By Teachers, For Teachers
Cooperative learning is an effective teaching strategy educator's use to help improve their students' understanding of a subject.
During this process, students work in groups to complete a task with each individual student being responsible for a specific aspect of the assignment. In order for the task to be completed, each student must depend upon themself as well as their group.
The teacher's role is the most important one of them all. In order to make cooperative learning successful, the teacher must serve as facilitator, referee, observer and evaluator.
Follow these guidelines to learn your role in the cooperative learning process:
Arrange the chairs and/or desks so that they are in a small cluster. This makes it easier for groups to be able to work together.
Depending upon the task and class size, it is generally recommended for groups to be as small as two and as large as six. In smaller groups, each member gets to wear many hats, participate more and get the work done much quicker. While in larger groups, students tend to generate a lot of ideas but may find it hard to manage such a large group.
The most effective and successful group size tends to be three to four group members because they take less time to complete a task. Experiment with different group sizes and see what works best for your classroom.
Assign each student to a group. Research favors heterogeneous groups because the differences among the members help the group function, increases self-esteem and provides the opportunities for peer support.
When choosing materials, keep in mind what each student's role will be in the group. Depending upon the task, students can have the same materials or each student can have different materials.
Before you give the students their task, make sure you state what your expectations are for the assignment. Be clear and make sure you provide specific examples and model appropriate behavior.
It is your job to assign each group member a specific role. Have a task leader, observer, time keeper, material manager, researcher, recorder, fact checker, discussion leader, etc. This will ensure that each group member is responsible for their own role in the group, in addition to the whole group task.
Be sure to circulate around the room and monitor and check for understanding. Make it clear that each student is responsible and accountable for their group. To help you get an insight on student understanding, assign one member in each group as the role of observer. Have this student mark down the data of how well their group understands the concept and how well they worked together.
There will come a time when individuals from each group will have a question. Use this time to play the role of consultant, and have the group help answer the question. Teach them the skills they need to be able to solve their problems and get their task completed.
Evaluate each student based upon how well they learned the material, if they completed the task, and how well they helped their group. Remember that each student receives the same grade as their group.
Remember, your main role is to keep the members in each group actively participating. Make sure you walk around the room and constantly monitor the group's progress. Give the student's feedback and teach them the skills they need for their group to be a success.
Check out our cooperative learning checklist for more strategies for best utilizing cooperative learning with students.
What do you think the teacher's role in cooperative learning is? Share with us in the comment section.