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CL series #5 responses


Ted Panitz <[log in to unmask]>


Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>


Mon, 2 Dec 1996 00:00:43 -0500





text/plain (683 lines)

Hi Listers,
     Here are the results from CL series #5 and some carryovers from earlier
discussions.  As always replys will be sent out with the next set of responses.
Good grouping,
Ted  [log in to unmask]
From:    sanjay rao <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: DeLiberations on Collaborative Learning & Mentoring

        **  **

The First in the series of discussions initiated by Ted Panitz about
Collaborative Learning, on yours and three other lists, has now been
turned into a web-page discussion. DeLiberations would like to offer the
wealth of information contained, within the 70 initial contributions, to
yourselves and the rest of the higher education, including Europe and
Australasia, to both learn from and contribute to with more experiences
and ideas. With the comments organised into themes and cross linked to
others responding on the same theme, or directly to an individual, the
linearity of the various discussions has been maintained.

Some of the issues raised were:-
The competitive nature of academic assessment, the need for cultural
change that encourages students to work and be assessed in groups, the
change in training and perceptions required by academics, the lack of
awareness of CL techniques, the lack of institutional support required
for its implementation. and current evaluation.

We hope that this will provide an easily intelligible format for those
that partook in the discussion as well as first time readers, to create
an ever expanding resource of knowledge on the implementation techniques and the
cultural changes required to adopt a collaborative learning approach to teaching
and learning.

We believe that you will find this a productive way of archiving the
experiences contained within the discussion. You will be able to reassess
the various strands in the argument, see the responses of those that were
on other lists and contribute using a simple form. Any suggestions on how
to re-organise the section for greater clarity would also be greatly

From: Wayne Knutsen <[log in to unmask]>

Hi Ted......I went to school at the age of forty and acquired a BA, MA, MPA, and
a Doctorate in Education.....stress in organizational change and leadership---I
am transitioning from my father's career [San Francisco Fire Department] and, at
age 57, I am running into roadblocks toward full-time work and a career of MY
choice.....currently, I am working part-time as an ESL instructor, however, my
main interest is the paradigm paralysis I find our teachers in, rather than the
students... also, I am interested in the school-to-work/career program.......
        The only subject I saw on CL was series #5, so, you might have covered
the teachers resistance to taking them away from the center of the classroom and
their reliance on curriculum to justify their responsibility for student
learning---the students will follow a facilitative leadership approach that
focuses on each individual student constructing their own answers to open-ended
questions, based on open-discussions, essay, portfolio and exhibition
        Here, in Tulare County California, teachers were told at two high
schools that the school was going to block scheduling to accommodate
school-to-career pathways.......the teachers in unity responded, "the schools
might, but we aren't" wasn't until the administrators bused these
teachers to other schools to show them schools who were on block scheduling, did
they start to change---in fact, the teachers returned,, the only
teachers who resist are the ones who refused to get on the bus.......I did my
dissertation on the only high school, at the time, in California who became an
essential school [9-12] in the Coalition of Schools program, where parents,
administrators, teachers, and students were engaged from the beginning ot things
in the planning process, the ongoing process and the assessment process----
inclusion created a myriad of changes that were reflective of the new society
imposed upon us, the InfoService age........
        If possible, I would like to be part of the discussion in this area as I
have some idea to unfreeze this paradigm paralysis.......
                                with synergy, Wayne Knutsen, Ed.D.
From:   IN%"[log in to unmask]"
To:     IN%"[log in to unmask]"

I must object to the $bum rap$ CL has been given by Professor Frary.  I know
of several public schools wherein CL is a succeessful method of instruction
as a result of thorough training, and very capable teachers and
administrations.  I am also curious as to why one has to be either a
$measurement$ person or a $learning$ person.  Is it naive of me to suggest
that one can be both?  The rewards of education must reach beyond the
traditional goals of academic achievement in the classroom, and embrace
learning as a part of the total living experience.  Traditional testing,
performance assessments, cooperative learning, value judgments, and
individual as well as group achievement and competition, are all necessary
components of a meaningful education.  As a parent, and as one who has been
active in both the business and education communities, I am convinced that CL
is not the only answer to the current dilemma in education.  It must,
however, be part of the solution if our young people are to succeed in life.
 I suspect that the private institution Bob refers to will be doing his
daughter a great disservice by not including cooperative learning in their

G. Snyder-Howland    New Bedford, Mass
From: Bob <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]

I have followed the postings about collaborative learning with interest. Though
I am a "measurement" person rather than a "learning" person, this topic hits
very close to home.  My reaction to Ted's first post was, "good grief, how could
anyone seriously promote such an instructional approach?"  I recognized it dimly
as what in some ways is going on at the middle school which our daughter would
go next year.  Since then I have become much better informed.  CL has a
theoretical basis, etc. But I am still strongly opposed to this educational
approach, so much
so that we will send out daughter to a private school next year. We have not
encountered  _any_  private school that is "into" CL.  The ones we have
contacted have been aware of the concept but specifically reject it for several
good reasons, all of which have been mentioned on this list, for example,
failure to insure content coverage.  They claim that their admission
applications have been increasing due to parental dissatisfaction with CL.  Now,
Ted Panitz lists reasons that parents and students might object to CL.  I'd like
to add one facet to his
discussion, namely, the concept of applying value judgements. Personally, I and,
I'm sure, many others value individual responsibility and competition over
cooperation and other communal values.  What I have read about CL seems to
assume that, of course, no one in his right mind would take such a position.  To
me CL is just another example of "We know what's good for you."    Bob

Robert B. Frary                                  Internet [log in to unmask]
Professor Emeritus
Office of Measurement and Research Services              Telephone 540-231-5413
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
From:   IN%"[log in to unmask]"  "Gary Dannenbring"
To:     IN%"[log in to unmask]"  "K12Assess-L Listserv"

In a recent posting to this list, Robert B. Frary was very critical of
collaborative learning, adding a point concerning values.  He stated: "
Personally, I and, I'm sure, many others value individual responsibility and
competition over cooperation and other communal values."  I think that this
raises a serious point about what we value and expect out of education, and how
our educational systems need to be designed to achieve those things.  First, I
personally disagree with his statement.  Talking about cooperation as "communal
values" makes cooperation sound like something that could only be favored by
people at the extreme left of the political spectrum.  Nothing could be further
from the truth.  Conservative business leaders complain constantly that people
coming out of our schools do not know how to work together in groups and teams
in the workplace.  Competition is a critical component of our business society,
and individual initiative is valued by most of us.  But, within an organization,
we must learn how to work together.  Further, we often need to learn how to work
together across organizations, such as business and community leaders coming
together to work on some community problem.  Obviously, this is not an
all-or-none kind of thing.  Students need individual knowledge, skills, and the
ability to reason, and they need to be assessed as individuals for these and
other things we value and expect in education.  After all, a team member in the
workplace will not be very effective in that role if he or she doesn't know
anything!  On the other hand, they won't be effective either if they don't know
how to work together, and are only thinking about competing with their
co-workers!  Students need to learn these skills, and be assessed for that
learning.  Finally, there is something qualitatively different (and better) that
results when a group of individuals work together than could be produced by any
one of them.  For example, a collaborative brainstorming process will result in
better ideas than could have been produced by the very " best" member of the
group by themselves.  In the real world, people are held accountable for how
well they work together and the results of the group work.  That also needs to
occur in school.  The point of all of this is that it is a balance.  Individual
knowledge, skills, and ability to reason are critical.  The performance of
groups and the ability of individuals to work together is critical.  Don't
diminish either one!

Gary L. Dannenbring, Ph.D.  Evaluation Coordinator
Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center
Drake University   2507 University Ave.   Des Moines, IA 50311-4505
Phone: (515) 271-3936   Fax: (515) 271-4185
From: Nancy Ellis <[log in to unmask]>
Hello Ted
 I noticed "Bob's" messages a while ago and sent him a note that doesn't seem to
make a dent in his thinking.  I'll  send it to you so you can use it as you

I do find that group learning has been rather overdone in a lot of
places.  People are "for" or "against" it and have their minds made up
without necessarily knowing much about it.  Even if teachers are "for" it
they are frequently missing some of the important pieces and so, when
they implement small group learning strategies, it falls apart and the
teachers and kids and parents give up and say the whole idea is
worthless.  Too bad.  Elizabeth Cohen's book, Designing Group Work,
published by Teachers College Press, is very helpful and practical.

"To Bob:
Collaborative learning arrangements are not anti-intellectual.  Managed
correctly, such arrangements enhance learning.  A great deal of research
has been done at Stanford University by Elizabeth Cohen, Rachel Lotan,
and others at the Program for Complex Instruction, CERAS, School of
Education, Stanford, CA  94305.  You might want to contact them.  They
have studied learning gains, especially in mathematics and science, for
many years and found that much is gained, nothing is lost.

Nancy Ellis, Ph.D.
Trinity College, Burlington, Vermont
From: BARBARA KNUCKLES <[log in to unmask]>
I have followed your CL series for several weeks now, and I would  like to
interpose a new perspective. You present CL entirely as a positive technique
without giving much consideration to its negatives, and those respondents who do
offer negatives of CL seen to be disregarded, as I am sure I will be too.
Nevertheless, I will state my view anyway; being disregarded should not be a
deterrent to alternative views on a subject, including CL.

CL can be a positive experience in certain settings, but can also be a negative
one in others. For example, in upper level college classes, CL could be an
effective teaching/learning tool; on the other hand, in K-12 or lower level
college classes, however, it could be rather detrimental. After all, if these
students could teach  themselves, or each other, why is a teacher needed in the
first place? The fact is that most of these K-12 or freshman/sophomore college
students are not capable of teaching themselves; therefore, they neither know
the "right" questions to ask nor the "right" answers to give, and there are
"right" and "wrong" answers to most questions -- 2 + 2 should always equal 4
regardless of the class, student, or teacher, and a noun should always be the
"name of a person, place, or thing" whether the student is in kindergarten or
college. Because there are absolutes, inadequately prepared students cannot
function in a CL setting. My point is this; it may not necessarily be "fear"
that prevents teachers from using CL, but a
desire to actually "teach" their students facts they (the teachers) know but the
students do not as yet know. This is called a love of teaching, not fear of CL!
The CL process may call for constant review, as you state, but what is the point
of constant review if no one in the room has the "right" answers in the first
place except the person who is not allowed to give them -- the teacher? The
change in
relationships between students and teachers may work well for upper level
college students, but K - 12 students and college freshmen and sophomores need
and desire authoritative teaching, where there is the authority (the teacher)
who imparts knowledge to them; if they wanted to learn from their peers, why
would they pay the high cost of a college education? It is true that peers often
teach and influence them more strongly than parents and teachers, but that
usually leads to problems, not answers. Perhaps the students, teachers and
parents whom you see as "fearing" CL actually see further into the future and
recognize danger signs ahead. Perhaps you should evaluate your perspective on CL
more closely and determine why you are so in favor of it over traditional
learning where the teacher teaches the subject and the students learn it. Did
you have a bad experience in a traditional classroom? Many studies show that
education today, with CL, is much less effective than it was under the old
traditional method, especially with the lower level students, so why push
something that is not effective?

Barbara Knuckles, Freshman Studies
Arkansas State University,
+       +       +       +       +       +       +       +       +       +
+       +       +       +
Reply from ted
Hi listers,
     I would like to respond to Barbara's comments on collaborative learning as
she raises many issues that appear to be contrary to CL. In reality they may
be misconceptions about the nature and function of CL.

<<You present CL entirely as a positive technique without giving much
consideration to its negatives, and those respondents who do offer negatives of
CL seen to be disregarded>>>

    I am truely sorry you feel this way about the posts to various lists and
summarys. I do not edit responses, except for personal messages and statements
made directly to me.  I do include all, posts except those which are especially
vituperative or demeaning or simply attack the discussion without adding
anything to it. These are few and far between and are usually extreme. I
personally think it is important to hear contrary opinions and alternate

     Part of my reason for being so positive about CL is that I use it
extensively in all my classes irrespective of content with incredible results. I
also use a lecture on ocassion, in part to satisfy the students need to feel
taught. However, the students invariably tell me that the lecture was great and
made sense in class but when they get home they don't remember very much. When
they work together in class they do remember what they did. The difference is
I guess my enthusiasm carries into my posts and discussions.

    I also wonder why if I am willing to continue to use lectures, in part to
address the students' concerns, why aren't you willing to try coopeartive
learning techniques in order to provide the students with some alternatives???

<<After all, if these students could teach  themselves, or each other, why is a
teacher needed in the first place?>>>

    This is perhaps the biggest misconception of CL, that students teach
themselves and the teacher plays little or no role in the process. CL can be
highly structured, especially if you use the Johnson's model for cooperative
learning. The underlying premise behind CL is that when students are actively
involved in the learning process through hands on, interactive activities then
they truely learn the concepts under study.  This requires a great deal of
planning on the part of teachers, observation of the effect of the CL lesson and
modifications if the activity does not result in the desired result. This is far
from a lessex-faire operation.
     Secondly, you would be amazed and a little surprised how much students can
teach each other. In the process the ones doing the explaining learn whether
they understand the concepts and the ones being taught have an opportunity to
model critical thought processes of others. In pairs work both partners work at
explaining their reasoning to each other and the outcome is often a clearer
understanding by both partners.
     The idea that students can help each other and understand the material
prior to being lectured to sets a very high expectation about their abilities.
By lecturing you send a message that says you can't understand this material
until I tell you what you need to know.

<<<Because there are absolutes, inadequately prepared students cannot function
in a CL setting.>>>

     What do you do with the students who do not understand the absolutes after
you have lectured to them, perhaps a few times, tutored them after class or in
class and have insisted on their reading the chapter over and over to try to get
the facts down?  For the students who can get all that they need from a lecture
that may work, but there are many students who learn in different ways and need
to try things like listening to other students or explaining their reasoning to
hear their own thoughts and receive positive or critical feedback.
     I am not convinced that there as many absolutes as Barbara implies. The
work world and social world had very few absolute solutions to problems. Where
are students going to learn how to deal with the inconsistencies of life if not
in the protected environment of a class?
    Business and industry leaders are screaming for people who can think
critically and work in teams to solve problems. Simply presenting information
does not help students learn to problem solve and work with others in a
constructive manner. Collaborative learning does all of these things and much

>>>>The CL process may call for constant review, as you state, but what is the
point of constant review if no one in the room has the "right" answers in the
first place except the person who is not allowed to give them -- the teacher?

    This may be a repeat of the last idea where Barbara is looking for the
correct answer for all questions. In reality there are very few right answers to
real problems and the sooner students come to realize this the better off they
will be. All the new science and math standards, which should be absolute, call
for student interaction around real problems which may have several possible
good solutions. The NCTM standards for math are clear on this issue.

<<<<<<<but K - 12 students and college freshmen and sophomores need and desire
authoritative teaching, where there is the authority (the teacher) who imparts
knowledge to them; >>>

    This is a very interesting parodox. Barbara states that the students know
what is best for themselves when they demand lectures yet in the lecture *we*
tell them everything they need to know. When do they learn how to learn and how
to make decisions about what is important. Please do not take that statement to
an extreme either. Students can and do make very helpful suggestions about what
works for them and what doesn't and how classes could be made more effective for
them. They do not necessarily run the class or establish the curriculum although
in more advanced CL this can be done.  The question is how much confidence do
you have in yourself to hear constructive suggestions and in the students to
make them. Collaborative learning promotes this mutual respect and understanding
and breaks down the barrier set in place by a lecture.

<<<<Many studies show that education today, with CL, is much less effective than
it was under the old traditional method, especially with the lower level
students, so why push something that is not effective?>>>

    This is the biggest misconception of all. The mother of all misconceptions!
The Johnson's have published a book reviewing the literature on CL which has
over 500 studies and over 100 mega-analyses which show the benegits of CL. I
challenge Barbara or anyone else to produce a bibliography of studies which show
that lecturing is better than CL.  I will be more than happy to engage in a
competition of references if you like, even though the idea of competition runs
contrary to the idea of collaborating (please excuse the CL humor attempt). I
have previously published the name and address where you can get the Johnson's
research review book, if you are really interested.
From:   IN%"[log in to unmask]"  "Rob Franks"
Subj:   RE: Response to CL questions
When I first began teaching I taught the way that I had been taught.  I left
teaching and went into industry for 14 years before I returned to the classroom.
I learned a lot about what students REALLY need to know.  I highly recommend
that all teachers spend some time in the "real world".  Anyway, about CL....

I took one summer and completely re-did the curriculum for the Physical SCience
class that I was teaching with the idea that I was going to utilize the "new"
concept of CL.  It was tough but because I had already spent the summer
preparing it wasn't as bad as I had originally feared.  Once the students
understood what it was that they needed to do (it was a real break from the way
that they had been taught before) the year smoothed on out.  There some good and
some difficult things that I ran across, particularly in the first year:

Good, students paid closer attention to my lectures, videos, reading
assignments, and library research times because they knew that they were going
to need the information.

Good, students liked working together to solve problems.

Good, students who were designated "Curriculum Mastery" and originally looked
down on as less than capable were able to show that there is more than one form
of intellegence.  In fact, they became prime property when it came time to
realign teams.  Creative thinking is not a trait of only the "Gifted and

Good, attendance in my class went up and was above average for the school as a
whole.  I had one student ask me to count him absent one day.  When I asked
"why?", he informed me that it was easier to explain being out all day that it
was to meet one mid-day class.  Yes, he skipped the rest of his classes and came
just to my class.

Good, we had some really innovative solutions to problems that I had never
though of.  Maybe you can know too much, at least too much of THE answers.

Bad, it really keeps you on your toes to made every group and keep them pointed
in the "right" direction.

Bad, it takes time to make sure that you are prepared for student labs.
Particularly when they come off the wall with something.

Bad, it was frustrating for some "A" students who had learned to play the
memorize and regurgitate game.  Creative thinking was difficult for them and
they just wanted to know what the "answer" is.  It was frustrating to them when
they would ask "What is the answer?" and I would say "What did you work out?
There is no right answer but some answers are better thought out than others."

Bad, some parents did not understand, at least initially, what I was doing.
But, because I encouraged the students to ask their parents for suggestions the
partents came around and many were very enthusiastic by year end.  I have had
parents tell me THEY enjoyed having the interaction with their children and
their group members.

The benefits greatly outweigh the work and initial difficulties.  The secret is
persistance.  I had the advantage of teaching in a small school and I had the
same students over several years.  It was great to teach then group problem
solving techniques in the eighth grade and then have them ready (and eagar) to
go the next Fall.

I have taught CL in a number of inservice workshops and have heard great success
stories over the years.  I will not agree to work with a school district unless
they agree to have several follow-up support group meetings over the course of
the year as well as the initial training session.  With the adoption of block
(90 minute) scheduling, I don't see how teachers or students can survive if the
teacher only lectures.  I 90 minutes the kids would be removing the paint from
the wall.

I used a mixture of lecture, cooperative learning, individual research, and
class projects to make sure that the students and myself enjoy learning and all
learning styles have the opportunity to be used.

                  Coordinator/Tech Prep
 Rob Franks                     Internet: [log in to unmask]
 Navarro College                Phone   : 903-874-6501
 3200 W. 7th Ave.               FAX     : 903-874-4636
 Corsicana,  TX  75110
From: George Jacobs <[log in to unmask]>    Sender: [log in to unmask]

In his latest post on why some teachers are reluctant to use CL, Ted Panitz
focuses on reactions of parents and students.  Just yesterday, I was reading
an article by Spencer Kagan on an aspect of some versions of CL to which
some parents and students react very negatively: the use of various forms of
group grades with CL.  The reference is "Kagan, S. 1995. Group grades miss
the mark. Educational Leadership 52(8), 68-71."  While I personally feel
some form of group grades for academic performance can be justified in
certain contexts, Kagan unequivocally opposes them.  Some of his reasons are:

1. Group grading is ufair because two students can do equally well but
receive different grades based on how well their groupmates performed.
2. Group grading makes grades more difficult for others, such as parents,
university admissions offices, and employers, to interpret because they do
not know how much of the grade was based on the student's own work and how
much was based on their groupmates' work.
3. Group grading demotivates students because it blurs the connection
between student effort and grades, thus violating the key cooperative
learning principle of individual accountability.  With group grades,
students may be encouraged to freeload, knowing that their groupmates'
efforts can raise their grade.  At the same time, normally hardworking
students may feel less inclined to try hard, knowing that their best efforts
may be pulled down by a freeloading groupmate.
4. Group grading could potentially result in law suits being filed against
teachers and schools.
From: George Jacobs <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: More on Group Grades

        On the issue of group grades, while Spencer Kagan strongly opposes
them in any circumstance (Kagan, S. 1995. Group grades miss the mark.
Educational Leadership 52(8), 68-71) for reasons I summarized in an earlier
post, to his credit, Kagan also lists reasons why some educators support
group grades.  Some of these reasons are:
1. Preparation for the real-world - In life, we often fail or succeed as a
group, e.g., a sports team or a small business.  A friend of mine did an MBA
degree several years back, and one of her professors - who, from what I
could gather, had never heard of CL - gave students a group project to do
and based their entire course grade on the single grade he gave their
project.  His rationale was that this would prepare students for the real world.
2. Motivation - This is part of what Ted Panitz mentioned in his previous
post. Group grades give students another push to cooperate, if all our more
benign pushes don't get the job done.  In the same way, group grades
encourage students to develop the collaborative skills they need to work
with and motivate others.
3. Teacher workload reduction - If students work in groups and each group
produces just one product, it's less work for teachers.
        In "Circles of Learning" (Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., & Holubec,
E.J. 1993. Circles of learning. (4th ed.). Edina, MN: Interaction Book
Company) the authors claim that once students have actually been in a
_well-structured_ CL group, they tend to perceive a single group grade as
the fairest method of evaluation.  Further, they report that some studies
have found that student achievement is often higher when group, rather than
individual, grades are given.
        Of course, giving the entire group the same grade is not the only
form of group grading.  Among the many permutations on group grades is
giving each group member bonus points if everyone in the group scores above
a given criterion on an assessment measure.
        My view?  Group grades wouldn't be my first choice, and I don't use
them now - although for most of my teaching I'm in the enviable position of
not having to give grades - I would use them if I felt they fit the learning
context I was in, and I have used them in a modified form in the past, e.g.,
other group members' scores formed a small percentage of groupmates' scores
for a particular assignment.
        Ted - two related issues are: (1) Whether to grade on cooperation,
i.e., how well a student or a group worked together. This collaboration
grade could be separate from or incorporated into the academic grade;  (2)
Whether to give groupmates a voice in grading the members of their group.
From: Jon Davidson <[log in to unmask]>
To: Multiple recipients of list COMMCOLL <[log in to unmask]>

    I must confess.  I am not enthusiastic about Collaborative Learning, and
I've been too preoccupied with other matters lately to sift through your
lengthy CL series.  My impression is that you are promoting CL as a valuable
teaching technique(s), and in going to all the trouble to assemble the various
discussions, you are doing good work.
    So I'm going to try to take the easy way out.  I'm sure you've heard my
objections, and I'm interested in how you meet them.
1)  Grades are individual.  Then they should be based on individual effort.
To forcefully aggregate the efforts of several people into a single community
grade should produce resentment by the producers in the group and reinforce a
dependence-mentality on the part of the weakest members of a collaborative
2)  Learning is the goal, is it not?  Aren't students paying to learn
inefficiently from their peers when, instead, a skilled professor who engages
students in discussions can much more efficiently guide their learning?
From:    Richard Swerdlin <[log in to unmask]>

    Snake oil is an ancient characteristic of human behavior.  There is no
educational magic in "collaborative learning", "cognitive styles", "language
acroos the curiculum", "multicuturalism", etc.

    Wihout much effort, not much is learned.  This applies to life in general.
Unfortunatekly, the noun "effort" frightens many people. Having seen Mickey
Mouse phrases such as "Spanish in 10 days", "German without tears", "programming
made pleasant", etc., some students give me the impression that comparable
wonders are going to be accomplished by some of the concepts mentioned in the
first paragraph.

    Some of my elementary math methods students think that the big thing is to
sit in a small circle, discussing "ways of teaching kids math".  Interestingly,
several in my class apparently think the number of weeks in a year is only "48",
since "12 x 4" yields said product.  Although they had access to both a
dictionary and an almanac, "48" was it.  As a taxpayer, I do not see the point
in having such ignorance enshrined on the public payroll.

    In another class, it was interesting to see adults write that "President
Kennedy was 'assinated' in Dallas."  This reflects ignorance too.  In a sense it
is humorous, but also taragic that nonsense like this is involved in having been
in school since thye bage of 6.  These adults are prospective teachers too.

    Related is the matter of grade inflation.  A GPA is often a joke,
consideringthe work ssome students submit.  The gem recently was that of a
student submitting a typed two-page (double-spaced) product with a dozen errors
in English.  Thyesaje student was surprised at thye lower grade.  She also said
that she was an "A" student in English.

    For whatever procedures are used, there must be clear requirements, so that
students do not get the idea that anything goes either at home or in a
From:    Linda Lane <[log in to unmask]>


I use CL fairly often, though not usually as a graded exercise due to some of
the issues brought out in earlier CL discussions, but my question today has to
do with students who come to a CL day unprepared.  There will be those who
missed the day before and are unaware of what we are doing (even though
the activity and assignment is listed on their syllabus); then there will be
those who simply did not do the preparatory homework as assigned for various

I have talked to colleagues who use CL a lot, and their solutions for unprepared
students range from asking these students to leave the class and/or giving them
an "F" for the day  to sitting them in a corner to do the homework during the CL
activity to letting them sit in a group and do their best. Have any of you found
other ways of dealing with students who are unprepared to do a CL activity?

Linda Lane   English Department   Foothill Community College  Los Altos Hills,
CA 94022     (415) 949-7453       [log in to unmask]
  Joan Hawthorne <[log in to unmask]>      Univ. of North Dakota

       I had to repond to Jess's story about his 1st grade daughter (well, 1st
grade at the time -- now I gather that she's 13) and her bad experience with
being turned into a surrogate teacher.  I also have children, now 12 and 14,
who have often been used to "teach" their peers.  That is a very delicate
area and I understand his resentment that it clearly was not done appropriately.
     In a truly beneficial cooperative learning environment, the problem to be
solved should be mutual.  That is, _no one_ child should "get it" and be
responsible for teaching the others.  The idea is to have a problem of
sufficient complexity so that it can best be solved by a community of
learners, working together as a community.  Each person (or most people)
will be able to make some genuine contribution, even though some members may be
quicker academically.  Think about how good committees ideally work -- it
shouldn't be just a matter of one or two sharp committee members dragging
the others along; instead, there should be a sort of synergy created by all
members working together that allows people to accomplish things that no one
of them could do alone.  There will indeed be peer teaching, but one peer
will think of an approach, one peer will know a formula, one peer will see a
faster way to do X, etc., so the teaching is rapid, informal, piecemeal, and
     That didn't often happen in my children's classes, but it probably doesn't
happen often enough when I'm the teacher either.  But when it works, it can
be well worth the effort.  I try to be tolerant of other teachers, as long
as it's clear to me that they are doing the best that they can under (often
difficult) existing circumstances.
From:   IN%"[log in to unmask]"  "Dinah L. DeMoss"

I wanted you to know that I enjoyed your comments.  I, too, find the
discussion combersome as it is now presented, but I assumed that it was
because I am not a practicing educator.  My husband is a history professor
without education training and he likes the current moderation of the
discussion group.  I print out the responses and he takes them to school
where he shares them with his colleagues.  Go Figure!

I wanted to let you know that I, too, would like to participate in a focused
discussion on Math CL.  I also wanted to add to your comments.  I have not
received any formal training in CL, but was fortunate enough to assist Neal
Foland and Jerry Becker in some of the initial phases of the NSF problem
solving development (that reference could be way off).  Although I was
dancing as fast as I could through that experience, I was able to  lead
practicing  educators in collaborative learning  of discrete mathematics and
these guys had had and were in classes in CL.  They taught me a great deal.

Having done the attitude assessment of that group, beginning, middle, and
end, I can say that your comments are  'on the money'. The main benefit of
CL of mathematics that you did not mention is when weaker and stronger
students are paired in Math, where the schism appears to be greater,  both
students are greatly benefited.  The weaker student gets the instruction and
exercise that is needed and the stronger student is not as bored and often
gains a greater understanding.  As the instructor becomes more adept at
leading CL the benefits  to these two students and to those students that
lie between only increase.

I personally feel  that teachers are ALWAYS uncomfortable about their
capabilities in the classroom to some degree.  When they realize that the
discomfort that they feel in CL is the same as in 'traditional' methods,
then more will try it and stick with it.

All of my comments above deal more with small group private collaboration,
but taking just up to 20% of the class time for students to place homework
problems on the board can greatly enhance the comradery of a class and force
participation.  If it is done two students per problem embarrassment and
success are shared.  I have found this form of CL to be more efficient than
non-CL instruction, forcing the students to be prepared and take
responsibility for their own learning.  It also gets more information before
them in less time.

I taught at a small liberal arts college one semester and used the 20%
method in my classes.  At first the students were skeptical and almost
resentful, since the tuition was high.  In time they loved it, but the
faculty never forgave me.

When  I teach, I tell my students 3 things.  One of them is Math is not a
'spectator' subject and they only learn Math by doing Math.

Dinah L. DeMoss   415 Greenwood Avenue  Chestertown, Maryland   21620
410.778.3020 (voice and fax)   410.778.0741 (fax and data)
[log in to unmask]
From:   IN%"[log in to unmask]"     Sara Scheid
 I would like to ask - why just collaborative or lecture learning in the
classroom. Isn't there other teaching-learning techniques that are also, valid
for students to experience in the classroom? When a teacher says I only lecture
or only use collaborative learning in the classroom, I think what a  small world
the teacher is exposing his students to.  What happened to different learning
styles needs of  our students or is the classroom technique and  the  material
to be covered the only factors to be thought of to develop a class of benefit
for all students in the

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