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In the latest issue of Educational Leadership, Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education, discusses five practices for bringing out the potential of cooperative learning
- Form interdependent teams: An effective cooperative group is not a collection of kids thrown together for a brief activity. It’s a team composed of diverse students who care about helping one another learn – and about the success of the team itself.
- Set group goals: Too often in cooperative learning, students are put into teams and instructed to “help one another.” Helping one another is a good thing, but kids will do a lot more of it if they share a team goal.
- Ensure individual accountability: This is the essential element most often left out of cooperative learning – and when it is, teachers lose a lot of cooperative learning’s potential. Individual accountability means that to reach the team goal, all team members must master the targeted content or skills. Team success should depend on the hard work – and therefore the learning – of all members.
- Teach communication and problem-solving skills: Setting up structures that promote effective cooperative learning is not enough. Team members need to know how to make good use of the opportunity to work with one another; this means they need to learn about, practice, and refine key interpersonal skills.
- Integrate cooperative learning with other structures: Cooperative learning should be seen as a key part of each lesson, but not the whole lesson. Effective class lessons might also include teacher instruction, media- or computer-based activities, and individual assessments of various kinds.
Read more about each strategy in the full article.