Cooperative learning has long been touted as a great way to improve academic achievement. However, many teachers object to cooperative learning activities and other types of group work because they feel that only a few of the students do all the work. However, if teachers use effective cooperative learning strategies they can avoid this potential, yet serious, problem with cooperative learning.
In order for teachers to get the most out of their cooperative learning activities they should use cooperative learning strategies that foster both positive interdependence AND individual accountability.
Positive interdependence simply means that students rely on one another in positive ways in order to complete a task.
Individual accountability is accomplished when each student is held accountable on an individual basis (such as having to pass a quiz on what they learned as a group).
Here is a great example of positive interdependence and individual accountability when doing cooperative learning activities. . .
This one works great as a review game before tests. . .
It's called Lettered-Heads:
1. Teacher divides students into groups of 4 or 5.
2. Students within each group receive a different letter (a, b, c, d, e).
3. Students have 5-10 minutes to review/complete study guide ( I make sure to let students know that how well they perform in the review game depends on everyone in their group working together ~ positive interdependence)
4. Teacher asks a question followed by a letter at random. (Question first, then say the letter)
5. Students who have that letter in each group are responsible for writing down the answer. (Individual accountability)
6. The group with the most correct answers wins!
It's understandable why teachers shy away from cooperative learning activities. If only a few students do all the work then there really isn't much point. However, as can be seen from the example above, the right cooperative learning strategies can eliminate this problem and truly benefit ALL the students.
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