The mere phrase elicits dread in the heart of almost high performing college student and many time spells frustration for the faculty who know its potential benefits but wonder why it is so hard to get this important teaching tool to work right.
Dr. Maurice Phipps
Professor Emeritus, Parks and Recreation Management
Dr. Maurice Phipps, faculty emeritus for Western Carolina University has developed a guidebook for teachers and students to rediscover the value and the joy of cooperative learning.
“Cooperative Learning is a highly effective method of instruction and students trained in effective group skills are valued in the workplace but groups can be dreaded without some assurance that group skills and group processing are properly taught and applied.” – Maurice Phipps
He has simplified the challenge of group work by using the five elements of Cooperative Learning, which he says must all be present in order for students to form a high performing cooperative learning community. He breaks down group work into concepts, skills and roles, and tactics and strategies.
What does cooperative learning look like?
- Positive interdependence (ways to ensure students work together)
- Individual accountability (making sure all students are learning)
- Face-to-face interaction (many ways to interact)
- Interpersonal and small-group skills (to enable effective group functioning)
The Group Book
Dr. Phipps cowrote and published The Group Book: Effective Skills for Cooperative Groups as a reference manual for teachers and students to use in bringing together the necessary pieces.
Faculty can use it as a workbook for students (e.g. study p.5-10 and come into class prepared to practice the skill).
Or they can review it themselves and deploy the strategies as needed.
Some teachers give it to students to help them take ownership of their group learning and solve the kinds of 21st century problems they will encounter throughout the rest of their life.
- Faculty who want to use this, do it because they want their students to learn soft skills (that combine with technical skills) for student success.
- Compared with other dynamic group learning methods (e.g. team-based learning), cooperative learning is flexible and adaptable to any learning environment.
- The only way to enable high-functioning student groups in your classroom is to equip students with group processing and group skills while setting a context for them to succeed.
Want to learn more?
- Read more about Cooperative Learning using the resources below.
- Keep an eye out for upcoming events hosted by the CFC for Excellence in Teaching and Learning that may include a workshop hosted by Dr. Phipps on the art of facilitating group work.
- Dr Phipps is also hosting a regular faculty discussion for WCU faculty on the benefits, challenges, and strategies of group work. Please send him a message for more details.
- Schedule an appointment with one of our educational developers to see how you can implement this unique learning design.
- Don’t forget to pick up a copy of “The Group Book: Effective Skills for Cooperative Groups” online or at the Coulter Faculty Commons for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
- What is Cooperative Learning? http://www.co-operation.org/what-is-cooperative-learning/
- Setting Group Norms in the Classroom http://mountainrise.wcu.edu/index.php/MtnRise/article/viewFile/37/86
- What do students think of Cooperative learning? https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/105382590102400105