I would like to initiate a discussion with the following question about the nature of teachers who use cooperative learning (CL) in their classes :
What are personality and/or character traits of teachers who use cooperative learning extensively in their classes?
I will kick off the discussion with a little background and my thoughts.
Last Spring and the annual Boston Urban Math Collaborative I gave a workshop on using CL 100% of the time in math classes. After the session I had a very interesting discussion with a participant about whether a person's personality helped determine if they would use CL in their classes. I presume their response was prompted in part my boyish enthusiasm and strong advocacy of CL during the workshop. I have been thinking about this question quite a bit lately and thought it might make a good discussion topic to start the Fall semester.
I would make an immediate qualification/disclaimer that my intent in not to stereotype CL teachers. My interest in asking the question is to see if have people a general feeling or view about the personalities or behaviors of CL practitioners. I also hope that the discussion will not deteriorate into a comparison of teachers who use other methods. (Good luck to me on that on)
Coop teachers are generally extroverted with outgoing personalities. They enjoy talking to their students during class and learning as much as they can about their students. They enjoy working in groups themselves in committee meetings and community groups versus chairperson l igh level of personal confidence and see their role as facilitator of learning versus expert transmitting their knowledge to the student. They are willing to give up some control of the class by sharing decision making with the students.
Cl teachers have a high level of confidence in their students' abilities. Therefore they are willing to delegate responsibility for learning to their students. They do this in part by creating interactive procedures which encourage students to work together in and out of class.
CL teachers are inclined to take risks in class by trying new approaches which stimulate student-student-teacher interactions. When they attenbd conferences they are always on the lookout for new ideas which will help facilitate interactions in their classes. Coop classes by their nature provide opportunities to try new procedures because of the variety of class activities used throughout the semester. It is quite natural to ask students who are already working in groups to try a new technique. If it works keep it, if it doesn't then do not repeat it. New techniques which do not work in specific situatiopns are not viewed as failures.
These are a few of my thought regarding the nature of CL teachers. What do you think???
Please reply to the list and I will keep a file of responses to send out after the discussion is completed.
From: Frank Leibold <email@example.com>
Frank Leibold, Ph.D. Professor Averett College
To: aednet <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I believe Ted Panitz raises an important question
about characteristics of
successful CL teachers. Not to oversimplify, but my experiences are (w/o reading Ted's thoughts):
* Confidence in one's ability and vunerabilities
* Passion & belief in CL
* Difficult previous experiences that enable one to constructively manage conflict
* A teaching style that encourages risk, recognzes not criticzes effort
* Good listening skill's
* Ability to test student's comprehension level
* Use of self-deprecating humor
* Ability to connect theory with relevancy; and relate it to student lives
I could go on but these are major characteristics
I have correlated to effective CL.
"J.NAKAGAWA" <email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org
--Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (Miyagi U., Sendai, JAPAN)
I lack a formal background in psychology (there's
the disclaimer) but I
am interested in this topic and will bravely forge on.
At University of Hawaii this summer I talked with a professor who was
interested in the effects of personality on learning and teaching. I
was describing strong negative reactions which I've received at
presentations--these were few, perhaps because such people, knowing the
workshop content, wouldn't come to the presentation in the first place.
He gave the idea that these people are basically afraid of or made
uncomfortable by new ideas and having their (traditional) world view
upset. On the converse, maybe CLers enjoy upsetting things? Or are
reformers rather than conformers....
Possible CLer traits I would propose for discussion
incorporating from the previous posts as well) :
--low need for power distance (egalitarian ethic) (I borrow the term from Hofstede)
-- high need for autonomy
--low need for domination
--low need for aggression
--high need for introspection (CL is an introspective method, it requires it)
--low need for orderliness (some chaos tolerated
if not encouraged? CL
teachers often deal with a lot of stuff spontaneously, whatever comes
up in the group etc.)
--low need for control
--low need for certainty
--nurturance is valued ("feminine" values), and thus the strong commitment to teaching mentioned by Mr. Panitz (v. committed to primarily just expanding knowledge of subject taught) --teaching as nurturance
--dislike of containment (support for expansion)
--abundance (v. scarcity) orientation (which leads to cooperative (v. competitive) attitude)
--positive or optimistic general outlook re the
capacity of people for
growth and change; optimistic belief in the method, (a/or in one's
personal effectiveness to help students achieve the goals--not
necessarily this) (cf Mr. Panitz' self-described boyish enthusiasm)
--positive view of change/negative view of "stagnation"; low need for stability
--reform v. conform orientation (leader v. follower)
--intuitive feeling types? (humanists)
I see overlaps here for example optimism overlaps with areas like perception of abundance and so on.
CL might be liked by introverts too except they
might not interact with
their groups as much? They might especially like planning the course
and being the invisible hand, the behind the scenes orchestrator.
I think it's easy to see why some teacher personalities wouldn't like CL
It would be interesting to compare our personalities on this list. As
for me, I'm an ENFP on the Myers Briggs (though E/I and F/T were
actually close to a tie when I took the test this summer, and I often
think of myself as introvert).
If we are of a "type," does this create problems
for students who are
not our type? I would say not necessarily in that CL can be combined
with other approaches and is itself very flexible/accomodating. It
seems to me the teacher-centered approach is the least flexible. If
the CL teacher is flexible about how students arrive at the learning
goal then there should be not too much trouble. I think flexible
implementation of CL could be the reason I only get a small minority of
students who profess not to like it?? There are many devices like
roles and so on that can be adapted to different personalities, and
students can be autonomous in fulfilling their own part of a task and
so on, they can adapt the activity to their preferred style of working
to a larger extent, etc.
CL of course fits with a collectivistic culture
like Japan (group goals
are not a new concept), although standing in contrast to the
traditional master-pupil idea here, and it has novelty value here as CL
is not widespread and presents (I think!) an improvement on Japanese
groupism, which can have its down side (like lack of responsibility for
actions, lack of individuality).
What do you think about CL's appropriateness for
different types of
learners, and teachers?
My name is Indra Odina. I come from Latvia, and I have been using cooperative learning about a year in my teaching at the University. My field is the English grammar and written practice, as well as teaching methods to the would-be English language teachers.
WHAT ARE COOPERATIVE/COLLABORATIVE TEACHERS LIKE???
- they are open to the changes
- open to the students and colleagues
- practically experienced
- attentive listener
- careful observer
- the one who is not afraid of own mistakes
- more extrovert than introvert
"Maitland, Linda" <MaitlandL@zeus.dt.uh.edu>
What an interesting idea.
My dissertation (Aug. '96) touches on some of this. Although a case
study, I found the teacher of my study, who used quite a bit of
cooperative learning in her college developmental reading classroom, had
certain beliefs. She was egalitarian rather than meritocratic in her
beliefs concerning who belongs in higher education, high efficacy, and
tended to believe intelligence was more a product of such things as
effort, persistence, global, and malleable, rather than a fixed unitary
Sue Birtwell <sueb@Kwantlen.BC.CA>
> Coop teachers are generally extroverted with
> They enjoy talking to their students during
class and learning as
much as they can about their students.
They enjoy working in groups themselves in committee
community groups versus chairperson
> lead meetings.
I hate group work!
> They have a high level of personal confidence
and see their role as
> facilitator of learning versus expert transmitting their knowledge to
> the student. They are willing to give up some control of the class by
> sharing decision making with the students.
> Cl teachers have a high level of confidence
in their students'
> abilities. Therefore they are willing to delegate responsibility for
> learning to their students. They do this in part by creating interactive
> procedures which encourage students to work together in and out of
> CL teachers are inclined to take risks in class
by trying new
yes but i always feel i need remedial co-op learning traing when it doesn't
I believe that students learn best when they construct
knowledge using language and examples that are relevant to them - that's
why I do co-op stuff. I try to include it in most classes but also mix
it in with other techniques so as to hit all the learning styles of the
students. I also find I have to do a lot of work up front to persuade
students that co-op learning has benefits and to teach
group skills in class because the students don't arrive with them.
I will follow your discussion with interest!
Sue Birtwell, Instructor, Kwantlen University
phone: (604) 599-2650 fax: (604) 599-2716
Esther Garber <email@example.com> firstname.lastname@example.org
I agree with all of your stance on the issue of the personality of co-op teachers.
Yes, the out-going attitude must be stressed.
So out-going that the intention sometimes might be misunderstood by both
the authority and the students at large. That misunderstanding is important
to reiterate, so a co-op teacher must strive for nothing but success of
Annette Gourgey <FMCBH@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU>
I am going to jump in and respond to Ted's comments
about CL teachers'
personalities. Ted and I have had ongoing discussion about CL for
the last couple of years and I have been using more and more of it
in my recent developmental classes and current statistics classes.
I think the question of what makes teachers more inclined to use
CL is very interesting. However, I don't especially relate to it
as *personality.* For example, I am using CL more and more, but
I am certainly not an extrovert! I tend to be a shy, introverted
person. In my case, perhaps one reason I like it is because I don't
like to be the only person in the class who does all the talking.
So, more than one personality type may be attracted to CL. Perhaps
different personality types may be attracted to CL but use it in
different, unique ways.
But I think a stronger reason has to do with *values*
about learning. To emphasize personality suggests to me that we
are either inclined that way or we are not, as our personalities
usually don't change. But my interest and proficiency in teaching with
CL have grown with time. I think I like to use it more because it
facilitates my values about learning and the kind of growth I would
like to see in my students: I would like them to come to know and
trust their own ways of understanding. Some of the other qualities
Ted mentions (confidence, interest in facilitating learning) also
seem to me more a matter of values than of personality.
A year or so ago I worked on a faculty development team that trained
high school math teachers in some CL techniques for critical thinking.
There was some hesitation about the methods, and I made a
well-intentioned.remark that provoked a lot of anxiety: I said that with
CL, the teacher becomes a learner along with his or her students.
I think the anxious reaction this comment provoked was due to
people's fears about loss of control, which cuts across personalities
(except perhaps people for whom control is their dominant mode).
I had forgotten my own previous
fears about control, which I learned to manage with experience. But
my personality is probably what it always was! The point is that
values and confidence can change and grow for all of us, regardless
of our "personality."
"Lim-Tan Keh Buoy, Grace" <kehbuoy@TP.AC.SG>
Yes, I agree with Ted's thoughts on the characteristics
/ traits of CL
teachers, particularly on :
- inclined (willing & bold) to take risks
- tend to have outgoing or people-oriented personalities
Correct me if I'm wrong as I don't have the statistics
at hand, but I
believe these 2 characteristics could be among the predisposition
factors in early adopters of CL.
Grace Lim Senior Instructional Designer Center
for IT in
Education & Learning (CITEL) Temasek Polytechnic 21, Tampines Ave 1,
SINGAPORE 529757 Tel: (65)780-6041 Fax: (65)789-8180
Justin Cooke <email@example.com>
Ted(and other listers)
I believe this may not be true of all or even
most co-op teachers. Perhaps
this is because I am myself an introvert who has taught in a cooperative
learning classroom! I think that introverts as well as extroverts function
well in small groups with a lot of focused dialouge, and that the idea of
cooperative learning probably appeals equally to both I's and E's.
On your second point, that such teachers "see their role as facilitator of
learning versus expert transmitting their knowledge to the student." I
agree with you whole-heartedly! This point of view is, I believe, the
foundation of the CL classroom. The high levels of confidence which you
mentioned (self-confidence of the teacher, and confidence in students) is
neccesary to the success of the CL classroom. I would also add that the
students quickly gain self-confidence in the CL classroom. I wonder if you
or any other listers had students who were very reluctant to work this way?
Although the kids in my classroom had 'volunteered' for the 'experiment', I
had one student whose parents (I believe) had more to do with her enrollment
-- she genuinely preferred to work alone at all times, and did not like to
take praise or blame for work which was not entirely her own. Although I
had great sympathy for her -- I HATED group work as a child -- I believe
that our society requires that most people learn to work cooperatively, and
I wish I had had more success helping her to join us.
"Paul J. Berghoff" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Coop teachers are generally extroverted with
I'm an introvert - shy by nature, but gotten over much of it. I do enjoy
working in groups when the people are getting along and keep a sense of
humor. I try to avoid most committee meetings because they seem such a
waste of time and energy.
> They have a high level of personal confidence
and see their role as
>facilitator of learning versus expert transmitting their knowledge to
>the student. They are willing to give up some control of the class by
>sharing decision making with the students.
I go back and forth on this. I give my students
a voice in the classes I
teach, but I notice a tendency in myself to try to keep control.
> Cl teachers have a high level of confidence
in their students'
>abilities. Therefore they are willing to delegate responsibility for
>learning to their students. They do this in part by creating interactive
>procedures which encourage students to work together in and out of
> CL teachers are inclined to take risks in class
by trying new
>approaches which stimulate student-student-teacher interactions.
I do fit here. I often try new approaches - I
guess that is what got me
started with CL. I probably use too much teacher talk, but I am slowly
> These are a few of my thought regarding the
nature of CL teachers.
>What do you think???
I teach educational psychology to both undergraduate
students in teacher education at University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Barbara Stout <email@example.com>
University of Pittsburgh
Ted: Do you think CL teachers may have a "bit"
of counselor in them. In
another words, let control remain in the clients (students) hands rather
than being directive by nature? I'm sure their is a Myers-Briggs category
for this type of person.
Robert A Cucci University of Iowa
Perhaps I have a naieve view of what a CL teacher
is, but I couldn't help
to agree that your points should apply to all teachers. As a teacher you
better enjoy talking to your students and you should have high
expectations for both yourself and your students.
John Baughman <John_Baughman@EVERETT.WEDNET.EDU>
>My interest in asking the question is
>to see if have people a general feeling or view about the personalities
>or behaviors of CL practitioners.
Although your brush sweep is pretty broad, I would
not dicker with you
over any of the personality descriptors; they seem pretty square-on to
me. However, I am unsure that itis primarily personality factors which
drive heavily-vested cooperative learning teachers.
First, by its nature, cooperative learning is seemingly very
equalitarian and, a lot of us are big into equity issues.
Furthermore, if the process unfolds as nicely as it possibly can, it
can cover-up many deficiencies which we would rather not have staring
us in the face. None less the the eastern CL guru himself,
Dr. Robert Slavin of JohnsHopkins, was concerned
about the "free-rider" effect: kids being brought along with the
group but not really participating in the project, and not getting very
much out of it; our use of individual assessments in the context of
cooperative learning projects is in its infancy, at best.
So, after wandering from the subject a bit, I think CL teachers are
attracted to the seeming egalitarianism of the environment,
and to the process itself which oftimes may support the
illusion that "everyone is learning". These folks also often are
philosophically big into sharing and "community building",
both of which mess very well with CL.So, I don't disclaim
any of the personality attributes as drivers
withing teachers who are big into cooperative learning;
I just add some that would more accurately
be classified as social, or on occasion, even political.
Diane Holben <Biobabe217@AOL.COM>
First, I do not consider my self a "Cooperative
However, I have increased my use of cooperative learning in the past two
years. The training I have received over the last year in cooperative
learning has helped me develop more effective activities and to
identify where they fit appropriately into my class.
I would agree that some teachers use cooperative learning for social or
egalitarian reasons, and that others use it because it fits into their natural
teaching style. However, like all instructional methods, cooperative learning
should be used in situations where it is naturally a good "fit" with the task or
concept being taught; it should not be used as a blanket method to
instruct everything just because someone likes it. As a matter of fact, at
the High Schools That Work conference in Charlotte this summer,
Spencer Kagan advocated integrating smaller cooperative activities,
such as Timed Pair-Share, into lessons rather than always developing
full-lesson cooperative activities, such as Jigsaw. The trick, to me, is to
use cooperative learning as one tool among the many in my teaching toolbox.
My largest problem with cooperative activities
is also the individual
accountability aspect. It takes a lot of planning on the part of the teacher
to build an activity so that all students are accountible for their
participation; I am just beginning to develop effective strategies for doing
so. In many cases, I am beginning to require that each activity has both an
individual component and a group component. I am finding that students
participate more actively if they know that I will be able to identify which
parts of the activity were performed by each group member. Alternatively,
the students may know that they will be responsible for the material on a
test or quiz in the future. This points out as well that there are a lot of things
passing as cooperative learning that are really just working in unstructured groups.
I would say that, personally, I choose to use
cooperative strategies in
my classroom for several reasons. Cooperative assignments fit well with
my teaching style because I like to encourage dialogue and interchange
about topics to allow students to process information and engage in critical
thinking rather than merely memorizing it. I agree
that, in part, I am
drawn to cooperative activities because I have an outgoing personality and
like the interchange between myself and the students as well. But, most
importantly, I use cooperative activities because science concepts lend
themselves well to these sorts of methods.
Diane Holben Science Department Chair Saucon Valley
2100 Polk Valley Road Hellertown, PA 18055 (610) 838-7001
Lloyd Lewellen <llewellen@AEA14.K12.IA.US>
Many "modern" administrators are insisting on
their teachers using
cooperative learning practices in the classroom. I imagine this would
satisfy adherents of OBE or school-to-work or whatever. However,
it would make it more difficult to identify teacher personality characteristics
in this framework, especially with those like me who question the
effectiveness of cooperative learning. Some of the points you have brought
out sound interesting, though.
"Julia Christensen Hughes" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I agree - I'm sure personality does play a role
- along with other
factors such as culture and past experience. I often have such
discussions with faculty after workshops on "learning and
teaching styles," particularly when we use instruments such as the
Keirsey Temperament Sorter (which is based on a Myers Briggs
CNORRIS@pstcc.cc.tn.us Caroline Norris
Pellissippi State Technical Community College
I think CL is effective only after the basics
of a subject have been
mastered to some degree, so that students can be confident that they are
building knowledge through shared experience and are not simply sounding
off about procedures or skills, etc., that they themselves do not
>From a teacher's standpoint, I think CL requires
a toleration of "chaos"
that does not come easily to the traditional personality. I think I
possess all the qualities you attribute to the CL personality -- I'm
outgoing, learn enormously from my students, love my subject area with a
real passion and have great confidence in my own skills and knowledge --
but it's taken me a l-o-n-g time to realize that a noisy, disputatious
classroom can be simultaneously a place of true educational activity.
I still only emply CL for a limited portion of classtime (perhaps 15%),
relying on regular discussion, lecture, individual reading/writing
projects for the greater portion of our time.
Of course, subject is also a factor. At this point,
I am teaching chiefly
developmental English, plus some initial comp/lit classes. My students
are quite insecure -- certainly they're insecure intellectually -- and in
need of structure and individual encouragement.
"Dianne Fallon" <email@example.com>
Dianne Fallon Department Chair for English/Humanities
York County Technical College Wells, ME 04090 207-646-9282
Thanks Ted, for bringing up an interesting topic.
By the way, there
was an interesting anti-co-op learning opinion piece in a recent
Chronicle. The essence was that people don't learn to do things
themselves if they are always doing things in cooperation with
others. I'm sorry I don't have the citation handy. I'll dig it out
from the library if people on the list want to see it.
I think that many teachers who aren't into cooperative
become interested in cooperative learning once given some tools and
For many, coop learning means group projects in
which the stars do
all the work and the slackers get the credit. Once given some
training and tools, they begin to understand that with proper
facilitation, all students (and the teacher) can realize great
benefits from coop learning. One thing slackers may learn, for
example, is that they will be called on the carpet for being
As far as characteristics, I would agree that
risk-taking may be two adjectives typical of teachers who embrace
this style of learning. Teachers who embrace co-op learning know
that they don't have to have all the answers. I would also add the
adjective "feminist", thinking along the lines of the "connected"
class described by Belenky, et all in *Women's Ways of Knowing*.
I'm not sure if teachers who embrace cooperative learning necessarily
enjoy groups themselves. I know I'm very much an individualist when
it comes to doing my own work -- I always want feedback, critique,
etc, but have a hard time sometimes with group or committee work that
involves depending on other people to get things done. So I can
understand student frustrations with slacker team-mates.
Yet, on the other hand, if I am working with other people that I know
I can count on to get things done, then I enjoy that experience.
And what relief to know not everything falls my shoulders.
Pamela Childers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I tend to believe that you have described good
teachers, not necessarily
teachers who use cooperative learning. I must play devil's advocate here
and say that teachers involved in effective use of wac, technology, etc.,
probably apply cooperative learning, but not just that pedagogy. Writing
centers are places of active cooperative learning, too, but they are not
just that. Therefore, I would rather see you talk about good teachers--we
have so much negative press about our profession that I encourage ALL
Pamela B. Childers, Ed.D. Caldwell Chair of Composition
The McCallie School 500 Dodds Avenue Chattanooga, TN 37404
Jana Vizmuller-Zocco <email@example.com>
Hi Ted, I have been a lurker for some time, and
this is my first foray
into reacting to a question posed by you. I do use CL - although I
cannot quantify exactly what percentage of the time (I suspect around 50%).
Your question about the nature of teachers who
use CL is a fascinating
one: contrary to your description, I am a teacher who uses CL when
teaching but I am very disappointed if I go to a presentation and it is
done through a form of CL - I would like to listen to the "expert". This
could be because my teaching mode is different from my learning
mode; or simply because taking a 3-/6-month course is different from
participating in a one-time 1-/2-hr. presentation.
Sally Robison <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Your generalization appears to fit my style of
teaching very closely. I
use cooperative groups occasionally, but not regularly. At the college
level, I find that the material I need to cover in a singular math methods
course for elementary teachers as well as for secondary teachers does not
give me adequate time for as much group work as I'd like. But I have
absolutely no problem giving control to the class and having a "let the
chips fall where they may" whenever I can. Some of the best lessons have
required significant input from the class.
Dr. Sally Robison, Math Education Florida Atlantic
College of Education 777 Glades Road
Boca Raton, FL 33431 Phone: 561-297-2305
I appear to be out-going, but I test very strongly toward the introvert
preference on the Myers Briggs Test. I see CL as a way to help me become more interpersonal with my students since that is not my natural tendancy. It's a way to help me get to know them better, since I get to work with them more one on one when using CL.
Delores Steinhauser Assoc. Prof., Economics Brookdale
Community College Lincroft, NJ
Christine Lee 4605182 <LEEC@am.nie.ac.sg>
I tend to disagree with Esther's point that "the out-going attitude must
be stressed". I am working collaboratively with a colleague using
cooperative learning in our teacher training programmes and giving
school-based workshops on CL to schools in Singapore. My colleague is
far from out-going as a personality type -- she is quiet as a person but
a wonderful colleague to work with. She uses a lot of CL in her
teaching. Like me she believes in the goals of cooperative learning in
our training of teachers - and in the teaching of our subjects areas. I
do not think that the "outgoing personality types" are the ones likely
to use CL -- What is more important is a fundamental belief in the
philosophy of CL and what it tries to achieve in the education of our
children -- and this transcends personality types.
Christine Lee Division of Geography National Institute
469 Bukit Timah Road Singapore 259759
EMail: LeeC@nievax.nie.ac.sg or ChrisLKE@singnet.com.sg
1998 MaurineH@aol.com Maurine Harrison
I agree that teachers who use cooperative learning strategies the most
extensively tend to be quite extraverted, outgoing,
process teachers. I have found CL to work well as ONE teaching/learning
mode but I have learned through experience to balance it with teaching/learning
styles more comfortable for the more reserved, reflective. That way, everyone
is stretched beyond what is their preferred style but gets the security
of learning also in their favorite mode.
Elizabeth Lee <elee7@IX.NETCOM.COM>
Baton Rouge Community College COMMCOLL@LSV.UKY.EDU
I agree wholeheartedly with you on every point, except the assumption
that CL’s are extroverted. I am an introvert according to the
Myers-Briggs. And I know that interpretation of my orientation toward
the world is true.
I have used cooperative learning extensively in my classses. Literature
amd composition classes provide wonderful opportunities for cooperative
and collaborative learning. I would never go back to the traditional
classroom. Come to think about it, I have never been in the traditional
teacher mode and been pleased with myself or my classes.
In our community college setting, we have young and older adult learners
and older adult learners, in particular, prefer cooperative learning
"Suzy Hill (864) 879-2885" <HILLSMH@GVLTEC.EDU>
Greenville Technical College Greenville, SC 29606
I have always thought that teaching styles reflect the
personality of the teacher - regardless of the subject. To that
extent I think that teachers who are comfortable with their
subject matter and with their level of academic freedom are more
likely to be interested in "opportunities of improvement".
I have always thought that those who are afraid to take
risks are those who are insecure either personally or professionally.
But this doesn't mean that I like CL, I've tried various methods
over the years and haven't found it to be any better than a good
I'll look forward to your compilation of comments.
Barb Gentry <bgentry@PARKLAND.CC.IL.US>
Barb Gentry Parkland College 217-351-2421
2400 W Bradley Ave. Champaign, IL 61821
Ted has done a wonderful job of describing the
characteristics of cooperative teachers. I would add that the
cooperative teacher has great respect for the students and
their differences. Students need to be comfortable with one
another and the teacher in order to risk letting someone
know that they do not understand or that they did not get the
"right" answer. The good cooperative teacher is able to build
that non-threatening environment where cooperation or
collaboration does not lead to embarassment. Also, the
cooperative work has to be challenging so that it is not easily
done by the individual members of the group--in this case
they have no need to work together. This means that the
teacher has to spend more time preparing for cooperative
Patience is a very necessary characteristic as well.
Risk-taking is certainly important. During the initial stages of
introducing cooperating learning as a first-time experience,
there will be failures and test scores may initially be lower.
The learning process never ends and one does not give up
but simply changes gears and proceeds.
Also, the coop teacher must be a really good listener. As
one listens to group discussions, there is much information
to be learned about where misunderstandings lie and also
about areas that need to be re-taught or at least presented
differently. CATs (classroom assessment techiniques) are
also helpful for the cooperative teacher. Example: The
teacher provides each student with a 3 by 5 card at the end
of class and asks the students 1. "What was the muddiest
point of today's work?" 2. Was your group successful
today? Why or why not? No names are used and the
student responses allow the teacher to get feedback
Another characteristic might be the ability to add a little
humor to the class. Cooperative learning works best in a
relaxed, non-threatening environment and sometimes a little
humor will go a long way in enabling students to relax
(especially if it is a math class and the student "hates"
Finally, the coop teacher is caring.
gail ackall <gackall@UTEP.EDU>
>I think you are probably right about extroverts
being better at CL.
As and introvert and scientist it is difficult to implement CL in science classes
as students in the upper levels know other students and have worked with
them before and have bad vibes about some students desire to participate.
They often feel certain students are just takers and do not participate.
Knowledge of the Myers-Briggs tells us some students just do not want to
participate and convicing them that in the job market they will have to work
with all types of people is difficult at best.
Robert A Cohen <bbq@ESU.EDU>
> Perhaps I have a naieve view of what a CL teacher is, but I couldn't help
> to agree that your points should apply to all teachers. As a teacher you
> better enjoy talking to your students and you should have high
> expectations for both yourself and your students.
ted panitz wrote:
> > What are personality and/or character traits of teachers who use
> > cooperative learning extensively in their classes?
I think successful teachers have most of the attributes Ted describes.
However, I'd bet that CL works better with those teachers who are
extroverted and learn better in groups themselves. Personally, other than
being an introvert and having a preference for working by myself, I think
I have the qualities Ted describes. I suspect that my own preference for
individual work is why I have found it difficult to use CL successfully in
my classes. Is there any research to back up (or counter) this guess?
| Robert Cohen Department of Physics |
| East Stroudsburg University |
| email@example.com East Stroudsburg, PA 18301 |
| http://www.esu.edu/~bbq/ (717) 422-3428 |
Catherine Emihovich <cemihovi@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
With all the good intentions in the world, by framing the discussion as you
did by listing out all the personality traits associated with CL teachers,
you give the impression that by default, teachers who use other methods
do not possess these same traits. I realize you did not want to do this but
that's how it reads to me. I am concerned about attempts to link any kinds
of personality traits with particular teaching strategies for several
reasons: it privileges individual behavior over the effects of jointly
negotiated classroom interactions between a teacher and students; it
ignores the larger social context in which teaching occurs; it presumes
that students learn best with teachers who use this method, when in fact
many students find it difficult to cope in groups; and, it becomes an
impossible task in teacher education to screen for candidates who meet
While I would agree that people choose a general teaching style with
which they feel familiar, I think it is the role of teacher education programs
to help students articulate their own teaching style by exposing them to a
variety of strategies, and more importantly, to help them become more
critically conscious of the effect their choices have on students' behavior
both cognitively and affectively.
Catherine Emihovich, Ph.D. Associate Professor
University at Buffalo
Buffalo Research Institute on Education for Teaching (BRIET)
381 Baldy Hall Buffalo, NY 14260-1000 716-645-6497
Judy Groulx <GROULX@GAMMA.IS.TCU.EDU>
Judy Groulx Texas Christian University School of Education, Box 297900
Fort Worth, TX 76129 AERA-C@ASUVM.INRE.ASU.EDU
I've been doing some reading recently about the
tendency of many teachers (and others) to attribute teaching success largely
to personality factors. I certainly don't discount characteristics such
as extroversion, risk-taking, etc. but I wonder if it wouldn't foster more
teacher self-efficacy if we thought about how _all_ kinds of teachers can
be encouraged to learn new strategies, rather than simply describing the
internal, stable traits of the successful ones.
"Carol D. Dean" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Samford University ph (205)870-2396 fax (205) 870-2068
I, also, am interested in the types of teachers who use CL
and other active learning strategies, especially in college
I believe we often teach to our own most comfortable
learning style. I suspect that those are most comfortable
with processing information in a traditional
way--fact-based, detailed, and sequential--who are rational
and technical are least likely to use CL and PBL in their
classrooms. Those who are more people-oriented, more
reflective, more comfortable with ambiguity are more likely
to use CL and PBL. I think you could correlate with
certain Myers-Briggs types. What do others think?
Mark Klespis <email@example.com>
I probably have many of the characteristics you mentioned, but that is not
the real reason I use cooperative learning.
The fact is, I have a severe hearing loss in both ears - as my family and
friends will readilty attest! I use CL because it is easier for me to
answer student questions as I walk around the room.
If I was lecturing, I had to run back and forth from the board to the students.
(Hmmm.....I didn't weigh as much then as I do now. I wonder.....)
But I digress. It wasn't until I saw some other teachers using CL that it
occurred to me that this was the solution to my problem. I've used it
extensively for 15 years now and can't imagine doing things differently.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Linda Mayfield)
I teach Success Skills, including critical thinking in math and
other areas, and I definitely think the instructor personality plays a part
in the ability and willingness to make collaboration efforts work well. But
I also don't think I have the same teaching personality all the time--I feel
much more "rah-rah" on collaborative activity days--in sort of a cheerleader
mode, than on days when the material being presented is in a different
format. Sometimes my challenge is to be a lecturer that presents so
compellingly that the students hang on every word. (Okay--I said it's the
challenge, not that I can always do it!) For me, I think I choose the
"teaching personality" that best suits what I want to accomplish that day.
Some content is just better suited to what you referred to as "expert
transmitting their knowledge," and I find that using a variety of
methodologies creates interest and addresses the variety of learning styles
in the class better than using the same one all the time.
Anne Edlin <anne@EUCLID.MATH.TEMPLE.EDU> Mathematics Senior TA Consultant Tel:(215) 204-5873
> Coop teachers are generally extroverted with outgoing personalities.
I am not sure I agree with the extrovert part. One of the reasons I
like group work is that often I get to interact with small groups of
students at a time. I have always found that the smaller the number of
people I am dealing with the better I interact.
As a child I was pretty shy and though I would no longer class myself as
shy, I still get very nervous about dealing with strangers. For
instance I have noticed that it takes me a lot longer to get to know (on
the most basic level) the new graduate students in my department than it
does for most other grads.
Liz Nutting <lizard@ASTRO.OCIS.TEMPLE.EDU>
>From some of what's already been said, it strikes me that another
characteristic of the CL teacher is that s/he understand her or himself as
also an ongoing learner in the classroom, both about pedagogy and possibly
about his or her own field. And the corollary is that s/he believes the
students can be his or her teachers, too.
Liz Nutting email@example.com
Dept. of Religion http://astro.ocis.temple.edu/~lizard
Temple University Philadelphia, PA 19122
Wendy Dotan <wdotan@HOTMAIL.COM>
This is my 5th year teaching 11th grade English and I use CL several
times a week. I agree with most of your observations. I personally am
very outgoing and sincerely enjoy getting to know my students. I also
teach the yearbook class which allows me the freedom to sit and listen
to their lives. One must be energetic and certainly flexible. It is
quite easy for the lesson to deteriorate if I simply return to my desk.
I feel the students feed off each other's energy during CL and don't
"feel" like they're working at all.
Wendy Dotan Loara High School 1765 W. Cerritos
Anaheim, CA 92804
Elizabeth Bergman <ejbergman@EMAIL.CCIS.EDU>
You can find my answers to your question about
teachers who use cooperative
learning within this letter. I wanted to reply point by point.
> Coop teachers are generally extroverted with outgoing personalities.
True. Even teachers who don't use CL tend to be extroverted, though. In
fact, many teachers who love to talk to their students and have that
extroverted personality tend to talk TOO much AT their students. It is a
combination of a teacher's enthusiasm for their students and subject and a
desire to teach in a manner than creates independent thinkers and problem
solvers that motivates a teacher to use CL.
> They have a high level of personal confidence and see their role as
>facilitator of learning versus expert transmitting their knowledge to
>the student. They are willing to give up some control of the class by
>sharing decision making with the students.
Giving up control is important, and yet--what sort of control? CL teachers
help students become researchers, and therefore give up the control that
comes with being the "expert" and purveyor of information. They have to
give up traditional order in the class in order to create small learning
environments. This means, though, that they must become excellent
managers, and it takes a lot of work to control this setting.
> Cl teachers have a high level of confidence in their students'
Absolutely . They see that every student has something to contribute.
They are fostering students' research and problem-solving skills on an
Steve Runge <srun@VM.STLAWU.EDU>
Steve Runge Academic Skills St. Lawrence U. Canton, NY 13617
My contribution to the discussion may derail the original question.
The one instructor I've worked with to develop a cooperative learning
workshop (in Chemistry) is not the slightest bit extroverted: in fact, I
would call her introverted, with an addendum that she makes a big effort
to be more outward. The more I learn about her (as with anyone) the more
complicated a person she is, and the more she defies such categories.
I'm something of an introvert myself (I send mail to listservs as a
compensation for my quiet nature in person), and yet I'm also pretty
committed to collaborative/cooperative learning: I was as a writing
instructor, and I am as a tutoring program coordinator.
Be cautious of using types like this, which may or may not derive from
the myers-briggs inventory and have, I think, very limited explanatory
power and serve mostly to pigeon-hole character traits better served by
simply getting to know someone and getting a gestalt feel for who they
It's tests like the myers-briggs and terms like "extrovert" and
"introvert" that make us into a nation of neurotics.
What is the point, precisely, of asking or answering the question, "What
are CL teachers like?" Just start stumping for CL on your campus, and
start building an interested network one person at a time. It works for
some and not for others.
If you start looking for a "type" of some kind, I think people will sense
this, and you'll alienate some folks who might otherwise be interested,
who don't want to adopt a whole ideology along with a useful pedagogical
I am not the list expert on Jung and types, but I agree that too much
can be read into the terms introvert and extrovert. Introverts may
prefer interacting with others one-on-one rather than in large groups,
but that does not necessarily mean they do not enjoy collaborative
learning, either as a student or as a teacher. I, too, am an introvert,
though my students would certainly not guess it. (Yes, when we cover
this in class I sometimes have them guess my type to prove a point. I
am an INFP. If they see my office, they can figure out the P;
otherwise, because of the level of structure in my classes, they assume
I am a J. And no one thinks I'm an I!)
I find that when I have a defined task I operate much as an extrovert
might. It's in social settings that I don't deal well in large groups.
When we discuss time mgmt in class I talk about the extrovert perhaps
needing more social time and the introvert needing more personal time.
As Steve R., I believe, mentioned, the introvert needs that time to
think things through on his/her own.
I know I do more collaborative work in class than most faculty. I would
also guess that the majority of professors are introverts. I thought
the more meaningful comment in the original post on this topic was that
faculty who encourage collaborative learning are willing to take risks.
Some exercises may bomb. That may affect teaching evaluations for that
term. But one learns from one's successes as well as one's failures.
The first time I taught my "Enhancing thinking skills" course, in which
I do virtually no"teaching"--I merely serve as facilitator when
needed--I received the lowest evaluations I had in years. My summer
eval. mean was 4.88 on a 5 pt. scale. I tried new things, and I learned
what worked and what didn't. And things that work in one section may
bomb in another, depending on the make-up and dynamics of the class.
But I think risk taking is a key to a successful collaborative classroom
Charla Bauer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Your post is full of insight. I think something must be said, however,
regarding the CL instructor's relationship to *knowledge*--a sort of
meta-disicplinary perspective or *epistemeic level* of awareness is
necessary in order to release the hold or control we have as instructors
over the *content* we expect the students to acquire. This sense of
control over what and how the student knows is deeply embedded in the
structure of institutionalized knowledge. Since our students have been
acculturated toward a desire for *certification* (as we are), they
actually need and seek the boundaries which safely delineate how and
what we are able to know. CL discovery processes may rename or
resituate or personalize the knowledge so that it *appears* different--but
it is still a basic understanding of the concepts.
So, CL instructors should not be *possessive* of the content of the course
they are teaching. They must be experts who recognize their own
knowledge in whatever form it is discovered by
Ted Sakshaug email@example.com
I guess I am not the norm for a teacher who uses PBL and CL in the
classroom. I am a very shy, introverted person, actually I am not really a
people person (How I got into teaching is another story). But I understand
what is the best methods for teaching and leaning according to current
research. It is difficult for me to watch my students head down blind
alleys of research when they are solving problems, I know it is a valuable
experience but I do not like it.
When I was in school I despised all role playing done in classes. I
thought it was foolish and and a wast of my time. I still think so, so of
all the techniques used that is one I will not use.
I guess the idea of using this approach comes from having taught lab
based science before other subjects knew what cooperitive learning was.
When I first heard the term, I just said, Oh, lab groups. many of these CL
and PBL techniques have been used for many years in science instruction
and teaching. Before I get all sorts of critical mail about the last statement,
I know it is not exactly the methods, but it is close and easily adaptable
going from labs to PBL and CL
"Phillip G. Sokolove" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This has been a really exciting set of responses, and today is the first
chance I've had to join the party. I teach a large "lecture" course in
college-level introductory biology (required for biology and biochemistry
majors, but also taken by non-science majors to fulfill their general
education requirement). Each Fall I present an "active learning" section (n
= 275+ students) of Biol 100 which includes a substantial CL component (the class is divided into "teams" of 4-5 students who exhange ideas and engage in discussion on in-class activities; there are no required out-of-class team assignments). Another section of the course (n=200+) is taught by a colleague in traditional lecture/exam format. Students in both sections aretold that they can switch sections if they feel their own learning style is
not compatible with the teaching approach. (This year I will be team
teaching with him in both sections since we will be running a long-term
longitudinal study of students taking the two different sections and need to "correct" for teacher effect.)
Jane has provided a list of characteristics that I'm quite comfortable with.
The one addition I would offer is that CL teachers are likely to be more
"student centered" than teachers who feel uncomfortable with CL. This
quality is implicit in many of the traits listed, but I thought it a good
idea to make it more explicit. I'll leave open for discussion what the term
"student centered" means, but for me it means that I am much more attentive to finding out what individual students have to say at all levels. Thus, teaching has become more of an interactive process not only with regard to student-student interactions, but also with respect to student-instructor interactions.
Also, Jane's comments about the "strong negative reactions" she's received
at presentations reminded me of a general question that has concerned me for a couple of years. I find that many of my students also have "strong
negative reactions" to the interactive approach I've been trying to
implement. Especially at the beginning of a semester, many students feel
that "we are wasting time" in class with all the students comments and
small-group discussion, and they wish I'd "cover what we're supposed to be learning" instead. I.e., they'd like more lecturing because they feel they
"learn more" when I lecture. As a result, from a third to a half of the
students express negative responses on end-of-course student evaluations,
and my personal evaluation "scores" (which are used for promotion and tenure decisions at my university) have plummeted.
Without belaboring the obvious (yes, we'd certainly "cover" more, but would students really understand what's been covered), the question I have is how many others find that their students are not just uncomfortable with the different approach, but remain actively resistant throughout the semester or school year? And about what percentage of students would you characterize as resistant?
If this topic has already come up on the listserv, I apologize for raising
it again. Is there anything that has been published about the topic of
student resistance and it's effect on teacher willingness to persue CL
and/or other active learning methods of teaching and learning?
strong negative reactions to CL
Albert Craig <email@example.com>
Hello members of the CL listserv,
I am coordinating a number of college-level practice firms (virtual
enterprises) which are basically *very* realistic business simulations.
Practice firms are truly collaborative learning environments. We too
have encountered a good deal of resistance to this new teaching approach
and some students have requested lecture type classes.
This has led me to reflect on why as an undergrad, I disliked group
assignments, although I am very sociable, and the possible changes that
can be made to our learning environment in order to avoid this
resentment of being forced to cooperate.
I believe that complementarity of skills is essential for me to consider
a team useful to me in the reaching of a goal. Unfortunately I still
encounter, each week, situations where I would "get things done" more
quickly working alone and this reminds me of my undergrad years. I do
recall, however that when it came down to the crunch during final exam
week, we would team up and cooperate, tutoring each other. In fact it
wasn't until a few years ago when I had the pleasure of being part of a
great team that I began to believe that teams could be efficient.
I wonder if this question of efficiency isn't the root of the student
resistance to CL? The answer may lie in the student's objectives.
Is it possible to demonstrate to students, in the first few periods,
that CL learning is more effective because of its depth and breadth?
How do you folks sell CL to your students?
Re: strong negative reactions to CL
"Russ Hunt" <HUNT@academic.stu.StThomasU.ca> firstname.lastname@example.org
There are tidal waves of publications and list discussions of this
issue, but I don't know that any have gone very far beyond two
" I wonder if this question of efficiency isn't the root of the
" student resistance to CL? The answer may lie in the student's
" objectives. Is it possible to demonstrate to students, in the first
" few periods, that CL learning is more effective because of its
" depth and breadth?
One is that the One Big Thing that students have learned from their
eduation is that it's about competition for marks. That's how we've
set it up, and that's what they learn.
The other thing they've learned -- maybe there are Two Big Things --
is that education is about doing, or knowing, what you're told.
The consequence of this is that if we want to use methods like CL,
we need to recognize, right off the bat, that our central challenge
is to help students to a deeper understanding of what learning is,
and what it's for, and that it's something you do, not something that
happens to you.
Re: strong negative reactions to CL Ppaulson@aol.com email@example.com
REFERENCE: E-mail of Jane Joritz-Nakagawa (9/17/98) and Phillip G. Sokolove(9/27/98).
"Listening is not Learning - and Talking is not Teaching". More than 40
years ago I saw a US Army training film on the topic of Methods Of
Instruction. In that film, those words were used by a Colonel who was
emphasizing the importance of active learning.
"People often learn more from a learnING person than they would from a
learnED person". About 25 years ago, I heard Dr. Hill, the author of a
pamphlet "Learning Through Discussion", say those words during a workshop at the University of Maine.
"If I want one of my officers to REALLY learn something, I assign them the task of teaching a class on that topic". About 20 years ago Roy Martin, former commanding general of a Maine National Air Guard Refueling Wing, used those words to explain one of his approaches to combat readiness.
The meaning of those quotations is getting clearer now that I am retired. I am working on a project to train other retired persons for work as Computer Literacy Volunteers (CLVs) serving in libraries, senior centers, retirement homes, and other places where older people have easy access. CLVs in training will use a "buddy system" of cooperative learning in which co- learners take turns playing the role of a tutor. I call the system CASMOLAT, the Coach And Student Method Of Learning And Teaching.
I find the CASMOLAT approach is a quick, effective, inexpensive, and fun
way to help adults develop computer skills, but it is difficult to "sell" this
method to the educational community.
A few days ago I found an excellent justification for Cooperative Learning and my CASMOLAT approach. This item appeared in the column, "Food for Thought for School Improvement Leaders" of the May 1997 issue of MAINE EDUCATOR, a monthly publication of the Maine Education Association:
. . .
10 percent of what we read,
20 percent of what we hear,
30 percent of what we see,
50 percent of what we both see and hear,
70 percent of what is discussed with others,
80 percent of what we experience personally,
95 percent of what we TEACH to someone else.
I have not found that specific item in my personal library of books by
Glasser, but I know he clearly advocates cooperative learning in the
classroom. I think it was probably something he
said in a lecture or workshop - and cited later by a good note-taker. A
few years ago while browsing in the bookstore at San Diego State University,
I read a little pamphlet written by another educator, and she included
a similar Glasser quote in her writing. She probably attended the same
Glasser workshop as the person who contributed the item to the MAINE EDUCATOR.
Unfortunately, I didn't buy the pamphlet and I don't remember the author's
name nor the title of her pamphlet.
"Phillip G. Sokolove" <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com
Paul Paulson has provided some very nice insights and quotations which will be helpful in my efforts to share with colleagues on my own campus what I think I have learned about teaching and learning. He has also made a very excellent point that many, if not all of us, have noted and quoted to
others: we learn best what we have to teach.
Two years ago I was given an article in which the authors used the terms
"learning" in ways that spoke volumes. They clearly had an extremely
"fuzzy" view of what the term meant. Indeed, one could argue they were
clueless about what that term meant -- even to them. I realized, however,
that I, too, needed to do some hard thinking about what "learning" meant to me. So, in the best "constructivist" manner, I asked myself to say what I
thought it meant.
As a budding neurobiologist I had been given a definition for learning that
was not language-dependent (since animals don't talk in the same sense we do, the field of behavioral neurobiology has an operational definition that seems to work well for many situations): "Learning is the modification of behavior based on experience." Beginning with this working definition, I asked myself, "How do I know when I know something?" Or, to sharpen the question and put it into a behavioral and operational context: "How can I demonstrate to myself that I have learned something?"
I was only able to come up with two alternatives that provided the required behavioral demonstration:
One, I could could "do" it (as in demonstrating I had learned a musical tune
by playing or singing it), or two, I could "teach" it. (I.e., I could
communicate my understanding of what I had learned to someone else (which, of course, is not language-independent, but I still accepted it as a
behavioral indicator that I'd learned something).
Paul's CASMOLAT approach makes sense and suggests a pedagogical approach I will try to incorporate into my own in-class CL work. I think the key is making sure that within a small group (whether a pair or a three- or foursome), for some (all?) small group learning activities one of the group members is designated as "tutor," and this role rotates among group members.
I've encountered something similar in a laboratory CL model in which one
member of the small group assumes the role of the "principal investigator"
while the group carries out an investigative lab activity, but this is my
first encounter with the idea that the tutorial function be identified with
single individual in an in-class, small group learning excercise.
On the topic of "strong negative reactions," I'd like to reiterated that
for me there are really two issues here. The first was my (I guess, naive)
question about whether there was much in the literature about other's
experience. I'm particularly interested in people's experience in
post-secondary institutions. Al Craig noted his own "resentment" as an
undergrad at being asked to participate in group work, and Russ Hunt has
pointed out that students that students have "learned" that what matters is
marks (grades) and doing or learning what you're told to do or learn. I
feel that Russ' observations are particularly relevant for the freshmen I
teach -- after all they've had 12 years or more to learn these "rules" about
how to succeed in school. The result is that I've got some real "hard
cases" to deal with, and since the class is large, there are a lot of them
and a number are highly vocal about it. (Russ, I wonder if you could
provide me with a key reference or two to get me started reading in the
"tidal wave of publications?" Thanks.)
My second question has not yet been addressed. To sharpen it a bit let me
ask it a different way: Who, at the post-secondary level, has found
themselves compromised professionally due (mainly or in part) to student
resistance to CL and/or other efforts to incorporate active learning
approaches in their classes? I am concerned about the effects of student
dissatisfaction on the perception of colleagues, department chairs and deans particularly in research institutions. A common reaction is that
"educational reforms don't work" or at least are not worth the effort, and
the result is that those who try them do not advance professionally. The
problem is, I think, acute for pre-tenure faculty -- precisely the cadre of
young, innovative individuals who are most likely
to be looking for new and creative ways to improve their world.