Quizzes, Reflective Questions, and Activities
Following are the assignments embedded in the Cooperative Learning tutorial:
- Activity 1: Quiz - Characteristics of Cooperative Learning
- Activity 2: Quiz - Elements of Cooperative Learning
- Activity 3: Quiz - Characteristics of an Effective Group
Relationship to Other iStudy Tutorials
Cooperative learning is stressed throughout most of the other iStudy tutorials. Therefore, it is recommended that this be one of the first, if not the first, tutorial used in the series.
Suggested In-class Methods of Presentation
1. Define Cooperative Learning
- Have students attempt to define cooperative learning. Encourage brief discussions. Refer students to their pre-study assignments in the iStudy tutorial content if necessary.
- Explain the formal definition of cooperative learning. Instructors may want to say, "A simple definition of cooperative learning is: the use of small groups through which students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning." An example of this is a team-based project with grades based on the performance of the team.
- Compare and contrast cooperative learning with competitive learning and traditional learning.
- OPTIONAL - Instructors may want to include other examples of cooperative learning from the real world to further reinforce why cooperative learning is important.
2. Explain Why Cooperative Learning Is Important
- Ask students why cooperative learning is important. Encourage brief discussions. Refer students to their pre-class assignments in the iStudy tutorial if necessary.
- Explain why cooperative learning is important. Instructors may want to say, "The ability to work with others is a key skill sought by employers. Work teams have replaced the independent worker in virtually every profession. Successful people have the ability to work cooperatively with others. Further, in our information-driven society, we need each other to synthesize knowledge from a variety of sources to help us achieve our goals."
- OPTIONAL - Give more detail. Instructors may want to say, "The world of work is changing. Regardless of the profession, most individuals are required to work as part of a team. For some of you this will be natural and will come easily. For others it will be new and difficult. This skill is vital to success in college and in future jobs."
Cooperative learning is both a teaching philosophy and a collection of instructional strategies. Cooperative learning is synergistic . It's not just the additive effect of group members. The group will be able to accomplish more than any one person can. Research shows that when students work together cooperatively they learn better and accomplish more.
3. Explain the Cooperative Learning Syllabus
- Distribute the "Cooperative Learning Syllabus" (see below)
- Discuss syllabus
Instructors may want to say:
You need a really good understanding of what cooperative learning is, how it works, what you're supposed to do, and how you're supposed to structure yourself. I'm going to take a few moments to try to run through that with you and we'll get right into an activity. OK? Everybody ready?
Briefly walk students through each item on the syllabus. Emphasize the explicit objectives of the course. A commonly applied approach to introducing students to cooperative learning is to provide plenty of structure early in the process. Then as the students gain skill and knowledge, less structure is required and students can engage in cooperative learning on their own. This helps students avoid the pitfalls experienced in high school committee assignments. The structured process taught in this course develops strong skills that transfer well to the workplace.
4. Form Cooperative Learning Groups
- Place the students into groups of five people.
- Have the students form a group by arranging tables and chairs in circular groups if possible.
- How to Structure Groups:
There are many ways to assign people to groups. If you know your students well you may want to do this yourself. If you don't know your students you can assign people to groups through a random process, such as having each student choose a card, then have all the diamonds form one group, the hearts form another.
If you don't have the correct number of students to form groups of five each, assign an extra person to several groups, so some groups will have six people. If you do this, you will have to assign one role to two people in those groups.
Try to assign people in non-homogenous groups. Part of this exercise is to bring out different points of view.
5. Discuss the Cooperative Learning Meeting Agenda
- Refer students to the "Cooperative Learning Group Meeting Agenda" (see below).
- Briefly discuss each step in the agenda. Information on each step in the agenda is given below.
- After this procedure, instructors should step back from the process and let it evolve on its own. A typical approach in actual cooperative learning situations is for the instructor to provide up-front support and clarification of goals, and then step back and get involved only when the group is having difficulties or to encourage and praise the group. In cooperative learning the teacher is typically a "guide on the side" not a "sage on the stage."
This can be a frustrating and scary experience, but it is a great first step towards students becoming self-directed. Instructors may want to explain the difference between teacher and facilitator by saying:
It's not my job to teach, it's your job to learn. It's my job as the teacher to structure the information you need to learn and to present it to the class in a variety of ways. If you are used to a lecture it's natural to feel a little uncomfortable during cooperative learning. It's okay to feel uncomfortable. You can set the course for yourself, but don't feel like I am going to send you out in a ship and leave you. We will structure activities together.
It should be noted that even when the group is having difficulties, the instructor should not jump in immediately. A good rule of thumb is "three before me." In other words, the students should try at least three times to solve the problem on their own or with the assistance of another group before they call upon the instructor. Conversely, instructors can jump in to encourage this behavior as needed.
6. Agenda Item 1 - Introduce Group Members
Have group members introduce themselves.
- Ask the students to first share standard information, such as name, major, hometown, etc.
- Students should also be encouraged to share something that is on the more personal side. A few examples include the following:
- If you could have lunch with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be?
- What type of music do you like?
- What happened in the past few weeks that you're excited (or sad) about?
- If you could go into any job next Monday what would it be?
- If you won $1,000,000 what would you do with it?
- If the world was doomed and you could save five people, who would you save?
- What was the most fun you ever had?
- What is the most important event in your life so far?
Introductory type activities are often called "ice-breakers." They are very useful in jump-starting a group and building group cohesiveness early in the process. Some students may be nervous about such ice-breakers. Instructors should encourage students to stretch their boundaries, but only to the degree which they are comfortable. The purpose of an ice-breaker is not to put someone on the spot, but to develop group cohesiveness.
One way to reduce anxiety is to have one student "interview" another student, then introduce that person. This can reduce the anxiety and it can also help to speed up the process. Ice-breakers can be very time consuming. Working in small groups can help this, but there is still a chance that some people will get on a soapbox and waste time. The instructor's goal should be to maintain a balance between helping a group to bond and leaving enough time for other activities. Set a time limit for each activity and announce times during the activity.
As the students work their way through the agenda, instructors should assist, guide, and encourage as needed. Instructors should allow the groups to develop self-management skills in order for them to become self-sustaining.
7. Agenda Item 2 - Verify Each Person Has Read The Information
Have all group members verbally confirm they have read or are familiar with the information about the meeting.
- This is critical to the success of the group.
- In this case, they should have read information on cooperative learning in the iStudy tutorial and completed the activities.
- Instructors should emphasize that this is absolutely essential for group success because each person must contribute and participate to help the group achieve its goals. No one should come into a meeting unprepared. If there are documents to be read before a meeting, everyone involved should read them.
8. Agenda Item 3 - Decide on a Name for Your Group
Instructors may want to say:
Just as a sports team has a name, a cooperative learning group can adopt a name. Team names often become the way in which a group identifies itself. A lot of camaraderie and team spirit can revolve around the team name. Some teams even develop a team mascot, emblem, logo, or team color. The important point is that the team name should be developed as a team with input and agreement from all members. Make sure everyone is involved in the decision and agrees to the name you choose!
The purpose of agenda item 3 is to develop a sense of camaraderie and friendship. This is accomplished through the process of naming the team. This task should be a group effort in which all members contribute.
- The team name should be original and developed by the team. This builds ownership and commitment to the team name, as well as the team, and creates a bond between team members. The team name is a way to identify the group and distinguish it from other teams.
- Instructors may offer suggestions on team names in order to get groups started or in a case where a group is stuck.
- Instructors can develop a database of names of past teams and have it ready in case a team needs a jump-start.
- Instructors may want to encourage teams to go beyond developing a team name and urge them to pick a team color, emblem, mascot, or logo.
9. Agenda Item 4 - Review Information on What to Do in a Cooperative Learning Group
- Refer students to the "Characteristics of an Effective Group and Expected Behaviors and Responsibilities for Group Members" information in the iStudy tutorial or give them the handout printed below.
- Students should review this information before moving on to the next step.
- This reading should be done as a pre-class assignment and should be simply reviewed in the group meeting.
- As part of the review instructors may want to encourage students to discuss the points they think are important or the ones with which they agree or disagree.
- OPTIONAL - A large group discussion could follow the small group discussions to reinforce important insights and learning.
10. Agenda Item 5 - Review the Five Roles for Group Members
- Refer students to the "Five Roles of Group Members" in the iStudy tutorial.
- Students should review this information before moving on to the next step.
- This task should be done as a pre-class assignment and should be simply reviewed in the group meeting.
- Instructors may want to encourage students to discuss the points they think are important or the ones with which they agree or disagree.
- OPTIONAL - A large group discussion could follow the small group discussions to reinforce important insights and learnings.
11. Agenda Item 6 - Group Members Assume Each of the Five Roles
- Each group member must assume one of the cooperative learning roles for the duration of the meeting.
- Instructors may assign roles or allow the groups to assign roles on their own. If groups are able to successfully assign roles to members, then they should do so.
- Instructors should stress the reasons why roles are used in group situations.
- They help the group function more effectively.
- They help the group to achieve its goals more efficiently.
- Individual group members can assume several roles in order to help the group function effectively and achieve its goals efficiently.
- Instructors must be very vigilant early in the process to make sure that students play their roles properly. Instructors should intervene and correct problems and clarify any misunderstandings as soon as possible.
Important Information on Roles
In any group situation, roles and hierarchies will emerge naturally. In cases such as this, roles are typically based on position, perceived power, or personality. Sometimes these roles will be inappropriately developed and they may work against the group.
Further, in many cases there will be vital roles that are neglected. For example, the role of Taskmaster may emerge naturally, but the role of Praiser may not emerge and be neglected. Instructors must make a concerted, effort to ensure that the various roles are assumed by members of the group. Instructors must carefully observe each group and interject comments about the roles if a group member is hesitant or unsure how to play the role.
Different people are more naturally suited to assume certain roles. For example, an assertive person may be better able to fill the role of Taskmaster than someone who is more introverted. Problems can arise when people are uncomfortable about the roles they are asked to assume. Sometimes this discomfort is a result of no experience in that role. Other times it is simply a function of unwillingness to assume a role.
It is important that students not only assume roles, but that they gain exposure to and experience as a variety of roles.
12. Agenda Item 7 - Group Members Verbally Share Their Understanding of Cooperative Learning
- Refer students to the "Cooperative vs. Competitive vs. Individualistic Learning" information in the iStudy tutorial.
- This is an open discussion. Each group should be actively engaged in conversation. Instructors should move from group to group ensuring:
- Each group member is performing his or her role properly.
- The group remains on task.
- Different viewpoints are allowed to surface.
Students should realize by now that cooperative learning is very different from traditional forms of learning. As students explore the differences between cooperative learning and other forms of learning they will make the connection that the role of the instructor is different as well. It is important that instructors make the shift from "expert" to "expert facilitator" and allow learning to take place within the group.
- Instructors may want to communicate their thoughts and feelings about the differences between cooperative learning and other types of learning from the perspective of an instructor. Do this after the group has worked through its own discussion. Further, instructors may want to express their thoughts and feelings concerning the shift in the their roles.
As an instructor:
What have you struggled with?
How did you view your role before and after cooperative learning?
What do you like and dislike about it?
- Emphasize the fact that cooperative learning is more in alignment with what students will encounter in the world of work. This leads to the importance of developing these skills for use in school and beyond.
13. Agenda Item 8 - Group Members Review the Basic Elements of Cooperative Learning
- Refer students to the "Five Basic Elements of Cooperative Learning" information in the iStudy tutorial.
Instructors may want to say:
There are five fundamental elements involved in cooperative learning. In fact, these five elements distinguish cooperative learning from other forms of group learning and can be thought of as pieces in a puzzle. When all of these elements are present in a learning situation, the result is a cooperative learning group. The five basic elements of cooperative learning are:
Individual and group accountability
Interpersonal and small group skills
Face-to-face promotive interaction
- Each member of the group must choose one of the five basic elements of cooperative learning to review individually.
- OPTIONAL - If this activity takes place in a classroom situation, instructors may want to provide sheets of paper with one element per sheet to the students so they can record their thoughts.
- OPTIONAL - Another activity instructors might incorporate (if multiple groups exist) is to have individual members from each group represent a particular element and meet to discuss that element. Then have the members return to their original group and move to the next part of this agenda item.
- If members from different groups with the same element meet to discuss the element and come to consensus on what the element means and how to present it to the groups, then there is a better chance for consistency and thorough understanding by all.
- In turn, each group member must explain the chosen element (positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face promotive interaction, interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing) to the others.
- Typically, group members will do a very good job because they are in the role of teacher. Research shows that when students are asked to assume the role of teacher, their attention, as well as their comprehension, increases dramatically. However, sometimes students will struggle with this new role because they have never done it before. The thought of explaining something to the rest of the group can cause anxiety and stress for some people. Instructors should reassure the groups that it is OK to feel nervous about this, but the groups are there to provide support when members have difficulty. Instructors should circulate among the groups to make sure the information is being correctly communicated.
- Make sure the group discusses each element and be certain that all group members understand each of the five elements. All students should question each other until each person can name and describe all five elements.
Note: It's the Checker's responsibility to be sure each group member understands, and the Taskmaster's job to be sure the Checker completes his task. Instructors should "spot quiz" different members to make sure that they have accomplished this goal.
14. Agenda Item 9 - Group Members Review the Benefits of Cooperative Learning
- Refer students to the "Benefits of Cooperative Learning" information in the iStudy tutorial.
- Have each member of the group share verbally a few of the major points from this handout. (Note: It is the Gatekeeper's task to ensure all participate equally.) Instructors may want to prompt groups with the following:
Many benefits of cooperative learning have been presented thus far. Also, you have probably begun to experience many of the benefits of cooperative learning. Take some time to reflect on the experiences you have had with cooperative learning to this point. Do some of the things you have experienced match the benefits shown in the student manual? Are there additional benefits that are not presented in the manual?
Hopefully you feel that you have had a successful experience with cooperative learning and you can relate to many of the benefits presented. On the other hand, maybe you have not experienced all, or even any, of the benefits listed. If this is the case - don't give up! Becoming skilled in cooperative learning takes time, patience, and persistence. The more you grow in your understanding and the more you experience cooperative learning, the better you will become and the more benefits you will experience. It takes time!
This experience was meant to be the tip of the iceberg - to give you a taste of cooperative learning. Hopefully students can relate to many of the benefits shown in the tutorial. Further, some may be able to identify additional benefits that are not even presented.
A student's ability to recognize and relate to the benefits is directly related to his/her experience with cooperative learning thus far. Students who have a positive experience with the group will be more apt to recognize and agree with the benefits that are listed
However, some students will have experiences with cooperative learning that are not as positive (perhaps even negative). These students may be unable to identify with the benefits and they may even disagree with them.
If people have negative experiences with cooperative learning, it is important to intervene to minimize frustration and help them to get back on course. In fact, difficulty and even failure can be as valuable as success in helping students to learn cooperatively in the future. If reflection and discussion can take place around what went wrong or what could have been done differently, then a negative experience can be turned into a valuable lesson for future endeavors.
Instructors should encourage students to build on their successes and learn from their struggles with cooperative learning. Emphasize that this course is just an introduction to cooperative learning. It is meant to provide some basic knowledge and skills. The intention was not to guarantee that everyone would become experts immediately.
15. Agenda Item 10 - Group Members Complete a Group Evaluation Form
- Refer students to the "Group Evaluation Form" in the iStudy tutorial or print the form and give each group a copy. Instructors may want to prompt groups with the following:
Evaluations are important in cooperative learning because they help to assess the effectiveness of the group as well as the individuals. This purpose ties closely with the basic element of individual and group accountability.
The Recorder is responsible for completing the group evaluation form with input from the other members. This evaluation is a way for the group to critique group activities and obtain feedback from group members. There is space to record what the group did well, as well as space to note areas needing improvement. Instructors may want to point out that these two areas focus on the group as a whole. For example, a response for what the group did well may be "finished ahead of time."
Another area on the group evaluation form asks the group to identify something each member did to increase group effectiveness. This adds an individual dimension to the group evaluation form because it helps members to identify each other's strengths and provide positive feedback.
- Have the Recorder complete this form, with input from entire group. Remember, it's the Recorder's job to do this activity.
- Have the group hand in the group evaluation form.
16. Agenda Item 11 - Group Members Complete an Individual Evaluation Form
- Refer students to the "Individual Evaluation Form" in the iStudy tutorial or you may want to have copies made to distribute to each group. Instructors may want to prompt everyone with the following:
Just as the group evaluation form helps to assess the effectiveness of the group as a whole, the individual evaluation is a way to measure the effectiveness of individual members.
- Have each group member complete the individual evaluation form.
- Have each group member hand in the individual evaluation form.
17. Agenda Item 12 - Wrap-Up
- Congratulate the groups on the work they did.
- Explain that this is just a first step towards cooperative learning - they need multiple exposures to it to feel completely comfortable.
Instructors may want to say:
In the beginning groups may feel clumsy working together - that's natural. In the end, you will soar. Start by taking baby steps.
Through observing both the group's and the individual's activities, the instructor may assess student performance. Assessment criteria is as follows (instructors supply the percentage weights):
The student can define or describe cooperative learning by:
1) pointing out the importance of cooperative learning.
2) listing some of the benefits of cooperative learning.
3) naming five possible roles and responsibilities of individual group members.
The student can distinguish between individual, competitive, and cooperative learning by giving examples.
The student can play one of five possible roles in a group.