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Topic: Who Uses Group/Cooperative learning?
Replies: 7   Last Post: Jun 29, 1995 4:31 PM

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Murphy Waggoner

Posts: 52
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Who Uses Group/Cooperative learning?
Posted: Jun 26, 1995 9:33 AM
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These questions from Ted Panitz' post get at the meat of the problem:
> * Have other list members had similar experiences?
> * What is the primary method of teaching at your institution?
> * Knowing how difficult it is to get people to change (myself
>included) has
>anyone had success in getting faculty to use group interactive learning?
> * If you use group learning what makes it successful?
> *Would you share details of your group approach with the list?

Background on the class I teach: I teach almost all of the sections of our
business calculus course. The students who take this course have widely
varying past experiences with mathematics. I decided to take advantage of
this by having the students teach the course to each other using
cooperative learning. I may give a brief introductory lecture on a topic
(especially topics that are new to the entire class) but not more than 5 or
10 minutes here and there. I also give the students guidance in the form
of text references, worksheets, schedules, etc. Almost all of the students
in my classes last year thought this was great. In response to the "What
should be changed about this class?" question on the evaluation one student
said "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Methods of Teaching at our Institution: There are four faculty (including
me) and two of them lecture exclusively in class (at least that is my
impression) but I don't know how much of that involves student discussion.
Another faculty mixes lecture and peer instruction and might use other
methods, I'm not sure.

I have been raving about the results of teaching cooperative learning in an
effort to spread the word. I also was the coordinator of a team taught
course where I developed the materials and schedule for the class and all
three other instructors helped in the classroom. Two quick comments on
this course. The students remarked that having more than one instructor in
the classroom was good. Also, when I recommended to other instructors that
teaching a class in this way could help solve some of the problems they
complain about one of them responded, "I don't have time."

I think that change is difficult for many reasons, including:
it does take more time to prepare for a classroom activity
involving the students than it does to prepare a lecture over a topic I
have covered 10 times already;
most of us feel we must be in control and must know how the hour in
class will turn out and we find it is difficult to relinquish control; and
lectures are (usually) our only model for class and some other
method may not work the first time (someone once told me to insure good
student evaluations I should stick to something I know will work).

Murphy Waggoner
Department of Mathematics
Simpson College
701 North C Street
Indianola, IA 50125

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