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How to Create Cooperative Learning Activities

Steps to Effective Cooperative Learning in Your Classroom

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Cooperative learning is an important teaching method that should be included in lesson plans across the curriculum as one way to teach material. Cooperative activities provide students with many benefits. For students to succeed in the real world of business, they have to learn how to work in a team environment. This means that they have to develop the interpersonal and communication skills necessary to participate in cooperative learning activities. The main way to do this is to practice these skills in the classroom. Following are steps that should be followed as you create and implement cooperative learning activities.

1. Assign students to a group equal to the number of jobs available.

Since students need to be assessed individually, there needs to be enough jobs for each person on the team to have some type of responsibility towards the overall project. Therefore, the first step in designing the project is figuring out what jobs can be assigned and then designing the teams around this.

2. Have students come up with a group name.

Your goal here is to have students identify with one another and begin to see themselves as a team. While it might be a silly exercise in some ways, and the names students come up with could provide a good laugh, just the act of getting them to come to consensus on a name will also help them grow in their communication skills.

3. Give clear instructions for the activity.

Students need to have a very clear understanding of the activity that they are working on. Your presentation of information needs to include background knowledge, job descriptions for team members, specific steps and instructions to be followed, and expectations for completed work. Students also need to understand that they will not only be graded on their overall product, but also on their individual contribution to the team.

4. Review, reinforce, and monitor cooperative learning procedures.

Students need to understand the procedures that they and you will be following as they work cooperatively. Examples of procedures that you need to develop include:
  • What to do if a student has a question about their work.
  • What to do if a student has an issue with another team member
  • How you will hold individual students accountable for their work.

5. Teach students how to evaluate themselves and their group.

There are a number of ways to assess cooperative learning activities. Typically, a group grade is assigned along with an individual grade for each student based on their contribution to the team. As part of the activity, provide students with a means to evaluate their own and the other members of their group's achievements. This evaluation should be based on the skills that are necessary to succeed in a cooperative learning environment. The first time this type of evaluation is used, the teacher should walk through each question with the students, helping them understand what is being asked.

6. Have a method for each student to be assessed individually.

If you've ever been involved in a teamwork activity where one or more persons do not contribute their fair share, you know how frustrating this can be. If you only provide a group grade for a cooperative learning activity, you are creating a situation which could create problems for you with students and parents. Some people argue that a group project should represent real life in that there will be future career situations where one person will have to do more than their fair share but not get the full credit for their work. However, it is important to remember that this is a classroom setting designed to model teamwork activities, not recreate life situations. Student grades are very charged emotionally and can have significant outcomes for students and parents. Therefore, it is best to devise a method where you not only assign a group grade, but also give students individual grades for their work.
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