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Getting Started with Cooperative Learning

1. Select one simple cooperative learning structure to use in your classes (e.g. think-pair-
share). Use this structure repeatedly for several weeks until you and your students are
comfortable with it.

2. After a month or so select a second cooperative structure and begin to implement that one
repeatedly. The first structure remains in use, but is no longer the main focus.

3. This process continues for several months, with one new structure added each month
(approximately)---a kind of “structure of the month club”.

4. After a time, many teachers experience a qualitative leap in their functioning with
cooperative learning. They spontaneously begin to mix and match structures to create multi-
structural lessons.

5. Look for opportunities within the regular curriculum to use groups. For example, class
time that is normally devoted to individual seatwork can be changed into group work. The
textbook may include a good section of exercises and problems for this purpose.

6. Give very clear, step-by-step directions and check to make sure that students understand

7. Start with a class that you think will respond favorably to cooperative learning.

8. Don’t feel that you must establish very tight control for weeks before beginning group
activities. Group work can become part of your management system.

9. Consider informing the principal or building administrator and parents about what you are
doing and why you are doing it.

10. Expect that group activities will not necessarily go smoothly at first; it usually takes two
or three weeks for students to begin functioning well in groups.

11. Remember that change is a gradual process, not an event. Don’t try to change
everything at once.

12. If possible, find a colleague who will use similar methods. Two teachers together can
provide strong mutual support.

13. Throughout this process it is most helpful to have a small cadre of cooperative learning
enthusiasts in your department or facility. This team provides enthusiasm, offers ideas for
implementing cooperative learning, shares experiences and lesson plans, teaches
demonstration lessons, and observes and coaches upon request.

From: Neil Davidson

From my syllabus:
You will do much of your work in this course in cooperative learning groups. It seems to
work best if there are about three or four students in each group. You will be working with
your small group on group exercises and homework problems, in class activities, and even
during quizzes and tests. Working well in a group is an important skill which can be learned.
Some of you may initially enjoy the group work more than others. After graduation, most of
you will probably be working in jobs that will require you to function as a member of a
project team. The objective of group work in this course is three-fold:
to facilitate your learning of mathematics,
to develop skills in working effectively as part of a team, and
to give you support while you are working on problems
One of the primary objectives of this course is to help you to learn to think about problems
mathematically and to solve the problems on your own. Working in your group and talking
about problems with your group members are all strategies to help you do this.