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Topic: Responses to CL questions
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Posts: 133
Registered: 12/6/04
Responses to CL questions
Posted: Feb 8, 1997 2:05 PM
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Hi Listers,
The following is a compilation of responses to questions on CL posed by
George Jacobs. I think they are especially helpful for people contemplating
using CL or who may have wondered about their approach compared to others who
use CL techniques.


>A. How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL? Doesn't it take more time to
>cover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted mode >is


>B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?

>C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
>school system and the larger society?

>D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?

>E. How can CL be used with large classes?

>F. How can cooperation be a content theme as well as a teaching procedure?

>George M Jacobs SEAMEO Regional Language Centre
>30 Orange Grove Road SINGAPORE 258352
>Tel: 65-737-9044, ext. 608 Fax: 65-734-2753

From: Linda Metzke <METZKEL@QUEEN.LSC.VSC.EDU> Lyndon State College.
Sender: "News on teaching with collaborative learning at Indiana University,

The questions are wonderful! As far is the first is concerned, I finally
decided that philosophically I wanted my students to learn certain big
principles and that "covering" the syllabus was akin to giving them a book and
saying "read this" the test will be May 25. ..the only difference is that if we
cover the syllabus we are talking heads rather than books! I cannot believe how
much more deeply and usefully my students learn when we use cooperative
learning, or a combination of cooperative learning and mini
lecture/discussion...I can also assess their understanding and knowledge as they
work...a big boon...of course being in teacher education having students who are
able to implement theory is more important than having students who have
memorized a ton of stuff to regurgitate on the exam! The richness of learning
through cooperative learning can't be duplicated by the lecture only type

With large groups...our intro class is 75...students are divided into base
groups the first day of class...are responsible for attendance...have a question
of the day to discuss in groups as they come in...and have questions, projects,
or activities that the groups do during each class period...often we find (this
is a team taught class) that issues that took 2 hours of lecture to "cover" can
be taught much more dramatically given a good cooperative learning exercise in a
much shorter time...Each group has a "color" and a folder that is used to keep
handouts, etc for absent members, make journal entries that are shared with the
professor and commented on by the professor...etc...we really get to know the
students... something that didn't happen when we taught it in a more
traditional fashion...
From: Virginia Blasingame <>

The best way to address CL for a beginner is to have him read the
selection in the 1996 _To Improve the Academy_. Dan Wheeler was one of
the authors, I think, and another guy is ? Black. (I can't reach the
journal at this location today)They have worked together for many years.
One of our accounting faculty attended a workshop on CL and came back
ENERGIZED. But when she tried to share with other faculty, they couldn't
see what was going on from her workshop handouts. Lo and behold, the
TIA article was by one of her presenters and explains in continuous
discourse just the issues that new CL practitioners most want to know.

Virginia Blasingame Director, Teaching and Learning
Center Franklin University 201 S. Grant Columbus, Ohio 43215-5399
Phone: 614-341-6268 Fax: 614-228-6670
From: Sharon J Gerow <>

This thread was forwarded to me by a colleague because of my interest in
CL and all forms of teaming and collaboration. I've been working with a variety
of collaborative structures for over ten years. I've also been fortunate to have
worked with David and Roger Johnson from whom I learned a great deal. Anyway,
I'll respond to the questions as I really believe in this goal structure.

> How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL. Doesn't it take more time to
> cover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted mode >is


This is a very common assumption, but also a misunderstanding. CL is not
instead of or in addition to the curriculum. It's a way of working with your
curriculum or "delivering" it if you will. Depending on the experience of the
students, the beginning of a school year may mean that you don't move as quickly
as it's important to teach the skills involved in collaboration. However, as
students of all ages learn these skills they begin to move more quickly. Users
of CL often describe moving slowly with the curriculum in the beginning, but
more efficiently and quickly as the year goes on.

The second issue here is the research on "teacher-fronted modes." How
can we ignore the research base on CL that is extremely impressive in the
benefits of CL for human relations, critical thinking, achievement, etc.
...compared with "lecture." However, even a lecture can embrace CL by
stopping and asking students to "Turn to Their Neighbors" and explain the
lecture material, ask questions, or whatever is needed.

> >B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?

There is no one answer here and many issues to consider. I like to say,
"Long enough to work through some problems, but not long enough to hate
each other." But that's said light heartedly. If the material being used in
the CL structures is difficult, I would say longer time is necessary. If you use
base groups that are groups designed to check on homework andoffer
encouragement, they need to be together for a full quarter or semester at a
time. BUt even using a base group does not doesn't not eliminate using other
groups with different membership. Part of the answer depends on what your goals
are. I know highly
successful teachers who constantly mix the students up each time she changes a
lesson because she wants everyone in the class to get to know one another well.
I liked to keep kids together for a full quarter because I wanted them to learn
to work through problems and get into the material in depth. In fact, I
sometimes told a student who complained that he or she couldn't work with
someone and wanted to be changed that I would change him as soon as he had
learned to work with the other person. This became quite productive. OFten they
discovered that their dislike was superficial and that other students had much
to offer them in terms of their thinking and ways of working.

> >C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
> >school system and the larger society?

Society is changing and we should be attempting to meet the needs. There
is literature about improvement in the accuracy of medical diagnoses
through teams rather than the individual brilliant doctor. THe law field
has used legal teams for a long time. (The problems with the split on the
OJ legal team was great stuff for understanding what it takes to collaborate.
THe basis of good collaboration is trust and there was a serious violation of it
on their team. 7th graders in one school who were learning to collaborate
framed the problems quite intelligently even though the media had not presented
it as such. They had been involved in CL for over two years.
Last week THE WASHINGTON POST ran an article onhow the Marine
Corps is moving to different strategies in order to develop team work
among the Marines and less reliance on the drill instructor. It's pure
CL through and through. They quoted some veteran drill sargeants as being
impressed with the improvement in cohesion and curriculum understanding
(my phrase there).
The business community is very strong on teams and calls on
schools to develop these skills with our students.
Finally, I teach in a program at the Institute for Educational
Transformation at George Mason University that recruits teachers in teams.
The teams function as response teams, collaborative research teams,
discussion groups, etc. They remain together for 2 and a half year as
they move through all of the courses at the same time. We hoped that this
structure would contest the isolation of teachers and my research suggests
that it does. Many are continuing to work together in a variety of
configurations and with a variety of different purposes even after they

> >D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?

Emphasis on teaching the skills helps. THe Johnsons have very good
material on this. Shorter CL experiences. Depending on exactly what you
are talking about here, the heterogeneous make up of most groups with a
lower students among higher achieving students also helps. I've seen
dramatic gains with lower achieving students. A couple of cautions: the
range of skills is usually best served by not placing the highest and the
lowest together, but the lower with those who are simply higher--not
necessarily the highest. I hope that's clear.

> >E. How can CL be used with large classes?

I love it especially with large classes because of the increase in student
talk and involvement. I'm not sure how people might see this as a
problem. I've watched Roger Johnson do this with 100 teachers with
incredible grace and success. What issues are people concerned about

> >F. How can cooperation be a content theme as well as a teaching procedure?

I integrate my belief in collaboration in whatever I teach (English, history,
and action research). Very few people truly work in total isolation. Even the
image of the lonely writer on the island is a myth since at some point she sends
the manuscript to an editor and gets feedback. In the classroom, that's peer
response. THe government continually provides examples of collaboration--both
successful and unsuccessful. The automobile industry has great examples of
superior achievements due to teaming, etc. I integrate these examples into my
curriculum as we talk about not only what we do in groups, but also how
well we do it because of our skills.

In my experience of working with teachers to implement CL, they find it
helpful to know that CL is not used 100 percent of the time, that it takes
three years to just feel like you have a basic handle on it adding a bit
more each year, and that collaborative skills require life long learning.
I've spent over ten years immersed in this, and I still have to work on my
own skills. I still learn new things about collaboration all the time.

I have gone on long enough. I'll just stop by saying that there is a
difference between cooperative learning and groups. That's important to
understand. The research on using groups doesn't yield much better
results than the research on the lecture method. Now, I need to join this
list to see what others are doing. Thanks for the opportunity.

Sharon J. Gerow Institute for Educational Transformation
George Mason University
From: Pat Buckner <>

>A. How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL? Doesn't it take more
>time tocover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted
>modeis used?

not always---and, anyway, how sure are you that the material is
"covered?" Does the fact that the teacher went over it mean that the
students learned it? So how do you know it will take more time?
Besides, if it engages the students, they may not only learn it
better, but faster. And, often, they will learn more than the
teacher would have "taught," because they will have a need to know.

>B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay
together? Varies.

>C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in
>theschool system and the larger society?

well . . .you can always compete between groups. ..but I haven't seen
a problem with this.

>D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?
Gives them more of a chance to talk. Also helps them prepare for
whole class discourse

>E. How can CL be used with large classes?
Gives everyone more of a chance to produce in the language. Teacher
can then "sample" from small groups for whole class discussion.
From: "Ann P. Monroebaillargeon" <apmonroe@MAILBOX.SYR.EDU>
> >A. How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL? Doesn't it take more time to
> >cover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted mode >is

Reply: My experience is that initially, due to the new learning
arrangement, yes it may take more time, but in the long run, over the
course of the semester, it may actually save time and more content may be
covered as a result.

> >B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?
> reply: This depends of the make up of the groups and the projects they
are working on and your goals as the teacher. Is your goal to have
students work with as many different students as possible or to establish
and maintain collaborative working relationships over a longer period of

> >C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
> >school system and the larger society?

> reply: All the more reason why it must work. Students must have an
opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that is safe and
supportive.It is devastating to always be in the win/lose relationship of
competition.You may find it a bit more challenging for children to
understand this cooperative relationship if they are seldom given an
opportunity to experience it, persistence pays off!

> >D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students? > >
reply: This can be an extremely effecctive strategy. Think in advace to
the roles assigned to students and the content that you would like each
student to be involved/ responsible for. This can be designed to meet
individual student needs. Students benefit from learning from each others

>E. How can CL be used with large classes?
> reply: Just have lots of groups, I prefer no more than 4 to a group

> >F. How can cooperation be a content theme as well as a teaching procedure?
> reply: Think of this with student directed learning in mind.

Sorry, I have got to run, good luck with the conference, Ann
From: Elizabeth Howard <elhoward@IMAP1.ASU.EDU>t.
>>A. How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL? Doesn't it take more time to
>>cover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted mode >is


You've got to be kidding! I can cover more material in my fairly
large (30 students) classes on curriculum and instruction. However, I had
to rethink the syllabus. I assigned dates to the topics I wanted to
present and scheduled them first. Then I assigned topics I'd like to have
time to prepare for but don't and scheduled them for cooperative groups to
present. Then I wrote a presentation rubric with benchmarks of performance
so students would have the criteria of evaluation. About halfway through
the semester, the groups begin their presentations, complete with guest
speakers, bulletin boards, music, videos, and handouts for the class
containing salient information. A final exam consists of two (choice from
three prompts) essays that show synthesis and application of the
information to a simulated teaching situation. Students are allowed to
bring one 8.5X11 inch page of notes, front and back. My students told me
they learned more making up that page of notes than they had in any other
course. The final exam also has an accompanying grading rubric with
benchmarks to guide students in their composition and to guide me in the
evaluation of the essays.
>>B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?
My groups stay together all semester. They complete two major projects: a
presentation (see question a) and an interdisciplinary teaching unit.

>>C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
>>school system and the larger society?

In my classes, I use cooperation instead of competition to get the idea
across that the end goal of an assignment is not to be better than someone
else but to learn the criterion behaviors set before students.
>>D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?

Groups work well together to bring low-motivation students into line. I
can say that something is unacceptable, and students don't really hear me,
but let three of their peers get together and not accept the work's level,
and students will get to work.
>>E. How can CL be used with large classes?

If CL is well planned, which is not always the case, large classes do as
well as small ones, I believe. But hours of planning must go into the
up-front design.
>>F. How can cooperation be a content theme as well as a teaching procedure?
Again, students should be given the opportunity to choose the goal
of learning the criterion behaviors instead of "getting the A." This is
impossible in some universities where teachers are required to follow the
bell curve.
From: Joy Runyan <>

> >A. How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL? Doesn't it take more time to
> >cover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted mode
> >is used?

First of all..... CHANGE your syllabus to fit CL. Actually, it might take more
time on YOUR planning initially, but eventually your planning time will decrease
and the amount of material covered will increase... because you will be able to
Integrate topics, subjects, skills, etc.... And you will have lots of 'help'
available within the CL teams.... children would rather listen to and show and
ask each other than the teacher ( what does a teacher know any-who?? <grin> )
Besides you will be busy 'facilitating' -- fancy word for being able to move
around, listen in, discuss, probe, question, get to know your kids better.....

Get to know your students well... have them get to know each other and
themselves better.... This is how I did it.

> >B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?

Depends... In our Runyan & Co. Situation.... We start off with My Constructing
their group make up.... and it is 'vaguely' for a six-weeks period... But within
that time frame, they may 'venture' out to be in other 'teams' of their
choice....this techniques lets them see 'who does and who does not' make for a
good team member.... It is also a means of giving them some 'ownership' to
team... but I am Management.... and I have the authority to re group, disband a
member or the entire team if production is not maintained...

Also, depending upon the 'product' we are developing, the teams need to be
constructed to fit the indivdual strengths.... making sure that the project
progresses smoothly and that everyone has the support needed for completing
their portion of the final product.... and in the mean time, learn the required
material needed to meet State Curriculum Guide Objectives.

None of my units last over 3 weeks, and during that time, teams fluctuate in
size from solo to pairs to four or five..... But the real kicker is.. to be
able to function as a team member, one must : meet behavioral and attendance
keep up with 'their' part of the assignment ( individual accountability )...
or be disbarred to create a 'team of 1'

> >C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
> >school system and the larger society?

Each R&C Product starts with selection of A, B, C contract grade standards....
Then, all "A", "B", "C" projects are 'graded' against all "A","B", "C" products
from every class. Competition between classes is great.... Competition, Races,
etc.... are conducted school-wide to create enthusiasm.... School Hallway
Bullentin Boards and In-House Cougar Live 'T.V. News' keeps entire student body
abreast of what is going on.... Teams are very 'secretive' about their
strategies and ideas for 'creative presentations' so that no one else will
'borrow' their copyrighted ideas prior to presentation day....
> >D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?

My low Proficiency and other teachers 'behavorial management' kids function best
in this situation..... They have someone close at hand to ask and share with.
They are up and doing working hands-on... they DO NOT WANT TO LOSE THE PRIVLEDGE
of working in a team... great for behavior/classroom management.. They have a
wide selection of alternative assessments to choose from and quickly find they
can experience success. "regular" and 'gifted' students find their niche as
well.... in this setting.

> >E. How can CL be used with large classes?

Just add more tables or 'locations' to FARM OUT KIDS. I have 8 double-tables
for 4 members each.... plus 31 individual desks.... so I might assign a group of
4 to a 'double trapezoid table' or pull them apart and have 2 to a single
trapezoid table, or have some in desks...

Most of the time, I have 7 on the computers in back, some in the media center,
some in the computer lab, some in the science lab, some out in the hall on the
carpet in the floor..... takes 'arranging scheduleing of children with Media
specialists, Computer teacher, Science Lab Teaching Assisstant.... but works
good for us.... Kids will not abuse the process, because in doing so know they
will lose 'freedom' to go and do.... i.e. 'team of 1 - alone in desk'.

Sometimes, the 'tables' are Centers that all 'Use' and 'Move-on'.

> >F. How can cooperation be a content theme as well as a teaching procedure?

Check out our 'Runyan & Co. Classified Advertisement' Home Page--- Is up
and will be 'linked and running soon'.
( under MAJOR CONSTRUCTION - will be linked and running soon...)
I initially called our class, "Runyan & Co. ... Cooperative Learning in Action."
Students changed it to, "Runyan & Co. ... # 1 Because We Think!!!"

Joy Runyan & Co. Athens Jr. High Athens, Tn 3730
From: Brett Bixler <bxb11@PSU.EDU>>
Sender: Active and Collaborative Learning <L-ACLRNG@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>

I only commented on the questions I felt I knew something about. I'm not a
collaborative learning expert, but am learning! -BB

>>B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?

I don't know if there is a best answer to that. At some Penn State campuses,
cohorts are being kept together for over a year. This is based on collab.
learning activities that took place last year that indicated this might be

>>C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
>>school system and the larger society?

In the school system yes, but not in business and industry. BETWEEN
businesses and industries, sure. But within a business or industry,
cooperation is needed. This is precisely why businesses and industries are
asking schools to reconsider their competitive models.

>>D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?

Do you mean intellectually challenged individuals? Underachievers? Are you
talking about an entire group of low proficiency students, or just one or
several in a group? This question is tough to address without more specifics.

>>E. How can CL be used with large classes?

Don't know the answer to that, unless it's to break up the class into smaller

>>F. How can cooperation be a content theme as well as a teaching procedure?

Use of the reciprocal teaching method works for this. For more info on a
sample approach, see
on the web.
From: Sally Blake <sblake@UTEP.EDU>
>>A. How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL? Doesn't it take more time to
>>cover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted mode

>used? More time ...certainly, BUT just because you have delivered a
>lecture does not mean the students have learned it. All you have done is
>shown what you know.

>>B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?
>I change them every week.

>>C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
>>school system and the larger society?

>>D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?
>They are ideal for low proficiency learners because the heat is off. Low
>proficiency learners know they are labeled as such and often are afraid to
>try to contribute. I do make sure there are assigned roles and group
>according to agressive behavior. I never let a shy student stay in a group
>with an overly assertive one.

>>E. How can CL be used with large classes?
This is hard. I have been fortunate to not be placed in that position yet.
BUT I think projects would lend themselves to CL.
From: Horace Rockwood <ROCKWOOD@CUP.EDU>
Sender: Active and Collaborative Learning <L-ACLRNG@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>

Some of the questions George Jacobs raises are perennials; some are more or
less specific to his situation. I'll try to supply a brief answer to each
question, indicating which questions I have specific material or more info on.

A. The coverage issue almost always comes up early in any discussion of Coop
Learning. The best answer is that coverage is always a myth anyway. People
who worry about coverage are deluded into thinking that because they lectured
on a given topic, it is therefore "covered." A more practical answer is to
employ additional active learning strategies. For example, I regularly use,
particularly in advanced courses but the idea is appropriate for any level, Peer
Study Guides. One way to do this is to generate a reading list, have each
student choose three items he/she is interested in (meaning the student should
read all three), choose one of them, and have the student write a study guide
for the article (according to a model you have supplied--you could even have all
of the students fill out your study guide to demonstrate a model for an answer).
You can make the process as simple or complicated as you wish. Then have each
student generate a study guide for the article (for example, what 3 or 4
questions about the article do you think a peer should be able to answer)check
the study guides for acceptability, duplicate each study guide (or have them put
on a networked computer), and require that each student fill out--to the
satisfaction of the person who created the study guide--some agreed upon number
of study guides from other students. Both students must sign the completed
study guide, which you collect and register (see F, below). You can, of course,
structure your reading list to suit your needs (that is, one from column A,
etc). Students take full responsibility for exchanging and "grading"
(accepting) the study guides. It works very well for me, and I have never been
able to get students to do as much with a reading list before. As a check, if
you want, you could include questions relating to the reading list on exams. I
also use Teacher of the Day, for which I have worked out a satisfactory system,
and have students write out and turn in answers to questions about material I
don't expect to get to in class or want to be sure they understand (again, see
F, below). Many other ways to have students deal with course related material
outside the confines of the classroom are available. I have samples of the
things I've mentioned if anyone is interested.

B (How long should groups continue?) Different schools and different programs
will have environments or other factors that will dictate how long groups can
continue to be productive. For starters, I assume the question applies to Base
Groups (see Johnson, Johnson, & Smith: Active Learning: Cooperation in the
College Classroom, Edina, Minnesota). The groups should continue as long as
themembers find them useful. Practically, however, they tend to last for a
semester or term. The true test will be the groups themselves.

C. As was the case with the first question, question B makes a questionable
assumption. In both industry and business, graduates find more and more that
they will be working in teams, including writing teams. One of the requests
employers frequently make is for higher education to prepare students to work
together in problem solving and other formats.

D. I see no reason why Coop would not be appropriate for low proficiency
students. The pluses are many and important: increase theor self esteem
throughdiscovering that others share their doubts and problems, allow them to
learn how to express themselves and ask questions through their groups, which
represent a non-threatening environment, and supply them with perspectives from
true peers.

E. Large classes present a different set of problems, but I am assured by
colleagues who teach large classes that cooperative principles can work. One
resource is the videotape on onteractive large classes (I'm not sure of the
title, but I can find it if anyone wishes) from the Derek Bok center at
Harvard. I have copies of syllabi from colleagues who use coop in classes of
100 and even 700! See also F, below.

F. Despite what advocates such as Ken Bruffee (Collaborative Learning, Johns
Hopkins, 1993) say, I have found that students need to be trained to work
together effectively and efficiently, so I always spend some time at the
beginning of the semester helping them learn how. The best advice I can offer
is to give them tasks that they can perform successfully in the allotted time.
If a class is small enough (35 or fewer), I have something on paper turned in
every day. What's turned in ranges from a report from the base or task group,
listing each person's contribution or status; to individual or group reports on
the task(s) for the day; to an assignment they have written out beforehand. I
usually read and record these reports, but I do not evaluate them. They become
part of a grade students get for participation (including, for example any
study guides or Teacher of the Day material). Students are thus encouraged to
attend (although I find attendance routinely higher in coop/collab classes),
because they know that they can get credit (except for material prepared
outsideof class) only by being there, and they are encouraged to contribute
something from their perspective without fear of rejection. In large classes,
what J,J, &S recommend is sampling responses to a task in such a way as to
guarantee that every student has an equal chance to get called on. The same
principle would apply to material written outside of class in very large
classes--the instructor would sample an appropriate number of entries in order
to avoid gross errors.
From: "Dr. David L. Smith" <dsmith@ACA.LASALLE.EDU>
Sender: Active and Collaborative Learning <L-ACLRNG@PSUVM.PSU.EDU>

> >A. How can we cover the syllabus if we use CL? Doesn't it take more time to
>cover the same amount of material compared to when a teacher-fronted mode >is

You cannot "cover" as much material. But extensive research on avariety
of active learning strategies indicates that active learning strategies
(including CL) are _as_good_as_ lecture for acquisition of content as
judged by end of course examinations. Active strategies are much better
than lecture for improving critical thinking/problem solving skills,
for improving long-term retention, for changing attitudes, and for
developing social skills. A good summary is found in Bonwell and
Eison's 1991 ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report "Active Learning".
The reason for the equivalence in mastery of content with less coverage
is very simple. Only a fraction of what you "cover" in a lecture is
actually received, processed, and remebered by students. After about 20
minutes, attentivness at a level supportive of learning is almost absent
in traditional lectures. Once the class has "zoned" on you, what's the
point of "covering" material?

Another part of the puzzle is how much "filler" has crept into the syllabus.
When you pare things down to the core concepts, there's enough time. I teach a
mineralogy course in college that now covers more with CL than we did with
lecture, because I've eliminated all the redundant examples and extraneous
detail that I used to put in to try to entertain the students and reinforce my

Finally, CL is actually more efficient in some respects. How much time does a
lecturer spend rehashing the book, much of which the students understand from
reading. The students learn not to do the reading and so the lecturer has to
cover it all. My students do the reading and I can spend my CL time focusing on
the trouble spots and misconceptions and leave the easy stuff for them to learn
on their own. It's working at least as well as lecture did.

> >B. How long (days, weeks, months, years) should CL groups stay together?

Depends on the situation. Group need to coalesce,then have problems and work
through them to become effective. Use your judgement, but don't rearrange when
things get difficult or students will not learn to work together constructively.
Instead, encourage group problem solving by focusing on introducing and
sustaining behaviors that the group itself finds helpful. Give students time to
evaluate their own efforts.

> >C. How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
> >school system and the larger society?

If grading is competitive, CL will not work. Grading on relative rank means
that if you help someone you are hurting yourself. Much of society does _not_
function this way, including most enlightened corporations, which now emphasize
teamwork. If you go to CL, you need to change your means of assessment and
grading to work with your goals, not against them. This discord of group work
and competitive assessment is one source of trouble with the traditional group
projects that students love to hate. Noone is forced to grade cometitively.
Set objectives and use those objectives as the measure of your students'
progress or success. Grade on acheivement, not effort nor relative standing.
Finally, if you really want things to be collaborative, make people grade
dependent on the individual success of every member of their team. This helps
prevent loafers and also forces bright loners to help others in the group. This
needs to be balanced by assessment that everyone in the group is taking
the appropriate personal responsibility.

> >D. How can CL be used with low proficiency students?

Just as it can be used with other students. Open ended activities with multiple
possible paths to follow will actually give a great benefit to low proficiency
students, who may be quite able in ways that have never been open to them under
traditional approaches.

> >E. How can CL be used with large classes?

Larger classes mean less time to facilitate each group. You will ned to find
ways to help students become more independent, notnecessarily a bad thing, but
definitiely a challenge. In very large classes, CL may not be the technique of
choice and other active learning strategies might be more appropriate.

> >F. How can cooperation be a content theme as well as a teaching procedure?
>By dealing with it explicitily and by assessing it and making it part of
grading. Students can be asked to identify behaviors each day that helped the
group accomplish its goals. They will probably identify the same behaviors you
would as being "cooperative" Develop scoring rubrics that include behaviors
characteristic of cooperation (providing information, questioning, clarifying,
checking on group comprehension, etc.) and feedback information to students
about their performance in those areas as well as in content areas. If you test
only content, students will quickly learn that only content is important and
react accordingly.

The above are the ideas of someone who is a seasoned amateur, by no means a pro,
at CL. I use a variety of strategies in my classes and every semester I am
reminded through painful reinforcements of the importance of group process. A
group of us have currently formed a study group at La Salle to review Johnson,
Johnson, and Smith's ASHE-ERIC report on cooperative learning and I will
hopefully gain more facility at using these techniques. It's certainly not
easy, but I am firmly convinced from published evidence and from my own
experience that it is worth it. What I know now about what students don't know
(that I didn't know three years ago) could fill a whole semester's course.
From: Rick Plecha

Question #1
How can you cover the syllabus if we use CL?
We began to evolve toward CL because our student population and their
needs were changing. We found that the standard curriculum was becoming
too cumbersome and we discovered that the process of teaching and learning CL
methods took as much time as a regular subject. We also began to see that
the then current instructional methods were reaching fewer and fewer
students. What to do? We began to trim the FLUFF from the curriculum. When
we were finished, we had the core curriculm of the subject and time to design
and integrate CL.

How did we trim the FLUFF?
Susan Kovalik's research showed us a very effective way. Once we
agreed on a subjects' goal statement, we looked at each objective.
Kovalik's research showed us how to write each objective as one of B.
Bloom's level of cognition. When we were finished we had trimmed down the
number of objectives ( many were duplicates under this scrutiny) and took the
last step. Each objective was then constructed with a learning style from H.
Gardner's research. That process produced five key points we wanted each
child to master by the end of the unit. Once the key points were taught, the
students were then given these inquiry sheets. They and their (one or two)
partners picked projects/ activities they wanted to do to demonstrate what
they had learned.

(eg. key point #1: the student will be able to name the three parts of an
insect's body)

activity #1 name the three parts of an insect's body

activity#2 list the three names of an insect's body

activity #3 construct an insect and label the three body parts

activity #4 make up a song to the tune of "Old McDonald" that names the
three parts of an insect

activity #5 act out the three parts of an insect's body

activity #6 design a compare/ contrast chart which shows the three parts of
an insect

Each team looks over the activities. As the activities increase in levels
of cognition so do the point value. Knowledge level activities are worth 1
point where Comprehension level activities are worth 2 points. Application
to Synthesis levels are worth 3 each. With a regular unit we usually assign
the students 18 points and 10 to 12 class days ( 10 to 12 actual hours) to
complete. In addition, CL teams take work home especially as it nears the
presentation date.

Along with the occasional paper pencil test, all team present back to
the class the points they produced. The class is taught how use a rubric for
their student assessments and are instructed to name three things the CL team
should continue to do because they did them so well. Then the class also
tells the CL team three things to do differently next time. Each example
must be stated in the positive to demonstrate mastery of constructive
criticism. I then give my assessment and grade for the CL team.

Not only do the students master the unit goal and all of the objectives by
producing the key point activities, they also overcome their fear of
success/failure, fear of speaking in front of a group and they get their
butterflies to fly in formation! They look at their project with the eye of
a critic and become adept at eye contact, panning an audience, setting up a
chart, finding CL partners with special talents and learn quickly how to
communicate, compromise and reach consensus.

Question C
How can CL work in situations in which competition is stressed in the
school system and in larger society?

No matter what we do, don't you think students are always going to compare
themselves with one another?
Even our 4th graders, working in CL groups for as long as they have, still
compare their team's products with those of the other teams. The difference
is that each team's products are the result of collaboration between two or
three 9 and 10 year olds who have set a group goal and designed the steps to
achieve that goal. Competion, although present, is not the motivator and
therfore not the stress factor either.

How can CL be used with low proficiency students?

Our 4th graders are a mix of proficiencies. Some of them are certified LD,
ADD and ADHD as well as students who do not qualify for special help. After
watching the video tapes of their presentations, it is difficult to tell low
proficiency from non- low proficiency students. I believe this to be true
because each student is encouraged to learn and report back information in
their primary modality(ies). re: Howard Gardner and the Seven Intelligences.

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