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Cooperative Learning

WHAT IS IT? Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each
with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their
understanding of a subject. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is
taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement.

WHY USE IT? Documented results include improved academic achievement, improved behavior
and attendance, increased self-confidence and motivation, and increased liking of school and
classmates. Cooperative learning is also relatively easy to implement and is inexpensive.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Here are some typical strategies that can be used with any subject, in
almost any grade, and without a special curriculum:

 Group Investigations are structured to emphasize higher-order thinking skills such as


analysis and evaluation. Students work to produce a group project, which they may have
a hand in selecting.

 STAD (Student Teams-Achievement Divisions) is used in grades 2-12. Students with


varying academic abilities are assigned to 4- or 5-member teams in order to study what
has been initially taught by the teacher and to help each reach his or her highest level of
achievement. Students are then tested individually. Teams earn certificates or other
recognition based on the degree to which all team members have progressed over their
past records.

 Jigsaw II is used with narrative material in grades 3-12. Each team member is
responsible for learning a specific part of a topic. After meeting with members of other
groups, who are "expert" in the same part, the "experts" return to their own groups and
present their findings. Team members then are quizzed on all topics.

WHAT ELSE DOES IT DO? Schools are using similar strategies with both students and teachers
to do the following:

 Develop and use critical thinking skills and teamwork;

 Promote positive relations among different ethnic groups;

 Implement peer coaching;


 Establish environments where academic accomplishments are valued; and even

 Cooperatively manage schools.

According to David Johnson and Roger Johnson (1999), there are five basic elements that allow
successful small-group learning:

 Positive interdependence: Students feel responsible for their own and the group's
effort.

 Face-to-face interaction: Students encourage and support one another; the


environment encourages discussion and eye contact.

 Individual and group accountability: Each student is responsible for doing their part;
the group is accountable for meeting its goal.

 Group behaviors: Group members gain direct instruction in the interpersonal, social,
and collaborative skills needed to work with others occurs.

 Group processing: Group members analyze their own and the group's ability to work
together.

Student Roles

Some tasks are complex and may benefit from clear roles and responsibilities assigned to each
student within a group. Create team roles that are simple, clear, and important. Roles that are
frivolous, unclear, or too complex may frustrate one or more team members. Some sample roles
are:

 Organizer—provides the group with the overall process structure


 Recorder—writes down important information (e.g., directions or group work)
 Checker—Makes sure that all team members understand the concepts and the team's
conclusions.
 Questioner—generates questions and involves all students
 Assessor—evaluates the progress of each work session
 Encourager—models and reinforces appropriate social skills
 Summarizer: Restates the team's conclusions or answers.
 Spokesperson—represents the group and presents group work to rest of the class
 Timekeeper—keeps group on task and on time
 Team facilitator—Moderates discussions, keeps the team on schedule, ensures that work
is completed by all, and makes sure that all have the opportunity to participate and learn.
 Elaborator—Relates the discussion with prior concepts and knowledge.
 Research runner—Gets needed materials and is the liaison between teams and between
their team and the instructor.
Critical Thinking
Critical thinking...the awakening of the intellect to the study of itself.

Critical thinking is a rich concept that has been developing throughout the past 2500
years. The term "critical thinking" has its roots in the mid-late 20th century. We offer here
overlapping definitions, together which form a substantive, transdisciplinary conception of
critical thinking.

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully


conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered
from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a
guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that
transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound
evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

Why Critical Thinking?

The Problem
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased,
distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of
what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy
thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be
systematically cultivated.

A Definition
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking - about any subject, content, or problem - in which the
thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures
inherent in thinking and
imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Result
A well cultivated critical thinker:

 raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;

 gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it


effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against
relevant criteria and standards;
 thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing,
as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and

 communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-


corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful
command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a
commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

The list of core critical thinking skills includes observation, interpretation, analysis, inference,
evaluation, explanation, and metacognition. According to Reynolds (2011), an individual or
group engaged in a strong way of critical thinking gives due consideration to establish for
instance:

 Evidence through reality

 Context skills to isolate the problem from context

 Relevant criteria for making the judgment well

 Applicable methods or techniques for forming the judgment

 Applicable theoretical constructs for understanding the problem and the question at
hand

In addition to possessing strong critical-thinking skills, one must be disposed to engage


problems and decisions using those skills. Critical thinking employs not only logic but
broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance,
depth, breadth, significance, and fairness.

Critical thinking calls for the ability to:

 Recognize problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems

 Understand the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem solving

 Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information

 Recognize unstated assumptions and values


 Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment

 Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments

 Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions

 Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations

 Put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives

 Reconstruct one's patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience

 Render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life

In sum:

"A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the
evidence that supports or refutes it and the further conclusions to which it tends."