Cooperative Learning:
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Cooperative Learning

The following is a Cooperative Learning Activity Planning Template, which you can use to design your own cooperative learning activity. There are twenty major steps in designing and assessing a cooperative learning activity. Special thanks is given to Susan (Prescott) Johnston of California State University at Dominguez Hills in providing training to the author on cooperative learning.

Cooperative Learning Activity Planning Template

Instructor's Name: _____________________________________________

Class: ______________________________________________________

Date and Time Given: __________________________________________

Activity Name or Number: _______________________________________
(You may want to use this cooperative learning activity again. Therefore, give it a name that will allow you to find it easily.)

  1. Provide an explanation of what cooperative learning is, what the benefits of cooperative learning are and why you will be using it.
    (Write out a paragraph on the benefits of cooperative learning and why you will be using cooperative learning in your classroom and tell it to your students before starting a cooperative learning activity.)


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  2. Model correct behavior for the cooperative learning activity.
    (Write down the five most important behaviors that you will model for your class before having them do the cooperative learning activity. Some examples might be to model how the Leader will call upon each student equally for their input or how each member is to respect other member's point of view.)

    1. __________________________

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    2. __________________________

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    3. __________________________

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    4. __________________________

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    5. __________________________
  3. Provide a team builder before starting a cooperative learning activity. (Write out an idea for a team builder that will foster cooperation in the teams. A team builder is an activity that will allow the students in the teams to get to know each other better and thus feel more comfortable working with each other. A simple activity, which works best with pairs, is to have each partner interview the other about themselves or about their prior experience with the class content. They can then report on their partner to the entire class. Karen Inouye wanted her students to see how different students have different but valid values. She told the teams that they had to pretend that a forest fire was soon to engulf their home, and they had to decide what five things they would grab quickly. )

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  4. Determine the major topic for the cooperative learning activity. (Write the major topic of this cooperative learning activity from your syllabus. An example might be "The many causes of the Civil War".)

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  5. Determine the specific/core content for the cooperative learning activity. (Write the specific/core content of this cooperative learning activity. An example might be the list of the five biggest reasons that the Civil War was fought. You would list what you and the references you provide the students believe to be the main reasons.)

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  6. Establish the critical thinking objective(s) for the cooperative learning activity. (Check the critical thinking skill(s) of this cooperative learning activity. The last four, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation are higher order thinking skills. Try to aim for these skills whenever possible. If you teach nursing, you might have three or four case studies of hospital patients and ask the students to write an analysis of the medications given to the patients and whether they were given appropriately.)

    ( ) recall
    ( ) comprehension
    ( ) application
    ( ) analysis
    ( ) synthesis
    ( ) evaluation


  7. Establish the instructional function/purpose of the cooperative learning activity. (Check the instructional function/purpose of this cooperative learning activity. An example in a kitchen design class would be having the students read about the ten most important features of a successful kitchen design and then have each team arrange all of the components of a kitchen in the most desirable way. This would be practicing what they had learned.)

    ( ) motivate
    ( ) concrete experience
    ( ) check for understanding
    ( ) practice
    ( ) review before test
    ( ) review after test


  8. Design the cooperative learning activity. (Write a descriptive summary of this cooperative learning activity.)

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  9. Design the debriefing/synthesizing exercise for the cooperative learning activity. (Write the description of the debriefing/synthesizing exercise of this cooperative learning activity. This is how the students will report their work to the class or instructor. Usually you will want each team to report their conclusions to the class. Or you may want each team to report part of the answer to the class. For example, you might want each team to report one of the causes of the Civil War so that when each team is finished reporting the class has the entire answer. Usually the Spokesperson or Reporter will report the answer to the class, but some instructors like each member of the team to be ready to report. They randomly call on a member of each team. This is where student cards, which will be discussed later, are helpful. The instructor shuffles the stack of cards s/he has on each student and calls on the student whose card appears on the top of the stack. This better ensures that all students are always prepared. Students can report in any way that you think is appropriate for the task. They may have written their answer on an overhead transparency, they may deliver their answer orally, or they could present the floor plan of their kitchen. )

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  10. Establish groups for the cooperative learning activity. (Write the kind of group you will use for this cooperative learning activity and how you will assign students to each group . For simple tasks, especially ones that you use early in the semester, it is best to divide student into pairs. Later, groups of three, or at the most four or five students, works well. It is best if you determine which students are in each team. Self selection does not work as well. Random selection is a little better, but it is best if you determine which students are on the team, at least after you have gotten to know the students. Try to aim for a heterogeneous group in terms of gender, scholastic capability and ethnicity. However, studies show that it is not a good idea to put only one woman or one minority on a team. They tend to feel isolated and do not perform as well. It is best to keep the group intact for at least a month or two because you want to take advantage of the feeling of community that develops in the group. You should switch the roles around now and then so that everyone gets a chance at each position. See below.)


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  11. Establish roles within each group for the cooperative learning activity. (Write down each of the roles you will assign students and what each role's responsibilities are. A typical team arrangement is to have three students per team assigned the roles of Leader, Recorder and Spokesperson or Reporter. The Leader is responsible for making sure everyone understands the new learning and assignment procedures, ensures that all members participate and work productively, facilitates resolution of any conflicts among team members and appoints or serves a substitute for any absent team member. The Recorder records team responses for presentation to class, ensures that practice activity is complete if assignment is to be given to the instructor and records all absences and team points. The Spokesperson or Reporter makes sure everyone understands answers/ideas to be shared and reports the team's ideas to the class (using the Recorder's notes when needed). If the team consists of more than three students, there could be a Monitor and a Substitute. The Monitor would pick up and return folders, ensure that all papers in folder are distributed to teammates, make a copy of class notes for absent member(s), call them before next class and write absent members' names on all handouts and keep them in the team file. The Substitute assumes responsibilities for any absent team member. As stated earlier, you might prefer to not have a Spokesperson and call on students at random, so that everyone needs to be prepared to respond. )

    Role #1 Name: ______________________________

    Responsibilities:

    a. ______________________________

    b. ______________________________

    c. ______________________________

    Role #2 Name: ______________________________

    Responsibilities:

    a. ______________________________

    b. ______________________________

    c. ______________________________

    Role #3 Name: ______________________________

    Responsibilities:

    a. ______________________________

    b. ______________________________

    c. ______________________________

    Role #4 Name: ______________________________

    Responsibilities:

    a. ______________________________

    b. ______________________________

    c. ______________________________

  12. Designing team folders and student cards for the cooperative learning activity. (Write down what kinds of team folders you will use, whether you will have team names, colors, or photos on them, what will be inside the folders, and how the folders will be used, as well as whether you will have student cards. Having folders is the easiest way to hand out materials, store materials until the next class and return materials to the instructor. Some instructors have students come up with their team's name and use this activity as a team building activity. There can also be a list of students on each team in the folder, and the Recorder can keep track of attendance and completed assignments. The student cards can be filled out by each student with their name, address, phone number, email address and any other pertinent information you feel you need, such as their GPA or grades on other assignments, disabilities, etc. Then you can shuffle these cards and use them for calling upon students in a fair manner. You can keep track of when students respond correctly or incorrectly if you wish. Some instructors use the cards to be sure that they call upon each student equally, but some students will slack off if they know that their name has recently been called.)


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  13. Providing clear directions for the cooperative learning activity. (Write the directions for this cooperative learning activity. The directions should be clear and to the point. An example might be to have three floor plans of four bedroom houses and direct the students to rate the floor plans on circulation. The directions might read: Based upon what you read in the textbook, write two rules of good circulation that were followed or broken for each of the three floor plans. Also, decide on how much time the students should take on this activity and write that down in the directions.)

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  14. Design a graphic organizer for the cooperative learning activity. (Draw the graphic organizer for this cooperative learning activity. A graphic organizer is usually a sheet of paper that has places designated for all of the information that you are requiring from the student. This could be as simple as a sheet of paper with a horizontal line at the top, a vertical line in the middle with the words Pro and Con written at the top of each section with numbers running vertically down each column. Students would then be instructed to make a list of all the pros and cons of, say, a residential floor plan that they have been given. The directions for the activity could be written on another sheet, or preferably at the top of the graphic organizer. Having a good graphic organizer is very important. No matter how simple the activity, there should always be a graphic organizer. Do not leave it to the students to make their own. This allows for confusion. Some graphic organizers are quite complex. Before you give the activity to your students, you should fill out a copy of the graphic organizer with the information you want the students to fill out to be sure that it is clear and leaves adequate room for what you want the students to include.)

  15. Design an example for the activity. (Write or draw out an example of a possible solution to the assignment if possible. In the pro/con graphic organizer mentioned above, you should have one item in each column already filled out so that the students have an example to follow so that they will know what you are expecting from them.)

  16. Design a group assessment tool for the cooperative learning activity. (Decide how you will have the students assess their own level of participation in the activity. Write down questions you will ask. As you have read, it is not a good idea to give a group grade. As an example, you might give an activity that will help the students study for a test. You can ask the team member to give out 100 points to the team, divided among the team members based upon their contribution to the team effort. They can do this as a group or individually. You may assign a few points for this team effort. But the real grade comes when the student is tested on the material that was practiced in the cooperative learning activity.)

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    2. ______________________________

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    3. ______________________________

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  17. Design an evaluation for the cooperative learning activity. (Decide how you will evaluate the success of the activity. Write down questions you will ask the students. You want to know before you do this activity again whether all parts of the activity were clear and whether the activity was beneficial to the students' understanding of the material. Ask them these questions. They may have some very good suggestions on how to improve the activity.)

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    2. __________________________

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    3. __________________________

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  18. Run a movie in your mind of the cooperative learning activity. (After running a movie in your mind, write three suggestions you have to improve this cooperative learning activity before you give it. Anticipate likely problems. Visualize all steps of the cooperative learning activity. Think about what things might go wrong. Come up with ways to mitigate these potential problems.)
    1. __________________________

      __________________________

    2. __________________________

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    3. __________________________

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  19. Give the cooperative learning activity. (Walk around the class, keeping all students on track. You cannot passively sit back and wait for the students to complete the activity. You have to listen in on each conversation and make sure that the students are understanding what they are suppose to do and make sure that everyone is participating. You may want to remind them how much time they have left at several different intervals.)

  20. Make changes to the cooperative learning activity after giving it. (With all of the information gathered from the students' and your own evaluations, make any changes to the cooperative learning activity before filing it away for future use. Be sure to add additional behaviors to model if that is needed.)


Here is an example of a Collaboration Rubric that you can use as a group assessment tool.

Collaboration Rubric

4 - Thorough Understanding

  • Consistently and actively works toward group goals.

  • Is sensitive to the feelings and learning needs of all group members.

  • Willingly accepts and fulfills individual role within the group.

  • Consistently and actively contributes knowledge, opinions, and skills.

  • Values the knowledge, opinion and skills of all group members and

  • encourages their contribution.

  • Helps group identify necessary changes and encourages group action for change.

3 - Good Understanding

  • Works toward group goals without prompting.

  • Accepts and fulfills individual role within the group.

  • Contributes knowledge, opinions, and skills without prompting.

  • Shows sensitivity to the feelings of others.

  • Willingly participates in needed changes.

2 - Satisfactory Understanding

  • Works toward group goals with occasional prompting.

  • Contributes to the group with occasional prompting.

  • Shows sensitivity to the feelings of others.

  • Participates in needed changes, with occasional prompting.

1 - Needs Improvement

  • Works toward group goals only when prompted.

  • Contributes to the group only when prompted.

  • Needs occasional reminders to be sensitive to the feelings of others.

  • Participates in needed changes when prompted and encouraged.


Here is an example of a cooperative learning activity.

Cooperative Learning Activity

Instructor's Name: Marilynn Spaventa

Class: ESL 182

Date and Time Given: Monday, 10:00-11:50 AM

Activity Name or Number: 3

  1. Provide an explanation of what cooperative learning is, what the benefits of cooperative learning are and why you will be using it.

    We will be using cooperative learning in this class this semester. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each others' learning. Cooperative learning increases student retention by increasing student involvement. It can increase tolerance of diversity, and it can increase critical thinking skills. Cooperative learning prepares students for work groups in later employment, and it builds a sense of community on campus.

  2. Model correct behavior for the cooperative learning activity.

    1. Model possible questions.

    2. Model how to approach someone to answer questions.

    3. Model presentation.

  3. Provide a team builder before starting a cooperative learning activity.

    Group Name: ______________________________

    In your group, quickly survey members and write a brief answer for these questions.

    1. Write the name and nickname (if there is one) of each person in your group. Also include the language they speak and the country the come from.


            Name      Nickname     Language      Country

      ________ ________ ________ ________

      ________ ________ ________ ________

      ________ ________ ________ ________

      ________ ________ ________ ________

      ________ ________ ________ ________

    2. Ask each person to choose two adjectives that describe them. Write them below.

            Name              Adjective              Adjective

      __________ __________ __________

      __________ __________ __________

      __________ __________ __________

      __________ __________ __________

      __________ __________ __________

  4. Determine the major topic for the cooperative learning activity.

    Sociology: Families and Roles

  5. Determine the specific/core content for the cooperative learning activity.

    Preparing questions for a survey, conducting a survey, presenting information to the class

  6. Establish the critical thinking objective(s) for the cooperative learning activity.

    (X) recall
    (X) comprehension
    (X) application
    (X) analysis
    (X) synthesis
    (X) evaluation

  7. Establish the instructional function/purpose of the Cooperative learning activity.

    Motivate, opportunity to reflect and apply

  8. Design the Cooperative learning activity.

    Based upon an assignment in the text:

    1. Students must choose a topic from the text and write 5-8 questions to ask students about the topic.
      Example: Topic: Many mothers today work.

    2. Decide what kind of demographic information to collect.

    3. Each person must ask 5 other people (only 1/5 can be ESL students).

    4. Together, look at the results and choose one or two interesting results to present. Prepare a graph or chart on a poster or overhead transparency.

    5. Present the information in a clear and concise way.

  9. Design the debriefing/synthesizing exercise for the cooperative learning activity

    Other students (audience) will ask questions after each presentation. Students (audience) will make "I Like" statements to give positive feedback. After all presentations, I will lead a class discussion about what we have learned based on the readings in the book and the results of the surveys.

  10. Establish groups for the cooperative learning activity.

    I will select groups considering language ability, leadership strengths and native language/ethnic background. These groups will remain for 8 weeks.

  11. Establish roles within each group for the cooperative learning activity

    Role #1 Name: The Discussion Leader
    Responsibilities:
    a. Makes sure everyone understands the activity
    b. Ensures that all members participate and work productively
    c. Helps resolve any conflicts among team members

    Role #2 Name: The Spokesperson
    Responsibilities:
    a. Makes sure that everyone understands the answers/ideas to be presented
    b. Reports team's ideas to the class, using Recorder's notes when needed

    Role #3 Name: The Recorder
    Responsibilities:
    a. Records team responses for presentation to class

    Role #4 Name: The Monitor
    Responsibilities:
    a. Collects and returns group folder
    b. Records attendance of members
    c. Keeps track of time, budgets time for group

    Role #5 Name: The Substitute
    Responsibilities:
    a. Fills in for whoever is absent (or not feeling well) and takes on his/her responsibilities as described above

  12. Designing team folders and student cards for the cooperative learning activity.

    Teams are given folders. Each folder contains a description of roles, a team building activity sheet, (see number 3 above) and an attendance sheet. Teams are encouraged to decorate folders.

    Attendance Record
    (Monitor's Task)

    Group Name: __________________________

        Date          Absence           Tardy              Any Comments

    ______ __________ __________ _____________

    ______ __________ __________ _____________

    ______ __________ __________ _____________

    ______ __________ __________ _____________

  13. Providing clear directions for the cooperative learning activity.

    1. Choose a topic from the text (read topics together) and write 5-8 questions about the topic.
      Example: Topic: Many mothers today work. Do you think it is OK for mothers of preschoolers to work? etc.

    2. Decide what kind of demographic information to collect. Think about this. Is it important to collect the names of the people you interview? Is it important to record the gender of the person? (Continue in this way.)

    3. Each person must ask 5 other people the questions (only 1/5 can be ESL students).

      Give these directions after the surveys are complete.

    4. Together, look at the results and choose one or two interesting results to present. Prepare a graph or chart on a poster or overhead transparency.

    5. Present the information in a clear and concise way.

  14. Design a graphic organizer for the cooperative learning activity.

    1. Look at the issues on page 146 in the text. Discuss the issues, choose one and write it here (5 minutes).

      The issue we want to examine is: ______________

      __________________________________________

    2. Write 5-8 questions that you can ask, related to the issue above (10 minutes).

      1. ______________________________

      2. ______________________________

      3. ______________________________

      4. ______________________________

      5. ______________________________

      6. ______________________________

      7. ______________________________

      8. ______________________________

    3. Decide what demographic information you want to collect. Check yes or no (3 minutes).

      Information                              yes                     no
      Gender
      Age
      Marital status
      Parenthood
      Nationality/ethnicity

    4. Make a chart for the items you have chosen in number 3 (5 minutes).
      Example:
      Age:       10-20           21-30           31 and over


  15. Design an example for the activity.

    Given above.

  16. Design a group assessment tool for the cooperative learning activity.

    Answer the following questions about your performance:

    1. What did I do well?

    2. What will I do differently next time?

    3. How did my group work together?

  17. Design an evaluation for the cooperative learning activity.

    Didn't do.

  18. Run a movie in your mind of the cooperative learning activity.

    1. Give examples of good and poor presentations.

    2. Have examples of effective and confusing graphs.

  19. Give the cooperative learning activity.

    Done.

  20. Make changes to the cooperative learning activity after giving it.

    None needed.

More SBCC Faculty Examples


For more examples of cooperative learning activities designed by Santa Barbara City College Instructors go to the Learning Resource Center at Santa Barbara City College.

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