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Cooperative Learning

Key Ideas

  1. The instructional process is an important means of character development.
  2. Cooperative learning is an especially effective character-building process because it gives students regular practice in developing important virtues at the same time they are learning academic material. Cooperative learning helps them develop communication and perspective-taking skills, the ability to work as part of a team, and appreciation of others who are different from oneself.
  3. Cooperative learning builds community in the classroom. It integrates every student and breaks down barriers.

Strategies

  1. Cooperative learning, to be appealing to students and effective as an academic and character-building strategy, should be designed to include both interdependence and individual accountability. (For example: Everyone is needed in the group, but each must demonstrate mastery at the end.)
  2. The format should vary (e.g., learning partners; support groups where students must ask each other a question before they can ask the teacher; team testing; jigsaw learning; small-group projects; whole-class projects, etc.).
  3. Time should be spent teaching students the skills and roles they need to make cooperative learning go well.
  4. Time should be spent engaging students in reflecting on how well they cooperated on a given assignment and how they can make needed improvements the next time.
  5. The teacher and students should develop guidelines that will maximize effective cooperation and provide reference points for evaluation.

Example:

From Betty House's 5th-grade class:

GROUP MEMBERS CONTRIBUTE THEIR BEST WHEN...

  1. We are kind to each other.
  2. There are no put downs.
  3. We listen to and try to use everyone's ideas.
  4. Everyone has a job to do.
  5. No one goofs off.
  6. People don't complain.
  7. Someone compliments me.