It is so very refreshing to hear from so many people who have been successful with cooperative learning, as well as those eager to give it a try. What I have to say may add very little to the discussion, but it's refreshing for me to say them.
I'm not an expert in the English language, but as I understand it, the word "educate" comes from a latin word meaning "to draw out" much like our english word "educe." This is contrary to how many view education -- that is, as a process of "pushing in" information: just standing up at the front of the classroom, force feeding facts. I think education needs to be a process of drawing from each student's experiences and understandings.
I'm also not an expert in cooperative learning. But, having tried both the lecture method (while students sat in rows) and small group learning situations (while students sat in clusters of four or five), I can say that I hope never to go back to lecturing. Watching students work and discuss problems together just "feels right" to me. Almost everyone likes to talk and listen and share what's on their mind (just look at this discussion group). Why would we deprive students of what seems to be an innate need to communicate?
That felt good. I'll give the discussion back to the rest of you now.
Norm Krumpe Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana University at Bloomington