The body of evidence documenting the effectiveness of cooperative learning is already impressive. The large and regularly cited meta-analysis of Johnson and Johnson published in 1987 reviews 378 studies that explore the use of cooperative learning groups in a wide range of settings. More than half of the studies reviewed favored cooperation in groups compared with only 10 percent favoring individual effort.
Like many matters regarding teaching and learning, there isn’t one best way to put students into groups. The best way is related to what you want students to learn from their group experience. Here’s a brief discussion of how that works for three common ways of forming groups.
Group work and teamwork. In college courses the terms refer to students working together, often on an assignment or an activity. Group work is the more neutral term, whereas teamwork implies something about how the students are working together. And although teamwork is easy to identify when we see it on a playing field or court, what does teamwork look like in a college classroom?
I often get questions about group work. Recently, the question was phrased like this: “Can students learn anything in groups?” And, like faculty sometimes do, this questioner proceeded with the answer. “I don’t think my students can. When they work in groups they have no interest in doing quality work. Whatever the first person says, they all agree with that and relax into a social conversation.”
It wouldn’t be the end of the year without a few top 10 lists. As we say goodbye to 2012, we’re doing our list with a little twist: the top 12 articles of 2012. Each article’s popularity ranking is based on a combination of the number of reader comments and social shares, e-newsletter open and click-through rates, web traffic and other reader engagement metrics.
As another year draws to a close, the editorial team at Faculty Focus looks back on some of the top articles of the past year. Throughout 2012, we published approximately 250 articles. The articles covered a wide range of topics – from group work to online learning. In a two-part series, which will run today and Wednesday, we’re revealing the top 12 articles for 2012. Each article’s popularity ranking is based on a combination of the number of reader comments and social shares, e-newsletter open and click-thru rates, web traffic and other reader engagement metrics.
Here’s an empirical result I would not have predicted. It emerged in a meta-analysis of research on group learning activities as reported in 32 studies published in Teaching of Psychology between 1974 and 2011. I’ll be doing a detailed highlight of the entire article in an upcoming issue of The Teaching Professor. But the finding that surprised me involved the use of peer assessment within groups: “Our hypothesis of better learning outcomes with peer assessment was not supported. In fact, the data suggest that the opposite pattern may exist.” (p. 164)
Designed appropriately, cooperative learning assignments can actually turn group work—what was once a frustrating exercise for instructors and students alike—into a powerful way to reinforce course concepts and promote understanding. Let Barbara Millis, director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio, show you how.
audio Online Seminar • Recorded on Tuesday, October 30th, 2012
It has a long, not-easy-to-remember name: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. It usually goes by its acronym: POGIL. It’s a model designed to replace lectures (though not necessarily all of them). Students discuss course material in teams, and they use carefully designed material that involves sequenced sets of questions—that’s the guided-inquiry part of the model. The process part relates to what is generally a three-phase learning cycle that involves exploration, invention, and application. It is derived from Piaget’s work on mental functioning.
I recently revisited something I have always considered a great resource. It originally appeared in a 1992 issue of The Teaching Professor and was published then as a Study Group Member’s Bill of Rights. It outlined what individuals had the right to expect when they participated in study groups. Students not only have rights, they also have responsibilities. Those rights and responsibilities are relevant in any group activity used to accomplish educational goals. The version below attempts to capture those larger expectations and duties.