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Cooperative Learning Strategies July 30, 2013

Module 5 focused on cooperative learning strategies, particularly the Jigsaw model. Through this strategy each student in a group is responsible for meaningful and essential contributions towards a group goal. Students interact with each other, are accountable for their part of the task, learn and practice appropriate social skills, and reflect as a group on how well they worked with one another. (Del’Olio & Donk, 2007, p. 246)

As stated in Dr. William’s Module 5 lecture (Williams, 2013), the interpersonal and small group skills necessary for cooperative learning must be explicitly taught. It cannot be assumed that these practices will occur naturally. Such skills include communication, decision making, conflict resolution, leadership, and trust. In my particular school these skills are addressed in our character education curriculum (Kelso’s Choices and Peace Builders) along with our Social Studies curriculum “Social Studies Alive!” by TCI. It is important to refer to the skills learned through these curriculums as students engage in cooperative learning.

Further, cooperative learning must not be overused. (Dean, et al., 2012, p. 42) While the benefits of cooperative learning are definite and research based, students must engage in independent practice as well. When cooperative learning is used, the grouping should be varied as well. Dean et al. (2012) caution to avoid ability grouping on a consistent basis. This can lead to “group think” and restrict the knowledge available during the learning activity. (p. 43) Alternative groupings can be random, using name cards or popsicle sticks; student choice; purposeful heterogeneous groups (high to lower level learners distributed evenly amongst groups); or interest based, just to name a few.

Dell’Olio and Donk (2007) state that Jigsaw can be used as early as third grade “depending on the particular makeup, maturity, and social skills of the class.” (p.247) It would seem that there are many things educators can do to prepare younger students for cooperative learning as early as Kindergarten. First, young students should learn about and practice interpersonal skills such as conflict resolution and communication. Primary age students should also experience working in simple small groups such as “turn and talk” or “think-pair-share” as these experiences lead well into more sophisticated small group collaboration. Guided reading groups and thematic centers are other experiences that prepare young students for effective cooperative learning.

Resources:

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning.

Dell’Olio, J. M., Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Williams, T. (2013, July). Induction models of instruction. Cooperative/collaborative learning. Lecture conducted from Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA

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