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In this section of the workshop, we will explore frameworks and offer a few hints to help you further develop your own small groups for a variety of settings. We provide a form that you can use for planning lessons for cooperative and collaborative groups.

We also provide suggested guidelines for creating and sustaining good interactive learning groups for a variety of classroom tasks.

Key Principles
Step-by-Step Lesson Planning with Prompts and Tips
Lesson Plan Format
A Final Word

Key Principles

As we have seen in previous sections of this workshop, cooperative groups work best when:

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  • Each student is involved. In groups where students are dominated by one leader, where a shy student hesitates to join in and contribute, or where you are just trying cooperative groups for the first time, you may wish to assign specific roles. One person might be the "organizer." That person will tell the students what step should come first, second, third, and so on. Another would be the "reporter," who writes down the directions and reports back to the group about their progress and goals. A third person is the "questioner," who generates questions to ask along the way in order to involve every member. A fourth member could be the "assessor," who uses a set rubric or guide to evaluate the progress of each meeting. The roles are clearly defined in advance, so that each person is accountable, and everyone in the group plays an important part.

  • Seats face one another. When students face their coworkers, they are more likely to interact well with others. Seating arrangements really do make a difference, and sometimes students need to be reminded that they should move chairs closer together or place them in a circle. You can set up the room with seats in clusters to facilitate this process.

  • Students assume personal responsibility. Invite students to report back to their group or to another group after each session. Give clear guidelines on paper for each person's role and go over them, so that students understand the criteria for his or her role. Change roles regularly, so that students can learn to assume responsibility in a variety of areas.

  • Students relate well to others. Some students are better than others at interpersonal exchanges. You may wish to provide those who are weaker in relating to others with practice opportunities to engage in social contacts. This can be as simple as teaching others a favorite subject or joining a teammate for a special class duty.

  • Members reflect in order to improve group effectiveness. Students can be given a list of questions to consider, such as the conflict-resolution inventory presented in an earlier section. They will improve their performances as they learn to reflect on past performances and create new goals based on those reflections.

Troubleshooting
Students are not all involved or on task: Assign specific tasks to all students.
Groups are too noisy: Have students move closer together.
Members act out: Use motivation tactics to hold each person responsible for his actions -- for example, remind students that their participation in the group and their individual work are both being graded.
Work is slow or incomplete: Work with students to set specific goals each day; have students create a timeline for their project and stick to it.

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Workshop: Cooperative and Collaborative Learning
Explanation | Demonstration | Exploration | Implementation

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