The Teacher's Role in Collaborative Learning
Cooperative learning is a classroom strategy where students work in groups to achieve an assigned goal. However, cooperative learning involves more than just working in a group. Some common elements of cooperative learning are positive interdependence, individual accountability and interpersonal social skills. The teacher must introduce and encourage these elements. In order to make cooperative learning a successful teaching strategy, the teacher must wear many hats.
- Cooperative learning requires a good deal of planning from the teacher. She must consider if a lesson lends itself to including cooperative learning. Also, the teacher must decide how she is going to group students. She must decide if she will group students based on ability level, personalities, or randomly. The teacher must also decide what procedures need to be in place so cooperative learning is successful.
- The teacher as a facilitator must accurately introduce cooperative learning to the students. It is helpful if teachers provide a model for how groups should function during cooperative learning. The teacher may decide to assign roles, such as recorder, researcher or speaker, to students so all students participate in the group process. During the lesson, the teacher should roam the classroom and observe the interaction of students. He needs to be aware of which groups are functioning properly and which groups need more guidance.
- Cooperative learning lends itself to disagreements. Not all students can work together. As the groups are working, the teacher must act as a referee, solving conflicts and redirecting discussions. Deal with personality conflicts in the planning stage by placing strong personalities in different groups. The teacher may also assign the students different roles in the groups so students know their jobs and don't step on each others' toes.
- After the cooperative learning lesson is over, the teacher must evaluate what parts of the lesson were successful and how to improve the lesson. During this process, the teacher decides if students were grouped correctly or how groups need to be rearranged for the next lesson. The teacher may also lead students to evaluate the cooperative learning process. Students often have great insight into what worked and what did not work.