Explanations of and Assessments in Cooperative Learning

What is Co-operative Learning and Rationale for Co-operative Learning
Cooperative Learning is a relationship in a group of students that requires positive interdependence (a sense of sink or swim together), individual accountability (each of us has to contribute and learn), interpersonal skills (communication, trust, leadership, decision making, and conflict resolution), face-to-face promotive interaction, and processing (reflecting on how well the team is functioning and how to function even better).
It is only under certain conditions that cooperative efforts may be expected to be more productive than competitive and individualistic efforts. Those conditions are:
1.Clearly perceived positive interdependence
2.Considerable promotive (face-to-face) interaction
3.Clearly perceived individual accountability and personal responsibility to achieve the group’s goals
4.Frequent use of the relevant interpersonal and small-group skills
5.Frequent and regular group processing of current functioning to improve the group’s future effectiveness
All healthy cooperative relationships have these five basic elements present. This is true of peer tutoring, partner learning, peer mediation, adult work groups, families, and other cooperative relationships.
Positive Interdependence
The first requirement for an effectively structured cooperative lesson is that students believe that they “sink or swim together.” Within cooperative learning situations, students have two responsibilities: 1) learn the assigned material, and 2) ensure that all members of the group learn the assigned material. The technical term for that dual responsibility is positive interdependence. Positive interdependence exists when students perceive that they are linked with group mates in such a way that they cannot succeed unless their group mates do (and vice versa) and/or that they must coordinate their efforts with the efforts of their group mates to complete a task. Positive interdependence promotes a situation in which students: 1) see that their work benefits group mates and their group mates’ work benefits them, and 2) work together in small groups to maximize the learning of all members by sharing their resources to provide mutual support and encouragement and to celebrate their joint success. When positive interdependence is clearly understood, it establishes that:
1.Each group member’s efforts are required and indispensable for group success (i.e., there can be no “free-riders”).
2.Each group member has a unique contribution to make to the joint effort because of his or her resources and/or role and task responsibilities.
There are a number of ways of structuring positive interdependence within a learning group.
Positive Goal Interdependence Students perceive that they can achieve their learning goals if’ and only if all the members of their group also attain their goals. The group is united around a common goal – a concrete reason for being. To ensure that students believe they “sink or swim together” and care about how much each other learns, the teacher has to structure a clear group or mutual goal, such as

“learn the assigned material and make sure that all members of the group learn the assigned material.” The group goal always has to be a part of the lesson.
Positive Reward – Celebrate Interdependence Each group member receives the same reward when the group achieves its goals. To supplement goal interdependence, teachers may wish to add joint rewards (e.g., if all members of the group score 90% correct or better on the test, each receives 5 bonus points). Sometimes teachers give students: 1) a group grade for the overall production of their group, 2) an individual grade resulting from tests, and 3) bonus points if all members of the group achieve the criterion on tests. Regular celebrations of group efforts and success enhance the quality of cooperation.
Positive Resource Interdependence Each group member has only a portion of the resources, information, or materials necessary for the task to be completed; the members’ resources have to be combined for the group to achieve its goals. Teachers may wish to highlight the cooperative relationships by giving students limited resources that must be shared (one copy of the problem or task per group) or giving each student part of the required resources that the group must then fit together (the Jigsaw procedure).
Positive Role Interdependence Each member is assigned complementary and interconnected roles that specify responsibilities that the group needs in order to complete the joint task. Teachers create role interdependence among students when they assign them complementary roles such as reader, recorder, checker of understanding, encourager of participation, and elaborator of knowledge. Such roles are vital to high-quality learning. The role of checker, for example, focuses on periodically asking each group mate to explain what is being learned. Rosenshine and Stevens (1986) reviewed a large body of well-controlled research on teaching effectiveness at the pre-collegiate level and found “checking for comprehension” to be one specific teaching behavior that was significantly associated with higher levels of student learning and achievement. Although the teacher cannot continually check the understanding of every student, the teacher can engineer such checking by having students work in cooperative groups and assigning one member the role of checker.
Class Activities that use Cooperative Learning
1. Jigsaw- Groups with five students are set up. Each group member is assigned some unique material to learn and then to teach to his group members. To help in the learning students across the class working on the same sub-section get together to decide what is important and how to teach it. After practice in these “expert” groups the original groups reform and students teach each other.
2. Think-Pair-Share – Involves a three step cooperative structure. During the first step individuals think silently about a question posed by the instructor. Individuals pair up during the second step and exchange thoughts. In the third step, the pairs share their responses with other pairs, other teams, or the entire group.
3. Three-Step Interview – Each member of a team chooses another member to be a partner. During the first step individuals interview their partners by asking clarifying questions. During the second step partners reverse the roles. For the final step, members share their partner’s response with the team.

4. Round Robin Brainstorming – Class is divided into small groups (4 to 6)
with one person appointed as the recorder. A question is posed with many answers and students are given time to think about answers. After the “think time,” members of the team share responses with one another round robin style. The recorder writes down the answers of the group members. The person next to the recorder starts and each person in the group in order gives an answer until time is called.
5. Three-minute review – Teachers stop any time during a lecture or discussion and give teams three minutes to review what has been said, ask clarifying questions or answer questions.
6. Numbered Heads – A team of four is established. Each member is given numbers of 1, 2, 3, 4. Questions are asked of the group. Groups work together to answer the question so that all can verbally answer the question. Teacher calls out a number (two) and each two is asked to give the answer.
7. Team Pair Solo – Students do problems first as a team, then with a partner, and finally on their own. It is designed to motivate students to tackle and succeed at problems which initially are beyond their ability. It is based on a simple notion of mediated learning. Students can do more things with help (mediation) than they can do alone. By allowing them to work on problems they could not do alone, first as a team and then with a partner, they progress to a point they can do alone that which at first they could do only with help.
8. Circle the Sage – First the teacher polls the class to see which students have a special knowledge to share. For example the teacher may ask who in the class was able to solve a difficult math homework question, who had visited Mexico, who knows the chemical reactions involved in how salting the streets help dissipate snow. Those students (the sages) stand and spread out in the room. The teacher then has the rest of the classmates each surround a sage, with no two members of the same team going to the same sage. The sage explains what they know while the classmates listen, ask questions, and take notes. All students then return to their teams. Each in turn, explains what they learned. Because each one has gone to a different sage, they compare notes. If there is disagreement, they stand up as a team. Finally, the disagreements are aired and resolved.
9. Partners – The class is divided into teams of four. Partners move to one side of the room. Half of each team is given an assignment to master to be able to teach the other half. Partners work to learn and can consult with other partners working on the same material. Teams go back together with each set of partners teaching the other set. Partners quiz and tutor teammates. Team reviews how well they learned and taught and how they might improve the process.

Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. Students work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it.
Cooperative efforts result in participants striving for mutual benefit so that all group members:
gain from each other’s efforts. (Your success benefits me and my success benefits you.)
recognize that all group members share a common fate. (We all sink or swim together here.)
know that one’s performance is mutually caused by oneself and one’s team members. (We can not do it without you.)
feel proud and jointly celebrate when a group member is recognized for achievement.