Ready to take group assignments to the next level?

“Group work!” 

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

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.

 

Why?

  • 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.

Resources

What Does Student Engagement Mean in your Discipline?

Journal - New Directions for Teaching and Learning JournalA summer 2018 volume of New Directions for Teaching and Learning focuses on student engagement. Ten chapters worth!

One interesting chapter, Students Engaged in Learning, is worth a close read. (the link to the full article can be found at the bottom of this post). The authors, Emad Ismail and James Groccia, provide a compelling structure for the chapter.

The article is presented in this fashion—research findings related to engagement in the cognitive domain, followed by research on engagement in the psychomotor domain, and finally, of research literature pertaining to engagement in the affective domain. Several meta-analyses are cited. Rather than delve deeply into any single research article, I thought it might be more interesting to talk about the research he cites as part of each section (after all, you can read the full article yourself). The remainder of this post presents a short summary of the research he cites related to cognitive engagement:

Leaf

Discipline: Biology
Title:Teaching More by Lecturing Less
Findings Snippet: “The results we present here indicate that even a moderate shift toward more interactive and cooperative learning in class can result in significantly higher student learning gains than achieved using a standard lecture format.”

Authors: Knight and Wood
Year: 2005

Discipline: Biology
Title:Cooperative and Active Learning in Undergraduate Biological Laboratories at FIU– Implications to TA Teaching and Training

Findings Snippet: Teaching assistants underwent a 2-day training workshop to implement cooperative learning and active learning techniques for Biology courses, and the results were very positive. Responses from instructors indicate “an increase in the cognitive level of the material communicated, learned, and assessed”, in addition to “an increase in their [students’] ability to devise and practice scientific experimentation.”|
Authors: Penwell, Elsawa, and Pitzer
Year: 2004

Cell FusionDiscipline: Physics
TitleInteractive-Engagement vs. Traditional Methods: A Six-Thousand-Student Survey of Mechanics Test Data for Introductory Physics Courses
Findings Snippet: “The conceptual and problem-solving test results strongly suggest that the classroom use of interactive-engagement methods can increase mechanics-course effectiveness well beyond that obtained in traditional practice.”
Authors: Hake
Year: 1992

Discipline: Physics
TitleCan Students Learn from Lecture Demonstrations?
Findings Snippet: “Students who had a chance to predict an outcome of a demonstration prior to seeing the demonstration achieved a significantly higher success rate of 25% to 35%.”
Authors: Milner-Bolton, Kotlicki, Rieger
Year: 2007

Human BrainDiscipline: Psychology
Title:Keeping it Short and Sweet: Brief, Ungraded Writing Assignments Facilitate Learning
Findings Snippet: “These results suggest that in-class writing and discussion improved performance on factual and conceptual multiple-choice exam questions, beyond any gain from time for in-class thinking and discussion.”

Authors: Drabick, Weisberg, Paul, and Bubier
Year: 2007

Physical ChemistryDiscipline: Physical Chemistry
Title:“I Believe I Will Go Out of This Class Actually Knowing Something”: Cooperative Learning Activities in Physical Chemistry
Findings Snippet: “We found that cooperative learning activities move students away from rote learning strategies and toward more meaningful strategies which allowed them to integrate concepts over the entire semester.”

Authors: Towns, Grant
Year: 1997

Two PeopleDiscipline: Human Resource Management
Title:The Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT): An Innovative Teaching Technique for Human Resource Management Students
Findings Snippet: “…through the use of Team Based Learning and the incorporation of the IF-AT students’ skills in the areas of communication, overall learning, cognitive and interpersonal skills through the use of teams or groups of students was enhanced. Authors: Blackman, Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink

Year: 2004

StatisticsDiscipline: Statistics
Title:Evaluating an Active Learning Approach to Teaching Introductory Statistics: A classroom workbook approach
Findings Snippet: “The activity based curriculum evaluated here produced significant positive changes in students’ attitudes toward statistics. Specifically, after experiencing the workbook curriculum students liked statistics more and were more confident in their ability to perform and understand statistics.”

Authors: Carlson and Winquist
Year: 2011

Robot ArmDiscipline: STEM
Title:Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis
Findings Snippet: “The meta-analysis demonstrates that various forms of small-group learning are effective in promoting greater academic achievement, more favorable attitudes towards learning, and increased persistence….”
Authors: Springer, Stanne, and Donovan
Year: 1999

Discipline: STEM
Title:Active Learning Increases Student Performance In Science, Engineering, And Mathematics
Findings Snippet: A meta-analysis of 225 studies discovers that (on average, based on effect size) student performance on exams and concept inventories increased by .47 SDs when faculty utilized active learning strategies and methods (n=158 studies).

Authors: Freeman et al.
Year:2014

Human PhysiologyDiscipline: Human Physiology
Title: The Effect of Active Learning on Student Characteristics in a Human Physiology Course for Nonmajors

Findings Snippet: “Students in a treatment group [taught using a continuum-based, actdive-learning model] acquired significantly more content knowledge and were significantly more efficacious than students in the control groups [taught using traditional didactic lecture methods].”
Author: Wilke
Year: 2003

William Buskist, a co-editor in this volume, presents in a most familiar way the issue of student engagement that many of us are struggling with:

Are there universal principles of instilling student engagement that apply across students, disciplines, and institutional settings, and if so, what are they? Do these principles similarly or differentially affect the domains of doing, feeling, and thinking? Once students become engaged, what are the most effective methods of keeping them engaged throughout the remainder of their college careers in terms of doing, feeling, and thinking?

Thankfully, the research provided in this chapter illustrates that yes, universal principles do exist.

The full article is available here.

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