“Cooperative Learning” Due Nov 9

Assignment from Syllabus

Cooperative Learning (1 session)

You should observe one cooperative learning experience. This may or may not be in your endorsement area(s). Cooperative Learning for the purpose of this class requires students to work in groups of 3 to 5 where specific roles are assigned to each group member so that each individual is accountable to the group. Describe the purpose of the cooperative learning experience. How were groups assigned? What roles did each student perform? How well did the groups work together? Was the use of cooperative learning appropriate and effective for reaching the learning objectives? What was the product of the cooperative learning experience? How did the experience connect prior and future learning?

***Note: You may conduct the focused observation BEFORE the specified week. Cooperative Learning will likely be the most difficult observation for you to schedule because not many teachers structure group work as true cooperative learning where roles are assigned. Also, you may NOT conduct multiple focused observations during the same class period. The point of a focused observation is to focus on one aspect of the lesson only.

On 10/27/2011, I observed a high school chemistry class (90 min.) taught by Mare Sullivan at Bellevue Christian School.  This was the day after Mare led our EDU6171 class through a POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) exercise on the SPU campus.  Many thanks to Tim Krell and may Vaughn for bringing Mare to our class and to Mare for allowing me to observe on such short notice.  I was also able to briefly visit an algebra course also at BCS, and also using POGIL being taught by Rod Wishart, thanks also to Rod for letting me sit in for a while.

Purpose:  I don’t know the background on how POGIL came to be used so widely at Bellevue Christian, but I can imagine the purpose was and is to foster the engagement and learning of every student in the classroom.  Mrs. Sullivan’s courses all use cooperative learning (POGIL) all the time, and I think Mr. Wishart’s course uses POGIL most of the time.

Assignment of Groups and Roles:  I understood from Mrs. Sullivan that the groups are initially random at the beginning of the class, but then get shuffled based on performance from the last exam/test.  The distribution is made to make sure each group has a roughly equal composition of high, medium and low performers.  The class I observed had 6 groups of 4 students.  Each group had

  • a manager,
  • a technician
  • a document controller
  • a spokesperson
  • and a cheerleader.

NOTE: some groups had students fulfilling more than one role.

Group Productivity/Efficiency:  When I entered the classroom, I was introduced and asked to join a group which was short a person.  We immediately did a 4-question quiz with Mrs. S. displaying the questions one at a time via the document camera.  After we had finished the quiz we traded our quizzes within our group and graded them.  (I missed a question or two!)  Mrs. S. then took us through the handout for that day, which was covering the writing and balancing of chemical equations.  A few people in the group I was in didn’t take their own notes on what they were supposed to be covering that day.  I guess they were going to rely on the manager to lead them through.  When the student came who was normally part of the group I had initially joined, I was freed up to circulate among all the groups.

In my first group, and in a few subsequent groups, I asked a student or two what their role was in the group.  Their answers were not always immediate or unequivocal.  One answer I got was that the roles had just changed and thus any confusion was justified (?!)  If strong roles are key to good cooperative learning (POGIL) then I guess the teacher’s job becomes a scaffolding of each student in their particular role.

This idea was somewhat reinforced when I went to Mr. W.’s math class.  He also had his classroom arranged in six groups of four students each.  In this class the students had a green sheet which detailed the precise problems they were supposed to be working through together, and the order in which they were to be doing them.  Each group spokesperson would raise their hand to get Mr. W. to come and sign off on a stage on their green sheet before they could proceed.  (I noticed that to be somewhat of a procedural bottleneck, but not a major one in this class.)

I overhead Mr. W. explaining to one group’s manager that being a boss or a manager in the real world took some assertiveness and creative corralling of the group’s activities.  In another group as they were trying to sign off, Mr. W. did a spot check that each person in the group agreed on an answer to one of the questions.  When he probed and found that the documentation/answer wasn’t shared across the group, he questioned the document controller in the group.  When that student was claiming the group was “uncontrollable”, Mr. W. urged them to get back to basics and make sure that they all had the same answers and that they all agreed that their common answer was unanimous.  At one point I went off script and asked a group a question related to their understanding of the problem they were working on.  One student quickly gave the right answer, and another student readily agreed.  I caught myself, however, being satisfied with a lack of unanimity in the group and then asked the less vocal students if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, but I didn’t get very much than a half-hearted agreement.  My mistake had been approving of the answer before I had worked the whole group through a consensus-building exercise on my question.  (Drat!)

Back in the chemistry class I was able to sit with each group for about 4-5 minutes.  I noticed some groups that had very strong leaders, and some groups that seemed to be floundering for lack of leadership.  I saw groups with some very quiet members, that were also not making sure that they had the same answer as the others in their group.  I can see that POGIL enforces a type of accountability down to the individual in the classroom who is struggling or who isn’t investing into their own learning process or that of others.  I also saw that Mrs. S. circulated the room and was good about getting groups to assist their stragglers.  I also saw that a group with weak leadership too more of the teacher’s time, but that after a group understood an exercise, the teacher could send other groups that were similarly struggling to that group to get help.  This leveraging of understanding really freed up the teacher.

Were Groups Appropriate and Effective?

Overall I noticed that the groups were fairly even in their progress through the exercises for that day. Near the end of the period Mrs. S. distributed a subset of exercises to each group, and asked them to be prepared to present them via the document camera to the whole class as their last activity of the day.

I have an outstanding question (out to Mrs. S. in e-mail) on how the teacher determines what to do the next day given the day’s progress.  I am curious where the class starts on the next day, i.e. what does done look like?

What was the Product of the Group Work?

One product of the group work was a set of exercises that the spokesperson for the group could present via the document camera to the whole class.  I think we ran out of time for all groups to present their assigned exercises, but a few groups were able to present their findings and thus the rest of the class had some ability to verify their own work on the same problems.

The other product of the group work was a completed set of exercises that they had all worked through, and thus all had unanimous answers, i.e. similar rationales and understandings of their answers.

Did the Group Work Connect to Prior and Future Learning?

I assume this question is meant to gauge if the group work which I observed was “bolted onto” an existing lesson plan or unit plan, or if it was integrated well into the whole flow of the classroom, i.e. both lesson and unit plan.

Since Mrs. S.’s class is always doing POGIL, I am confident that the group work today will be built upon next week and that the group work today had built on group work that had transpired in previous weeks.

It is a little daunting that in our class at SPU, Mrs. S. mentioned that it took almost 20 preparation hours to generate one lesson plan hour.  However the payoff is certainly worthwhile if the students are able to connect prior learning seamlessly to future learning.

In particular in this class, the lesson mentioned the candle burning experiment which I realized was from Chapter 1 of the course.  Students were thus able to connect that given the observation of a physical reaction, with care that reaction can be represented as a chemical equation, and by measuring ingredients and products a balanced chemical equation can be written, thus observation can confirm/rejct hypothesis, a huge idea in all of science.

Advertisements
Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Comments

  • John Weisenfeld  On November 4, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I wrote some additional questions to Mrs S. and go the following responses from her (IN ALL CAPS)

    Just wanted to drop a quick note thanking you for letting me drop in on your class on such short notice. It seems like that was a fairly typical day, let me know if you feel otherwise.
    YES, FAIRLY TYPICAL; HOWEVER WE DO NOT USUALLY SPEND SO MUCH TIME WORKING ON EXERCISES. MOST DAYS ARE FOCUSED ON NEW CONCEPT LEARNING.

    I had a couple clarifying questions. I remember you saying that you recompose the groups after each test/exam, and try to distribute your top, middle and lower performers equally. I can see that also being beneficial to the students to learn more about other learning styles and management styles of students in the class. I assume that this re-shuffling occurs every 3-4 weeks?
    THIS YEAR I HAVE KEPT GROUPS TOGETHER FOR 4 WEEKS, THEN 2 WEEKS, AND NOW 3 WEEKS. IT DEPENDS ON THE LENGTH OF THE CHAPTER, BUT TYPICALLY IN THE 2-4 WEEK RANGE.

    I’m curious if the students ever get good at figuring out relative performance on the exams after each shuffle?
    STUDENTS ALWAYS KNOW HOW OTHERS ARE DOING, MAINLY BECAUSE THEY COMPARE EXAMS WHEN THEY GET THEM BACK. THEY REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE CORRECT ANSWERS WERE AND HOW TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS.

    If each group on Thursday made uneven progress on the Chapter handout assigned, how do you determine what to do on Friday?
    FOR THIS PAST THURSDAY, SOME GROUPS ARE ALMOST DONE WITH EXERCISES; OTHERS ARE ABOUT 2/3-3/4 DONE. WE DON NOT MEET AGAIN UNTIL MONDAY. DIRECTIONS ON MONDAY WILL BE TO CONTINUE WORKING ON EXERCISES FOR 20 MINS OR UNTIL THEY ARE COMPLETE; THEN TO WORK ON QUESTIONS FROM THE QTR EXAM REVIEW HW PROBLEM SET 9IF THEY FINISH BEFORE THE 20 MINUTES). I WILL SIGN UP EACH BENCH FOR A COUPLE MORE PROBLEMS TO PRESENT, SO ALL QUESTIONS ARE CLAIMED. I’LL ASSIGN MORE Q’S TO THE BENCHES WHO ARE ALMOST DONE. THIS WAY IF THERE IS A BENCH THAT DOES NOT GET FINISHED WITH ALL THE PROBLEMS, THEY WILL STILL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE HOW THEY WERE WORKED BY ANOTHER BENCH GROUP.

    Are students expected to pick up their progress toward exercise completion on Friday? EXERCISES ARE CONSIDERED GOOD PRACTICE FOR THE EXAM AND I ENCOURAGE STUDENTS TO COMPLETE AS MANY AS THEY CAN. BECAUSE WE ARE AT THE END OF THE QTR, I HAVE BUILT IN A DAY AND A HALF OF EXERCISES AND PRESENTING THEM ALOUD (IN LIEU OF MY LEADING ANY KIND OF AN EXAM REVIEW).

    NORMALLY STUDENTS WILL WORK ON THE NEW LEARNING SECTION OF THE WORKBOOK AND THEN CONTINUE ON TO WORK ON THE EXERCISES RELATED TO THAT SECTION. ONCE ALL GROUPS HAVE REACHED THE REPORT-OUT QUESTION, I WILL STOP THE CLASS AND WE WILL REPORT OUT BEFORE MOVING ON. THUS, SOME FASTER GROUPS MAY BE ABLE TO FINISH MOST OR ALL OF THE CHAPTER DURING CLASS TIME; OTHER GROUPS WILL FINISH THE NEW LEARNING, BUT MAY HAVE MOST OF THE EXERCISES (APPLICATION PROBLEMS) TO COMPLETE ON THEIR OWN TIME. I DO NOT PACE THE CLASS TO ALLOW EVEN THE SLOWEST STUDENT TO FINISH ALL THE EXERCISES IN CLASS; I DO PACE THE CLASS TO ALLOW EVEN THE SLOWEST STUDENT TO COMPLETE ALL THE NEW LEARNING IN CLASS.

    Are Chapter handouts ever considered homework? EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE, YES. (SEE ANSWER ABOVE) BUT GENERALLY THESE ARE ACTIVITIES DESIGNED TO BE USED IN GROUP LEARNING SETTINGS. THEY ARE NOT INDIVIDUAL “WORKSHEETS” AND DO NOT WORK SO WELL AS SUCH.

    ONE EXCEPTION: I ASSIGN AS HW THE QUESTIONS THAT ASK STUDENTS TO TRANSLATE LAB PROCEDURES INTO A SERIES OF LABELED SKETCHES. THESE SKETCHES ARE “TICKETS IN” TO THE NEXT DAY’S CLASS. IF A STUDENT HAS NOT COMPLETED THEM AS HW, THEY STAY IN THE HALL TO COMPLETE THEM WHILE THE REST OF US TAKE THE MINI-QUIZ. THUS, EVERYONE ENTERING THE ROOM HAS AT LEAST A RUDIMENTARY IDEA OF WHAT THEY WILL BE DOING IN LAB. THE CONSEQUENCE FOR NOT FINISHING THE SKETCHES AT HOME IS THAT THE STUDENT EARNS A ZERO FOR THE DAY’S MINI-QUIZ.

    How do you make sure all groups are progressing along through the exercises at a fairly comparable rate, i.e. no stragglers?
    AS I WANDER ABOUT THE ROOM, I NOTE WHERE A TEAM IS. IF THERE IS A TEAM REALLY DROPPING BEHIND, I MAY STAND THERE FOR A LONGER PERIOD TO TRY TO DETECT WHAT IS SLOWING THEM DOWN. I MAY ASK THEM TO SEND A SPY TO GET THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION THEY ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON – AND I WILL HAVE THEM SEND THEIR SPY TO THE FASTEST-PACED GROUP. THUS, THE SLOWEST GROUP SPEEDS UP WHILE THE FASTEST GROUP SLOWS DOWN AND THE MID-PACE GROUPS ARE UNAFFECTED.

    IF THERE IS ONE GROUP GALLOPING AHEAD, I MAY ASK THEM A CHALLENGE QUESTION THAT APPLIES THEIR NEW LEARNING TO A HARDER SITUATION AND THEN COME BACK IN A FEW MINUTES TO HEAR THEIR ANSWER. FAST GROUPS SEEM TO LIKE THE ADDITIONAL CHALLENGE.

    I MAY SIT WITH AN INDIVIDUAL STUDENT FOR A FEW MINUTES AND WORK ONE-ON-ONE, ALLOWING THEIR GROUP TO PROGRESS FASTER WHILE (HOPEFULLY) HELPING THE STRAGGLER COME UP TO SPEED. OR I MAY SPECIFICALLY INVITE THE SLOW STUDENT TO MEET WITH MEET AT STUDY LUNCH TO FINISH THE ACTIVITY, IF IT IS A STUDY LUNCH DAY.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: