings. I think the reason we have always done it is because we believe it is better for low achieving students, but the research says that is just not true. It says it is slightly better for higher achieving students, but worse for the low achievers. However, I think there are advantages to both models, if done well!

Ashley said...

C: Practice
This chapter was not so much informative as far as new ideas and practices, but more of a chapter on ideal best practices. From this chapter, I like the idea of informal groups and need to find a way to use them more frequently. It is such an easy idea but I think something that is underused, or at least I know it is underused in my building. Students can learn so much by discussing with their peers and those students that are struggling can pick up on things that they may not have understood through the group or partner discussion, so that when it comes time to assess, either formal or informal, hopefully all students can be successful. I need to remember to use this teaching practice more frequently.
D: Reflection
I have mixed emotions about this chapter. I can see why they would say that ability grouping should be used sparingly but I also know that from a teaching standpoint if students “walk to read” or are ability grouped for other subjects it is much easier on the teachers. So then you are in the predicament of do what is best for the students, or do what makes a teachers life easier and therefore, or hopefully therefore, more effective as a teacher?
I do agree that if you are grouping for certain activities in your homeroom class that you should select them at random by counting off, drawing sticks, birthdays, etc. This makes for a neutral and fair grouping, however again I have difficulty keeping it random. Say for example, you have two students that have terrible editing skills; it is difficult to pair them up with one another knowing that they are not going to be able to help each other improve.
The other thing I completely agree with is that group sizes should be kept small, however, with class sizes being what they are that is a dream to hopefully one day be achieved.
With all that said I do still do lots of cooperative learning and find it very effective. The students enjoy it, like to be with their classmates, and they learn to work in groups effectively. I do a lot informal assessments by asking students to partner share or discuss in their table groups and then call on someone to represent the group and share what they discussed.

Christy N said...

C. After reading this chapter, I realized that group work didn't have to be a long, huge task. It could be an informal group, as the chapter explained. With my reading group, I put kids in spontaneous pairs and after giving direct instruction on vocabulary words, they practiced using the words in sentences with their partner. At the end of each partner session, I pulled names from the cup to share a sentence their partner came up with. At the end of the lesson, the groups dissolved.

As I reflected on the lesson, I felt it took more time that it should have to get into pairs. This can be helped along with a little bit of pre-teaching expectations. Overall, I was very pleased with the experience, and have used it one more time since.

D. Generally, I like cooperative learning, but I agonize over grouping students. I want to mix ability and behavior issues, as well as different personalities, and it takes me a very long time. I also learned that putting together groups can be as random as those with the same pet -- and it builds on the commonalities of students. This is very liberating, and though I have not yet tried it, I plan to. Making grouping students less of a job, I am likely to use cooperative learning more in my classroom.

hazeltom said...

Part C. Practice

One of the patterns I have noticed about working with children over the years is that children truly enjoy working with others and being part of a group. I think cooperative learning is a fantastic way for students to work with their peers to learn. What I also like about cooperative learning is that it can take place in many forms and can be used to teach various subjects. Putting this technique to practice was easy for me when I taught second and third graders a few years ago. I was teaching literacy to twenty second and third graders in a self-contained classroom each morning. I thought I would try implementing literacy circles into my curriculum. I had noticed that these students were passionate about reading, and they were incredibly self sufficient. I found some rich literature that I thought students would enjoy reading and each student chose which chapter book they would like to read. I chose to set up cooperative groups by using choice because I felt it was a great motivator for students to choose which chapter book would best suit them. Students really enjoyed setting up their groups and got very excited at the idea of running their own groups and being responsible for their own learning. Students decided each day how many pages they would read together, whether or not they would read round robin or silently, and then after reading, students each had a job they had to achieve before the end of the literacy period. Some of the student jobs included summarizer, word finder (vocabulary), secretary (logging in pages read), and artist (drawing a scene from the book). Students would rotate jobs each day, then at the end of each session, share something about their book with the whole class. I rarely had to intervene because of an argument or lack of production. These students were motivated to learn and be independent as a result of participating in cooperative groups. I loved using these groups in the classroom and found that they were extremely successful when teaching literacy to an older group.

Part D. Reflection

The whole time I was reading this chapter I was trying to think of ways to incorporate cooperative thinking in my Kindergarten classroom this year. I have grouped my students this year in several different ways, but have not used long-term cooperative groups in my classroom. I learned so much by using cooperative groups as a teaching tool in the past. I love that cooperative learning helps great positive independence among students. I like that this teaching tool can be used in a variety of ways and helps students to be accountable for their work and how much they contribute to the group. I think it is important to not always group students according to ability, but rather let them have choice, or group them in a variety of different ways. This chapter was very helpful in mapping out the many ways you can use cooperative learning in the classroom. I am hoping to use this technique with my Kindergartners in the future.

Kim M. said...

C. Practice
I’m sure many are familiar with Kagan’s work on cooperative learning. Collaborative and Cooperative Learning and the Constructivist Theory of Learning were big buzzwords during my education program. I have used a number of Kagan’s ideas in the classroom with good success and student engagement and interaction: Jigsaw3, Think-Pair-Share, Numbered Heads Together, Corners, and Partners. Curiosity for more ideas took me to these web sites and I think the two activities I’ve listed could be used when teaching students cooperative group processes. Use the 3 Step Interview to explore listening & recall skills, important elements of group work. And, the 3 Minute Review can be used during the process of instructing elements of and roles within the group process.
Three-Step Interview - Each member of a team chooses another member to be a partner. During the first step individuals interview their partners by asking clarifying questions. During the second step partners reverse the roles. For the final step, members share their partner's response with the team.
Three-Minute Review - Teacher stops any time during a lecture or discussion and gives teams three minutes to review what has been said, ask clarifying questions and answer questions.

I’d also like to experiment with using Base Groups to develop peer connection and as a means of achieving daily tasks – homework check, lunch count, assignment books, library book collection, etc. My hope would be to create a space for development of responsibility of self and responsibility with others.

D. Reflection
My elementary years were based in individual competition among students. Group activities included singing, PE games, and recess! During my education coursework I eagerly absorbed information about group processes. I have learned and observed that group processes can enrich and deepen learning experiences. I say “can” because I have learned first hand that the students’ understanding of group processes is essential. Teach the process in steps and stages, then practice, review, reflect… and re-teach! And, space is needed for all-class discussion on how the group is working, or not working. I appreciate the chapter’s point to keep groups small. I’ve had groups too large and things just bogged down.
Yes, there can be too much cooperative learning worked into a classroom, and there are times when homogenous groupings are necessary, for instance Walk-To-Read, Band/Orchestra sectional practice, etc. Incorporating aspects of Differentiated Instruction come to mind. How do education programs blend cooperative learning and heterogeneous and homogenous grouping and cooperative learning techniques?

jackie and mary said...

Grouping students is always an area where educators struggle with. Citing sources and studies people can often find "data" to justify the perspective they want to. As many of you have been implying we need to use our best judgement and what we know works best for our students and instrctional styles. As you are all taking this class, it's obvious you are interested in best practice and looking for ways to improve your craft. So, be mindful of areas where you can incorporate cooperative learning and some suggestions/examples from the text, but also trust your inner voice. Instructional practices need to make sense to you and must hold value or else they won't make much of a difference.

As Ashley said, this chapter may not be new information, rather reminders or suggestions of how to improve our teaching in the classroom.