This week’s reading was about cooperative learning and using groups for critical thinking exercises in the classroom. We have already learned a lot about cooperative learning in our methods class, but Larson and Kieper really pointed out a lot of logistical concerns I had never thought about. One of the things that the authors discussed was marginalizing students and keeping race, social status, gender, etc in mind when creating groups. While teachers might often try to be objective and select groups at random, it actually helps a lot of discussions when there are different perspectives that can be brought in. This is especially important in social studies because of the nature of discussion. Therefore, when creating groups it is important to create heterogeneous, diverse groups.
Another issue that I never thought about when having the class do group work is students social skills and trust issues. It is hard when mostly using the grad class for our lesson presentations because we all participate and are confident in our content knowledge. However, teaching 9th graders in my field study definitely gets me thinking about social issues. It is easy to predict the issues that would go along with cooperative learning and especially presenting the material in front of the whole class. I could see how there may be teasing, nervousness, etc.
I also never thought of forming formal cooperative learning groups that would work together for a unit, semester, year, etc. I like the idea of that because the students would learn to gain respect for each other and the teacher could even set guidelines at the beginning to make sure students understand what is expected from them in terms of behavior as well as participation. Another idea would be to have the students conduct some sort of activity to get to know one another at the onset of group formation. If they learn greater respect and become comfortable with a small group this would give them study partners and potentially a “role” in the group throughout the year. Overall, I thought this was an awesome idea.
Another suggestion that I felt related to something I could suggest in my field experience was the student teams/achievement divisions (STAD). Larson and Kieper actually mention using this method for DBQs and my CT and I have been teaching his honors class how to structure their first DBQs and really analyze primary source documents. I like the idea of competitive teams that would look at DBQs, form theses, etc. I think competition within cooperative learning could work really well for certain classes and groups of students, such as honors classes.
Another suggestion that I really liked was the “group biography planning sheet” on page 184. I think for formal grouping this would work nicely in order to manage who does what for a certain project or unit. It also helps students organize and time manage so that they can complete all the tasks that are expected of them. This may give younger students motivation because they feel a sense of responsibility as well.
Overall, I feel that cooperative learning is one of the most important strategies for motivation and complex learning. Gaining different student perspectives on historical and current event issues is very important for young learners as they form their own opinions about the world and social studies as a whole.