A Word to the Teacher
Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning involves students working together to find success by
accomplishing shared goals and involves students separated into small groups.
The small groups work to increase each student’s learning as well as the group’s
learning. Cooperation among students supports retention, motivation, task focus,
achievement, and higher level thinking and reasoning. Working together, students
develop a group relationship that is personal, social, and academic. Group work
strengthens social competencies, supports student self-esteem, and enhances an
individual’s ability to cope with stress and adversity (Johnson et al, 1994).
Traditional cooperative learning in the science classroom involves students working
together to achieve a common success. The group shares a common purpose that
motivates each member beyond individual interests. Group members hold one
another accountable for the quality of work accomplished. Group members promote
each other’s success by helping, explaining, and sharing. Group members are
required to develop social skills to work effectively as a team. Groups can analyze
how eff
ectively goals are accomplished and can often summon the necessary
motivation to increase the quality of learning. Ultimately, grouping encourages
students to perform at a higher academic level than they probably w
ould have if they
were to work alone.
Lab Grouping
Students should be assigned to groups when they work together. One of the
main reasons to use grouping is to ensure that each student actively participates
(Johnson et al, 1994). Some decisions that must be made about lab groups include:
Determining the size of the group—
Shorter time periods need small groups.
Available materials or the specific nature of investigation may determine group
Four students in a lab group support 12 interactions and help with role
Principal investigator: leads discussion to maintain group’s focus and brings
group to consensus
Materials manager: obtains and returns materials
Recorder: maintains group’s written record; makes sure others keep
individual records when needed
Reporter: presents group’s work
With fewer than four students, the reporter/recorder roles can merge; with more
than four students, several can serve as recorders.
Assigning students to lab groups—
A decision must be made to group homogeneously or heterogeneously.
Advantages to heterogeneous grouping include:
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