Cooperative learning involves small heterogeneous groups of students working together to achieve a common academic goal or task while working together to learn collaboration and social skills. It should be practiced in a realistic,often simulated context while receiving feedback from peers,the teacher,or a computer.
Cooperative learning has gained momentum in both formal and informal education from two converging forces:first,the practical realization that life outside the classroom requires more and more collaborative activity,from the use of teams in the workplace to everyday social life;and second,a growing awareness of the value of social interaction in making learing meaningful.
2.1 The Advantages and Limitations of Cooperative Learning
• Active learning （积极学习）：协作学习要求学习者积极参与学习活动，并与他人积极互动。
• Social skills （社交技能）：学生学会与他人打交道，有助于培养他们的人际交往能力，沟通技能、领导意识、妥协技巧和合作技能。
• Interdependence （互相依赖）：当学生通过交流，完成一个共同目标的时候，他们主动地相互依赖，对工作的责任感得到培养。
• Individual accountability （个人的责任感）：当小组的成功依赖于每一个人的贡献时，学生将学会对他们的行为负责。协作学习系统经常要采用特殊的机制，评价学生个人的学习绩效和小组的整体学习绩效。
• Student compatibility （学生之间的包容性）：有时候，组成一个合作氛围良好的学习小组是一件比较困难的事情。教师必须充分了解自己的学生，以组成有效合作的学习小组。
• Student dependency （学生的依赖性）：如果教师允许良好最好的学生“带”着其他学生，可能会损害协作学习的意义，在这种情况下，需要设计良好的管理系统，要求学习者真正地协作。
• Time consuming （浪费时间）：完成同样的学习内容，协作学习可能要比其他的教学方法花费更多的时间。
• Individualists （个人主义者）：有的人喜欢独自工作，不喜欢协作学习。• Logistical obstacles （后勤保障的难度）：教师可能需要准备大量的信息、学生任务书和评价活动。
2.2 Why use Cooperative Learning
(1) Usually, we learn knowledge from the following ways: 10% of what we read; 20% of what we hear; 30% of what we see; 50% of what we both see and hear; 70% of what is discussed with others; 80% of what we experience personally; 95% of what we teach someone else.
(2) According to Fortune 500 Companies: The Top Skills sought by employers: in 1970, the top skills are reading, computation, and writing; but in 2000, the top skills are instructional skills, problem solving, and teamwork!
(3) Research has shown that cooperative learning techniques:
• promote student learning and academic achievement;
• increase student retention;
• enhance student satisfaction with their learning experience;
• help students develop skills in oral communication;
• develop students' social skills;
• promote student self-esteem;
• help to promote positive race relations.
2.3 A History of Cooperative Learning
• The Talmud clearly states that in order to learn you must have a learning partner.
• In the first century, Quintillion argued that students could benefit from teaching one another.
• The Roman philosopher, Seneca advocated cooperative learning through such statements as, “Qui Docet Discet” (when you teach, you learn twice).
• Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1679) believed that students would benefit both by teaching and being taught by other students.
• In the late 1700s Joseph Lancaster and Andrew Bell made extensive use of cooperative learning groups in England, and the idea was brought to America when a Lancastrian school was opened in New York City in 1806.
• Within the Common School Movement in the United States in the early 1800s there was a strong emphasis on cooperative learning.
• In the last three decades of the 19th Century, Colonel Francis Parker brought to his advocacy of cooperative learning enthusiasm, idealism, practicality, and an intense devotion to freedom, democracy, and individuality in the public schools. Parker's advocacy of cooperation among students dominated American education through the turn of the century.
• In the late 1930's, however, interpersonal competition began to be emphasized in schools.
• In the late 1960s, individualistic learning began to be used extensively.
• In the 1980s, schools once again began to use cooperative learning.
2.4 Elements of Cooperative Learning
(1) Positive Interdependence
• Each group member's efforts are required and indispensable for group success;
• Each group member has a unique contribution to make to the joint effort because of his or her resources and role and task responsibilities.
We can do: mutual goals; joint rewards; shared materials and information; assigned roles
(2) Face-to-Face Interaction
• Orally explaining how to solve problems;
• Teaching one's knowledge to other;
• Checking for understanding;
• Discussing concepts being learned;
• Connecting present with past learning.
We can do: discussion; summarizing; explaining; elaborating; receiving feedback
(3) Individual & Group Accountability
• Keeping the size of the group small. The smaller the size of the group, the greater the individual accountability may be;
• Randomly examining students orally by calling on one student to present his or her group's work to the teacher or to the class;
• Observing each group and recording the frequency with which each member-contributes to the group's work;
• Assigning one student in each group the role of checker. The checker asks other group members to explain the reasoning and rationale underlying group answers.
(4) Interpersonal & Small-Group Skills
• Conflict-management skills.
(5) Group Processing
• Group members discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships
• Describe what member actions are helpful and not helpful
• Make decisions about what behaviors to continue or change
2.5 The Process of Cooperative Learning
(1) Select a Lesson
We encourage teachers to star with one lesson and build slowly as they and their students get accustomed to the “new” structure. Cooperative learning groups have shown to be especially effective in three situation: problem-solving; conceptual learning; divergent thinking are required.
(2) Select the groups' size
The optimal size of a cooperative group will vary according to four aspects:
① resources needed to complete the assignment(the larger the group, the more resources available);
② the cooperative skills of the group members(the less skillful the members, the smaller the group should be);
③ the amount of time available (the shorter the time, the smaller the group should be);
④ the nature of the task.
(3) Assign the students to groups (heterogeneous vs. homogeneity)
Heterogeneous groups tend to be more powerful than extreme homogeneity. A lot of the power for learning in cooperative groups come from the need for discussion, explanation, justification, and shared resolution on the material being learned.
(4) Arrange the classroom
Group members need to be close together and facing each other, and the teacher as well as members of other groups need to have clear access to all groups. Within the groups, members need to be able to see the relevant materials, converse with each other easily, and exchange materials and ideas.
(5) Provide the appropriate materials.
① Providing one answer sheet to be turned in by the group with everyone's signature is one way to emphasize the positive interdependence;
② "Jigsaw" the material so that each student has a part and responsibilities associated with their piece of the assignment. 将材料分割
(6) Explain the task and cooperative goal structure to the students.
A clear and specific description of the task needs to be given coupled with an explanation of the group goal. The group goal communicates that group members are in this together and need to be as concerned with other group members' understanding of the material as they are with their own. The reward system needs to be consistent with the structure. Students will more easily understand the group goal if they are turning in a single paper that each group member is able to defend, or can receive bonus points on the basis of how well each group member does, or will be able to skip the next quiz (or get extra recess) on the basis of a group score. It is also important to establish criteria for success as a classroom in order to make intergroup cooperation possible and extend the cooperativeness across the class. It is also necessary to specify the basic behaviors you expect to see in the groups so that students have an "operational" definition of what cooperation is.
(7) Monitor the groups as they work.
The teacher needs to monitor carefully how well the groups are functioning; determine what skills are lacking, both related to the subject matter and to the interaction; set up a way for the groups to process how well they functioned and discuss how to do even better; and intervene where problems are serious to help groups work out their own problems. It is probable that some specific instruction will need to be focused on interpersonal skills as students will not have necessarily learned how to work with others effectively.
It is important to note that the cooperative group does not take the place of instruction, but instead translates it and makes it useful. The teacher will still need to introduce new material and students will need to research and study so that they have something to share with their peers within the group.
Teachers in the school districts and colleges where we have been working have mastered the strategies for structuring cooperative learning groups and the techniques for teaching interpersonal skills so that now they automatically can set up lessons cooperatively and monitor them effectively. In addition, they have learned to be more careful in setting up appropriate individualistic and competitive learning situations.