There is strength
Cooperative learning series
Learning and working in groups involves shared and/or learned
values, resources, and ways of doing things. Effective groups learn
to succeed by combining these factors. Your group, and each
individual within it, will only be as effective as they are willing
to respect differences within the group.
Summary of the entire process:
At the first meeting, all participants
- introduce themselves with what they bring to the project, their
interests, qualifications, and even preferences in projects.
- determine a convener and/or clerk who will keep participants on task
This is determined by your first group process, and should consider who
would like to volunteer, experience and expertise with the task, and
even a desire to learn about group tasks
- Determine the strategy of how often to meet in person or through
where the group will meet, communicating including email
and (cell) phone information, and how to distribute minutes and updates
- Summarize objectives:
Strategy: each member independently
writes down one or two main objectives of the project, then the group
compares these, extracts key words and phrases, then prioritizes
results. If agreement cannot be reached, refer the matter to the
Group members should realize that this a procedural
situation, and not a matter for controversy or heated argument.
- Determine process to achieve the objectives
What is the
timeline? What are the deliverables and when are they needed?
need sub-groups? project planning tools (Gantt,
Critical Path, PERT)?
What applications do you need (word processing, spread sheets, cameras,
imaging software (Photoshop), presentation
software (PowerPoint), Website, etc.
- Research discovery: library, Internet, professional associations,
- Research analysis: often in the process, difficulties appear:
consolidation and identifying key concepts and issues
check-in, planning for gaps, requests for assistance, etc.
- Product development:
Development of a thesis statement,
- Write/compile document or presentation
Opening | body | closing
- Review and evaluation
Product | process | participation
- Project summary
- Rehearsal for presentation
More(!) on group projects
- Interaction within the group
is based upon mutual respect and encouragement.
- Often creativity is vague.
Ideas are important to the success of the project, not
A group's strength lies in its ability to develop ideas
- Conflict can be an extension of
The group should be aware of this eventuality. Resolution of
conflict balances the end goals with mutual respect. In other
words, a group project is a cooperative, rather than a
competitive, learning experience.
The two major objectives of a
group project are:
- What is learned: factual
material as well as the process
- What is produced:
written paper, presentation, and/or media project
Role of instructors/teachers/professors:
- Outcomes depend on the clarity of the objective(s) given by teachers.
The group's challenge is to interpret these objectives,
and then determine how to meet them.
- Group work is only as effective as teachers or instructors
and guide the process.
Group projects are not informal
Students must be aware of, and should be
prepared for, this group process.
Cooperative group projects
should be structured so that no individual can coast on the
efforts of his/her teammates
- Rewards ideally should
be intrinsic to the process,
with group members deriving their
reward from their contributions
to the group and project
- External reinforcement
(grades, etc) for individuals can be based upon improvement, as
opposed to comparative, scoring. Traditional, comparative scoring
works to the detriment of teams with low-achieving members.
Evaluation based upon improvement rewards the group for an
individual's progress. Peer, comparative evaluations can have a
negative effect on teams: low scoring members are considered
"undesirable" and drags upon performance
High achievers versus low
- We assume high achievers
mentor or teach low achievers.
In the process of teaching
others, we can learn more about the topic.
As we tutor, even
simple questions from the tutee make us look at our subject matter
freshly. As we explain, we gain a deeper understanding of the
topic. Low achievers then tutor or teach high achievers!
- High achievers profit in
cooperative learning in other ways:
self-esteem gains, conflict resolution skills, and role-taking
abilities which become part of the leaning process, and betterment
of the student.
Cooperative learning series