Hi Listers,
     Happy New Year!  May your new year include collaboration. What a
way to start a new discussion about collaborative learning. At least we
do not have to worry about whether we end in 00 or 2000.

     I have observed an interesting phenomenon regarding how students
react to collaborative learning techniques. Initially they are pretty
enthusiastic about working with partners and being able to discuss their
concerns about content in class and ask their peers questions which they
might not wish to ask publicly. The social aspect of learning is new to
many students and generates a special interest, especially in an algebra
class where students have previously experienced the lecture as the
primary delivery method.

 As the semester continues the collaborative activities focus their
attention on the their responsibilities for learning the content of the
course. It becomes very clear that they are expected to play a very
active role in the class process and thus in the learning process. This
is when resistance begins to build. Most students are used to a passive
role in class where they receive required information from a teacher.
The collaborative structure requires more energy in class and more
preparation out of class. Students cannot hide during a collaborative
exercise if come to class unprepared. I find that at this point I need
to increase my efforts at selling collaborative learning to the
students. I attempt to convince them bt sharing articles which explain
and extol the benefits of collaboration, by having them analyse their
performance within their groups and suggest improvements, and sometimes
by using group assessments as part of the grading to serve as a carrot.

     I find that I need to become much more of a cheerleader for this
approach during the middle of the semester. I continue to work
throughout the semester on advocating and highlighting the benefits of
working together. It seems to work as the students become more
comfortable with the processes, they relax again and begin to really
enjoy doing algebra.

       I would love to hear about your experiences with collaborative
learning. In particular:

How do your students react to collaborative learning activities over
time during a semester?

What do you do to orient your students to the collaborative learning

Do you find that you need to "sell" the idea of using collaborative
learning to your students? If so, how do you do it?

     I am attaching an interesting post I received a little while ago
from Meghan McFerran regarding establishing a collaborative classroom. I
hope it will be helpful in addressing questions of a more practical
nature regarding collaborative learning or perhaps in raising additional
questions for us to discuss.

    Please send your responses to the list. I will compile them and send
them out as a file (instead of sending the entire compilation as a
message) in a future posting. I have entered the old millenium finally
and am becoming somewhat more computer literate and savy about sending
large amounts of information over the internet.

Ted      [log in to unmask]

                   Cooperative Learning Guidelines
                   "Meghan K. McFerran" <[log in to unmask]>
                   The Learning Styles Theory and Research
List:                             [log in to unmask]

Meghan K. McFerran wrote:
> I stumbled upon a list of guidelines for cooperative learning that I
> thought might interest those of you who are interested in >implementing it within your classroom.  This list was composed by >David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson, in "Learning Together and >Alone".
> 1. Arrange the classroom to promote cooperative goals.  Students >will need to work in clusters, and seating arrangements should >reflect this need.  Provide sufficient space and study areas for >students to share.

> 2. Present the objectives as group objectives.  The group and not >the individual is the focus.  Gear reward structure to achieving      .group objectives.

> 3. Communicate intentions and expectations.  Students need to >understand what is being attempted.  They should know what to >expect from the teacher and from each student in the group and >what the teacher expects them to accomplish.

> 4. Encourage a division of labor where appropriate.  Students >should understand their roles and responsibilites.  This will take >time and  practice.

> 5. Encourage students to share ideas materials and resources.  >Students should look to each other and not the teacher.  The teacher >may act as a catalyst in making suggestions, but not be the major >source of ideas.

> 6. Supply a variety of materials.  Since the sharing of materials is
> essential to the group, sufficient quantities and variety are needed.

> 7. Encourage students to communicate their ideas clearly.  Verbal >messages should be clear and consise.  Verbal and nonverbal >messages should be congruent with each other.

> 8. Encourage supportive behavior and point out rejecting or hostile
> behavior.  Behaviors such as silence, ridicule, personal criticism,
> oneupmanship, and superficial acceptance of an idea should be >discussed and stopped since they hinder cooperation and productive >group behavior.

> 9. Provide appropriate cues and signals.  Point out when the noise >level is too high.  Direct the group's attention to individual problems >and encourage students to use the group.

> 10. Monitor the group.  Check the progress of individuals in a group >and of the group as a whole.  Explain and discuss problems, assist, >and give  praise as appropriate.

> 11. Evaluate the individual and group.  In evaluation focus on the >group and its progress.  Evaluate the individual in the context of the >group's effort and achievement.  Provide prompt feedback.

> 12. Reward the group for successful completion of its task.  After
> evaluation, recognition and rewards should be given on a group >basis so that individuals come to realize that they benefit from each >other's work and will help each other succeed.
> I hope this will be a helpful guide to those of you who are  >interested in learning more about cooperative learning!