I have been following the thread on cooperative learning with interest, but this is the first time I've been prompted to reply.
I've been using cooperative learning in my math classes (pre-algebra and alg I) for 4 years, and every year I use less and less lecture. I've discovered that, with the use of well chosen and planned activities, I can get my students to discover 75 to 90% of the material for a unit (this is definitely guided discovery, with the teacher inserting several leading questions and comments throughout the process). Once the activities are completed and the students have written their reports on their findings, I lecture. The lecture rarely lasts more than 2 days (of a three week unit) and I use it to pull together the threads of their discoveries and to fill in any missing details. The next few days are for skill practice, and we constantly refer back to the activities whenever procedural questions arise (which is often). My tests are a combination of review (once we meet a topic, we never ignore it), skills (i.e. computation) and extended reply (often in the form of a take-home question requiring extra effort, research or application, and yes, parents, siblings and friends do help the student complete this part). In a unit that takes 3 weeks, I'll spend 6 - 8 days in exploring the topic through projects and cooperative investigations, 2 days lecturing, 3 - 4 days practicing the skills, 1 day reviewing and 1 day testing. Each year, my students' scores on the end-of-year algebra test (mandated and given by the state) have increased, so I do not feel that the loss of lecture time has had a negative effect on their learning.
Cindy Wilkins, PhD Northwest Rankin Attendance Center Mississippi
I'm totally in favor of various forms of group work and inovative teaching methods. However, my feeling is, that if you are not lecturing at least 50% of the time, the students aren't going to learn much.