“What would it take to convince or encourage you to try cooperative/collaborative teaching/learning techniques in your classes?

This is actually a somewhat generic question and even though it applies to any institutional or individual change I would like to focus it on cooperative learning. The discussions below have taken some interesting turns away from the original question but I thought I would include all the responses anyway since they apply to cooperative learning approaches.

“What would it take to convince or encourage you to try cooperative/collaborative teaching/learning techniques in your classes, or increase the degree to which you currently use student centered learning approaches.?”

If you would like to respond to this question or any of the reader responses below please e-mail me and I will add your comments to those below.





Previous Internet discussions- index page



Fri, 5 Jan 2001MaryLiz Pierce <MATH4FOBIX@AOL.COM>

GateWay Community CollegePhoenix, AZ

I would institute more cooperative learning projects if I were better able to

instill in my students the worth of it.I have been working with small

projects for a while in most of my classes and a large project in an

Arithmetic Review class.However, I see a vast differences in the amount a

particular class will accept and do well with.This past semester I had two

sections of the same class and the difference between them was startling.

One took to the cooperative learning assignments I gave them and everyone in

the class learned a great deal from them. Everyone passed, most with A's and

the lowest person in the class improved a great deal.In the other class it

was like pulling teeth to get them to work together, though I tried breaking

them up into various groups and kept the assignments short.In my Arithmetic

Review class I found that a long term class project did better than shorter

ones and now plan to expand on that this next semester.The students needed

more time with the same group of people so they could understand what was

expected of them. The only assignment that worked consistently through all

six of my classes was a Take Home Test that included several applications

which required a great deal of thought to understand.Usually the math was

pretty basic but the translation from English to math was in an unfamiliar

area.I encouraged them to work together and they did, learning a great deal

in the process. I would, however, love to find some shorter things I could

use to motivate them to work together that would fit in my classes.Since I

am apt to have several students in each class for whom English is a second

language, I think it would be a fantastic aid for their learning but they are

some of the hardest ones to involve.

I am always looking for good projects for them and will probably continue to

expand in this area but doubt if I will go to it for the majority of my

classes in the near future. I definitely need to find more ways of motivating

a large section of the groups that do not see its value.


        Sat, 27 Jan 2001
        JoAnn Medwid Baird <jmedwid@YAHOO.COM>
     I am experiencing a profound "experiment" in
education at the private school where I have been a
co-director here in California for six months.  Our
middle level students have daily Socratic Seminars
with a highly skilled facilitator.  Readings connect
the ancient Greeks with American History and current
political problems and issues.  Our children range
from 6th grade level to 8th grade level.  We have 13
children.  The seminars are student focused and
student led.  By late this spring the students
themselves will be able to actually facilitate the
discussions.  See Michael Strong's book, From Socratic
Seminars to Socratic Practice.  This tool has the
potential of transforming education, but it is complex
to assemble a critical mass of highly skilled
facilitators who "get it."  They must become student
centered and they ultimately must stop the fear and
the "control."
     Our students verbal skills are skyrocketing in
front of our eyes.  Their writing is flowing, flowing,
and flowing.  We have fluency, organization, form, and
genres absolutely flowing.  In six months they have
evolved from unruly kids to thinkers and authors.
Moreover, they're even beginning to "get" ethics and
higher moral values.
     I think cooperative learning is another tool
which moves in the direction of building student
competence from the inside out.  Marie Montessori
understood this, in principle, 100 years ago.  John
Dewey missed it. Why?  How does Progressivism and
Socialism impede Democracy in our schools and in our
lives?   Teachers need to explore the hows and
wherefores of these differences in philosophy.  They
need to deeply understand, internalize, and apply what
they know.
     This is why we continue to struggle and struggle
with this profound paradigm shift.  Teachers can not
and will not and don't dare to "let go."  They want to
be "politically correct" and other centered.  Maybe
this is because many haven't evolved enough as
individuals to trust a process higher than themselves
and to go with it.  It takes risk takers and
entrepreneurs.  The old model just does not want to
     How many people understand education in ancient
Athens vs. education in ancient Sparta?  (see:  Ideas
on Liberty, November of December issue)  American
public education pushes towards Sparta--teacher unions
lead the way towards control, control and control.
That is because there are always those who want
government to be on top of inept, childlike "us."
That way we can be kept in our places.  Likewise,
American children can be kept in their places.
Likewise, we hold vast potential for freedom and hope
in bureaucratic check.  These patterns are called
"isomorphisms."  They are ubiquitous and systemic.
They are so subtle we can not see the forest for the
trees.  The patterns control our practice because we
ourselves are NOT free.
     Fear rules.  Let go and trust the process,
American teachers.  Let go.
 Sat, 27 Jan 2001    Sharon Greenberg <Chicasha@AOL.COM>
My answer:
It would take a substantual amount of well researched studies, inspiring
anecdotal testimonials, evidence of increased test scores,  motivated and
enthusiastic students with the skills and discipline to work within a
structure that it built on  high expectations and trust that students will
pull their own weight and stay focused.
All kidding aside (sort of), I often have my students work in  cooperative
learning groups and each group has a rubric and each student a job.  This
helps to keep students focused.  Accountability is built into the rubric.
Kids allowing others to do all the work is my biggest hurdle.
Tue, 9 Jan 2001"Jeff L." <tackweed@WHIDBEY.NET>

It would take a cookbook approach to a specific topics/situations

Where it would have to be blatantly obvious to each pupil that their

Personal participation is essential to success.

Students come to my classes (7&8) apparently conditioned to

Believe that 'group' work means one or two students do the task, the

Others copy. They do not see this as unfair. The philosophy of the

non-participants seems to be that once you are ASSIGNED

(self- or other) to the group, your responsibility ends.

If there is no one in the group who will 'take the lead' they

Simply do not do the task.


Sat, 6 Jan 06Vicki Roth vrth@mail.rochester.eduPOD@listserv.nd.edu

I'm always happy to talk about cooperative/collaborative learning

ventures, so I am glad to see this issue re-surface here on the

list.At the University of Rochester, each semester, we organize

course-specific teams of students who work through challenging problems

together under the guidance of trained peer leaders, largely in science

courses.Most of these groups are considered integral components of the

course, i.e., not "add-ons." (Some groups, however, are more like

Supplemental Instruction groups, that is, a service provided to

those students in the course who would like to sign up for extra help.)

During this past fall semester, we offered over 100 student-centered

problem solving groups; again, most of these groups were integral parts

of these courses (biology, biochemistry, chemistry, computer science,

physics, etc.).

I know that there are others on this list who are providing many

cooperative learning opportunities for their students.I'm wondering if

others have discovered, as we have, that the basic idea is a wonderful

one, but keeping this moving forward on a large scale--thinking of

student-centered approaches as real systemic change-- requires time and

energy from the faculty and staff, and from peer leaders.This eventually

translates, of course, into the need for more $$ on a long-term basis.

But other good things require money, too!We shouldn't be afraid to go

after the dollars we need to make our courses better.



I teach an undergraduate distance education course called "Technology for

Educational Change" out of Concordia University in Montreal. I designed

the course with a 50% collaborative learning component—students use the

Intranet server "FirstClass" as their interactive forum. The greatest

challenge I have encountered is that of equitable assessment within this

learning context.


Sun, 7 Jan 2001Rachel Galea <Rachel.Galea-1@UTS.EDU.AU>

Hello from down under,

I have been monitoring discussions for the past 8 months on the list.

I am an honours student at the University of Technology, Sydney.

I am a avid supporter of the various cooperative and collaborative

teaching/learning techniques that can be used in the classroom.

However the main issues that I have are;

* Classroom Management (behavioral)

*Monitoring individual students' progress throughout the various class



Sun, 7 Jan 2001Julie Bradby <bradby@QONLINE.COM.AU>

Hi all,

Why not let's talk about co-op learning...have you come across a great

book called, Friendly Kids Friendly classrooms, and Different Kids, Same

Classroom [mixed ability classes]by Helen NcGrath, published in

Australia....great stuffchapter headings are...Building a supportive

classroom, organizing groups, Blooms etc..both books are wonderful in

that they give wonderful activities for teachers ...I use the books as

my bibles and I love them..

My favourite activity that I have adapted from anotheridea given to me

in my dim dark past at Pdsessions is called'Silent Maths'...it is a

game I use with parent groups, teachers, infants, uni students, grade

sixers anyone really...it is a good game to explicitly teach the true

spirit of co-operative learning and group dynamics and I do this after

the game in a brainstorming session making class charts on why and how

we learn and achieve success in a group..

The game is based on thejigsaw technique.I play it in groups of

five players, each group is given 5 envelopes, marked a-ewith 5 pieces

of jigsaw in it ....the aim of each group is to make 5 complete pictures

using the pieces assigned to each player in each envelope in the

shortest amount of time.

Of course each player has only one piece of each picture in their

envelope so the group needs to co-operate, share and swap pieces to make

their complete 5 pictures.But you further 'challenge' the co-operative

skills of the groups by imposing rules...no talking or gesturing, you

cannot ask for a piece of jigsaw you have them offered to you....the

group who can see what needs to be done quickly and co-operatively is

the group that can make their 5 pictures complete. You may need to first

play the game by allowing talk and no rules...this would give a perfect

example of how some in the group play for themselves, taking pieces and

ignore others and the aim of the game is not achieved,

(I use different pictures to cut up depending on the subject or needs of

the group.. [maths...shapes, large numerals, calendars, snakes and

ladders boards, chess board, maps ] [infants,...nursery rhymes, teddies]

[Adults,...postcards, magazine front pages, headlines..photos]

I prepare the game by naming the 5 envelopes for each group A, B, C, D,

E.Choose five pictures to cut up for each group and cut each into five

parts. Name each part with a letter.. A, B, C, D, E. Do the same with

the other pictures.Place all the A pieces in the 'A' envelope and so

on.I give time limits, set goals, use a stop watch ...have a go it is a

great open ended game that can be adaptedto play with 4yr olds to ---

I hope I have explained it clearly ...if not mail, me and I will try to


I feel to teach co-operatively we need to teach what co-operative

learning is...explicitly and with such a game as a vehicle gives the

class teacher or leader a focus for real experience based

discussion...let me know how it goes and whether you have any ideas on

how it can be developed further.


Mon, 8 Jan 2001Johan Viljoen <edlingtc@CIS.CO.ZA>

I want to query Ted's formulation of the question.

As it stands, it implies that only coop/collab work is student-

centered. I have to disagree. Individualized learning can be just as


OK, that is off my chest.

What would induce me to use or make more use of coop/collab


A strategy to ensure fairness to all participants in a group would

help me greatly.

Ultimately it is the individual that has to learn enough to enable

him/her to carry on life after the demise of the learning group.

Therefore, I should like to hear how one could ensure absolute

equity in effort, contribution, enthusiasm, quality, etc., from all

group members.

Even more important - how can one be sure that each individual

has learnt more about a phenomenon through coop/collab work

than he/she would have done alone?

If I could get some down-to-earth answers on these two questions

from the experts on the list, it might fire me up to try even harder.


Sun, 7 Jan 2001Ted Panitz <tpanitz@CAPECOD.NET>

Bob Cohen asked :

Does "student centered" necessarily mean "students working together"?

My quick answer is that students working together is only one

component of student centered learning. I consider the term pretty

generic in order to include paradigms ranging from collaborative to

cooperative learning approaches.I would suggest you read my article

comparing the definitions of collaborative and cooperative learning to

get a better sense of the other elements of student centered learning.

Student centered learning focuses attention much more on the students

versus the teacher and involves students in developing class procedures

such as student interactions, specifying assessments including grading

rubrics, evaluating group functioning, to name a few things.


Also you might wish to visit my web site and go to the link for coop

web sites where I have a number of links to Problem Based Learning web

sites. PBL is a good example of student centered learning.



Re: What is student centered?Sun, 7 Jan 2001jhengstler <jhengstler@SD64.BC.CA>

I would think if you're discussing student-centered teaching, you should be

looking at "constructivism" or "constructivist teaching" as it is discussed

in the current literature. This seems to be the latest "hot topic". If you

have a copy of Charles Reigeluth's Instructional-Design Theories and Models,

Vol II, ISBN 0-8058-2859-1, it's in there.Also, for the psychological

aspect take a look at Mary Driscoll's book, Psychology of Learning for

Instruction (2nd ed.) ISBN 0-205-26321-6.

For me the largest shift between more "traditional" teaching and

constructivism is found in the role of the teacher.Here the teacher is

seen as facilitator and enabler rather than "the expert".For years,

pre-service teacher education has spoken about the shift from the

"sage-on-the-stage" to the "guide-on-the-side", and this is what

constructivism takes to heart. It is my belief that the Internet with its

ready access to TRUE experts (eg. NASA scientists over classroom teacher)

has hastened this shift. However, one of the greatest failings of teachers

blindly jumping on the constructivist bandwagon (some web-based instruction

provide examples) is that they do not check to see how ready students are to

assume control/responsibility/active role in their learning. Often, where

teachers plunge into constructivist approaches without a good knowledge of

the students' abilities, motivations, etc., they end up with the weak skilled

students floundering, and if you've read some of the material by D. Kaplan,

whose work indicates that academic failure and deviant behavior is

motivated by experiences damaging to self-esteem, you would find such

teacher behavior professionally irresponsible.


Re: What is student centered?Sun, 7 Jan 2001

Peter Farruggio <pfarr@UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU>

For a more "hands-on" teacher role within a constructivist classroom (some

call it social constructivism) I suggest reading the work of Luis Moll and

his "funds of knowledge" research.This work is based on the seminal

writings (and research) of Lev Vygotsky in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.


Re: What is student centered?Sun, 7 Jan 2001ProfSci@AOL.COMAlan D. Sills

I'm a high school earth science teacher (students in grades 10 - 12, above

average intelligence, below average motivation, well above average income


I'm wrestling with the whole issue of PBL and student centered learning. At

what age/grade are students capable of establishing their own rubrics?

schedule? goals?Your thoughts?


Re: What is student centered?Sun, 7 Jan 2001John Wise <jcw140@PSU.EDU>

I think that children naturally set their own goals/rubrics from very early

ages (pre-school), but are socialized into a more passive system when they

enter school.(I'm thinking of pre-schoolers who memorize interesting facts

about dinosaurs or whatever - They set their interest, ask questions, and

decide when they have heard enough)

So, I think the students in your target group are/were capable - they just

need to be convinced to go back (somewhat) to that model.

Just some thoughts while avoiding work I should be doing tonight,


Re: What is student centered?Mon, 8 Jan 2001:

Sally Clarke <sa.clarke@QUT.EDU.AU>


my experience exactly.My office is next to our Student Guild child care

center and I have periodically eavesdropped on their conversations for

evidence in support of the paedagogy/andragogy split. I find none. The

preschoolers are experiential learners, seem to base their learning on

prior knowledge and ask lots of questions to direct their learning and

integrate new knowledge to change their world view.

I have pondered if an alien came to earth and went to a science lab and the

kindergarten what differences would they detect? Three immediately spring

to mind: size, physical coordination and language skills. On the methods of

enquiry??? Still working on that one.


Re: What is student centered?Sun, 7 Jan 2001

jhengstler <jhengstler@SD64.BC.CA>

Mature students, are mature students no matter what the chronological age.

Some are more than ready to assume control for learning, while others need

more guidance and modeling.For me, it is often a judgment call as a

professional.What I am trying to deal with, myself, is trying to create

more structure for those students who need it (sort of self-directed

training wheels).Some students in the same time block have to check in

with me everyday, some only twice a week or so.Sometimes the freedom

carrot is enough to develop more self-direction, for others it's not.I try

to reach them all; I don't give up.But when the semester or year ends and

the light bulb hasn't lit, I don't crucify myself, but I try to figure out

what could I change to be more successful with that type of student next

time. I also keep visiting other schools that deal with self-pacing and

self-direction for students to see what they know that I don't.

What the traditional time-bound school approach hasn't officially accepted

is that students learn at different paces--some rip through material, some

savour it, and some need to go over it in several different forms.

Generally, every student will vary the pace throughout a course based on

their own knowledge and skill base.For the students that I have that take

"longer" than one semester for a course other students do in a semester,

usually they realize that the benefit of "knowing" the course material is

more then worth the extra time.Of course, some just procrastinate and it's

my job to push them at a pace comfortable for them.The best analogy would

be a personal trainer @ the gym with a client--push the client too hard, too

fast and the client feels badly emotionally as well as physically.A

professional personal trainer, who knows his/her job well, is able to

determine the client's fitness level and push them just enough to ensure

progress without damage.

In teaching, I think that there are practical considerations, especially

when your learning outcomes are mandated by the government.I don't know

how specific yours are.What I have done is downloaded the curriculum

requirements (they usually include suggested projects and assessment

strategies), I share those with the students who are interested in a

constructivist approach and we conference about what they want to do/can do,

what interests them and the order in which the outcomes will be addressed.

I try to suggest about 18-25 assessment pieces based on the learning

outcomes. If you can, you might want to standardize the number of pieces

graded--eg. 20 major pieces (could be tests, projects, whatever in any

combination). You could even do it in a portfolio type approach.That would

help with pacing--eg. at half-way through the semester, my students might

receive a comment such as, "You have completed 6 of the 18 major projects

required for course completion.At your current pace you will complete the

course by X" Some self-paced schools have software that will automatically

generate reports like this.

Here in BC, Canada, the government generally will suggest a rubric for each

project suggested, and you might use that for a starting point/model.The

question is---how will they/you know when the outcomes have been met

(basic), superceded or not met at all?Are you willing to accept

resubmissions for upgrading or provide additional attempts at an exam if

they choose to do an exam.An additional problem is your grading

system---GPA, percentage, letter grades. Sometimes the fuzzy edge of letter

grades is a better measure then a GPA or percent.Really, what's the

difference between a 95% and a 97%? Also, my experience of 11-12th graders

are that GPA (or marks) can be of paramount importance to them as they

compete for college/university seats.

I guess for me the baseline is always, what's reasonable?While I know that

many will say that what's reasonable for one person is not for another, but

by in large, my experience teaching self-directed learning courses over the

last 6 years or so is that 90% of students have reasonable parameters---even

if they choose not to meet them.They know when work is shoddy, but turn it

in in hopes that this is the day I won't care.When I return it for

upgrading, the usual response is, "Yeah, I figured I'd have to do that

again." By the end of the semester, students figure out its more efficient

to do something once and well then redo.

Of course, the major considerations for efficient constructivist

implementation are class size and prep time.If you are going to be

conferencing, negotiating, etc., that eats up a great deal of time.My

experience in standard-type (traditional set-ups vs. alternative schools),

they like constructivism but don't really back it up with downsizing classes

or more teacher prep time.As far as I'm concerned, you can't make the

transition from industrialized to customized approach without these.I'm

lucky---my school considers my program non-traditional.I have less

students then "average" so I have more per student time.But for teachers

who don't, you might look at some of the ways self-directed and self-paced

programs are run at nearby "alternative" schools teaching the same

curriculum and look to adapt some of those practices in a manner that will

work for you.There's a lot to say for looking at a model, and then

tailoring to your needs.


Re: What is student centered?Tue, 9 Jan 2001

Robert A Cohen <bbq@ESU.EDU>

I checked out the web site suggested by Ted Panitz:

> http://www.capecod.net/~tpanitz/tedspage/tedsarticles/coopdefinition.htm

in which Ted quotes the six principles of Johnson et al. (1991):


1. knowledge is constructed, discovered, and transformed by students.

Faculty create the conditions within which students can construct

meaning from the material studied by processing it through existing

cognitive structures and then retaining it in long-term memory where it

remains open to further processing and possible reconstruction.

2. students actively construct their own knowledge. Learning is

conceived of as something a learner does, not something that is done to

the learner. Students do not passively accept knowledge from the teacher

or curriculum. Students activate their existing cognitive structures or

construct new ones to subsume the new input.

3. faculty effort is aimed at developing students' competencies and


4. education is a personal transaction among students and between the

faculty and students as they work together.

5. all of the above can only take place within a cooperative context.

6. teaching is assumed to be a complex application of theory and

research that requires considerable teacher training and continuous

refinement of skills and procedures


In #4 and #5, what do Johnson et al. mean "work together" and "cooperative

context"?My first impression is that the authors are emphasizing that

the environment can't be "competitive" (both between students and between

students and instructor).I think this is more in line with how Jan Noga

expressed student-centered.However, based upon what Ted Panitz has

written, it seems to instead mean that students work in groups and design

many of the rules, regulations or topics for the class.Am I mistaken?


Re: What is student centered?Tue, 9 Jan 2001

"Darryl Stevens, PhD" <dstevens@CHAPMAN.EDU>

While I agree (to some extent) with the explanations of what

student-centered means, I am struck by the fact that all of the definitions

have created two separate classes of individuals...students and teachers.

No matter how philosophically egalitarian one may be, that still implies a

hierarchy with the teacher at the top.In fact, student-centered systems by

such definition would be imposed on the student by the teacher.

I wish I could attribute properly what I am about to say, but I have long

since forgotten its origin.The source, however, is a Vygotskian.My

understanding of the role of the teacher is that he or she is an expert.In

teacher-centered classrooms, he or she is the expert "knower."In

student-centered classrooms, he or she is the expert "learner."

To me this means two things.First, I structure classroom time so that I

can model learning for my students.Second, I structure assignments that

are about "finding out" rather than knowing.My questions are about the

steps that they use as opposed to their final product.In short, the

process is just as important as product.


Re: What is student centered?Tue, 9 Jan 2001:

Gordon Timothy TimothyG@RICKS.EDU

Centeredness is an interesting concept.It can be used in many ways.

In education there are at least four centers of focus used at varying times.

1.Teacher centered; where the teacher, as the expert

makes all decisions, all the rules, all the standards, rubrics, etc.

creates all materials, including assessments,

grades the work,

and the student is like a container to be filled up,

or a sponge that absorbs everything the teacher presents.

2.Student centered, where the teacher as an advisor or coach

assists students who arelike plants, growing, needing

nourishment, weeding, water, sun...

in making decisions, rules, standards, rubrics,

creating materials and self assessments, self grading, etc.

3.Product centered, where the teacher and students collaborate as

peers in making decisions, rules, standards, rubrics,

creating materials and peer assessments, peer grading, etc.

4.Standard centered, where the student and teacher work together to

meet the expectations of some external entity that has assumed

power over the system,either for accreditation,

for theoretical or discipline-content validation,

for satisfaction of financial requirements, or with

some other kind of assumed political, moral or ethical authority.

Each of theses centers compete in reality for power in the system.

Each can be criticized,ignored, lauded, and justified.

There are many things to consider as one involved in the educational process.


Re: What is student centered?Tue, 9 Jan 2001

Mike Dobson <m.dobson@LANCASTER.AC.UK>

I think Michele is right to raise discipline integrity.I don't know Parker's

workbut Wenger's ideas about communities of practiceseem to help since they

balance the contribution of reifications (in this case curriculum canons etc.)

with participation in action (inquiry). Each have a role to play.To paraphrase

Wenger... When the informality of participation is confusingly loose when the

fluidity of its implicitness impedes coordination, when its partiality is too

narrow then it is reification (in this case ideas about discipline integrity)

that comes to the rescue.


Re: What is student centered?Mon, 8 Jan 2001

Jan Noga <jan.noga@UC.EDU>

I would expand on Ted's definition by adding that student-centered learning

focuses on the students as the creators of knowledge rather than the

teacher. Instead of subject matter expert, the teacher's primary role is

that of facilitator of learning. Classroom teaching is more likely to

involve a mix of hands-on activities, individual and group projects,

research, and discussion with much less lecture than in more traditional,

teacher-centered approaches. Constructivist learning theory is oriented

around a student-centered approach that utilizes cooperative and

collaborative techniques as part of an overall mix of group and individual

approaches. So, while cooperative learning is a piece of a student-centered

approach, I would not consider it the whole pie, so to speak.

I use a primarily student-centered approach with my pre-service secondary ed

students so that they have a model for their own teaching. One thing I

always emphasize with them is that student-centered learning is much harder

than traditional, teacher-centered approaches and takes more time to

implement. Thus, teachers need to be choiceful about the balance between

depth and breadth when using student-centered approaches.


What is student centered? Mid-morning rambleMon, 8 Jan 2001

Ryan Collay <collay@SMILE.ORST.EDU>

Howdy- I'm beginning my course design for "Methods of SMILE", our

program to support historically under-represented youth achieve their

dreams of coming to college, and these issues play a large role in

our program design for teachers and young people.Let me first say

that I dislike "student centered" as a term because it implies the

opposite of "teacher centered".As a teacher I am responsible for

the quality of the course, hence "teacher Centered."But what I

design and the role I take, an actively teacherly choice, is to

empower students to create something greater than just my expertise.

Is this students centered?I don't know.

My understanding of the term is that we are shifting the focus to

accessing students' knowledge, revealing their thought processes and

delving into the affective factors that play such a large role in

learning and to explicitly design our instruction to reflect this

understanding.My concern is that some believe that in

teacher-centered classrooms that students don't construct knowledge.

Of course students do, just without the teacher's knowledge, without

a vivid context-content without a teacher directed context serves to

create hidden misconceptions.In my course we explore community,

culture, our own knowledge base as teachers, and blend these into a

more participatory role for all members.In fact the course enhances

their role as teachers, empowered learners, mentors in education for

young people. Teachers are active, excited, life-long learners who

are aware of motivation, misconceptions, and reflect with students a

love of learning. Teachers are students in a continua of learning.

When we create a classroom where teachers are much more aware of all

the factors involved in learning, and use this knowledge construction

process to serve their own reflection and design, we can still have

teacher centered, just a more aware teacher of the entire process.

Does the teacher stepping from behind to podium created student

centered?No.Do teachers need to understand what students will do

with content?Yes.

here's another thought.

Why do we not work to make students responsible for their own

learning, to self assess their own processes and develop a

met-cognitive view of their role in education.One of the problems I

see with teaching and learning is a sense of passivity: teachers that

just deliver content (not yet content delivery experts) and students

who see themselves as passive antenna (sort of like the chip in a


Just some thoughts for the new year.


Re: Co-op learningWed, 10 Jan 2001Johan Viljoen <edlingtc@CIS.CO.ZA>

Thanks to Ted for replying to my concerns.

His solution to the issue of individual accountability is sensible.

>There are hundreds of studies about the benefits of coop learning. This

>statement presumes that coop learning strategies are implemented properly.

Let me be the devil's advocate. There are hundreds, perhaps

thousands, of studies about the benefits of individual learning too;

presuming that individualized learning strategies are likewise

implemented properly.;-)

I have been through a number of coop learning experiences, both

as perpetrator and victim. Sometimes the proper strategies work,

sometimes they don't. Groups seem to be rather unpredictable

complex systems.

Once we start applying coop strategies rigorously according to this

or that set of rules, we are in the field of Instructional (Systems)

Design, which does not pander to the constructivist principles

supposedly inherent in coop work. Catch 22?

There seems to be something wrong with my logic. Can't figure it



Re: Co-op learningWed, 10 Jan 2001

Ron Sheese <rsheese@YORKU.CA>

I often think of both instructional design and cooperative learning as

largely improvisational arts like jazz or actor's improv teams.The

metaphor suggests that there are some basic rules or heuristics that one can

follow, but a good deal of the satisfaction comes from finding new ways to

use and build on the complexities of the situation as it develops.Some

themes that are suggested are picked up and elaborated in interesting ways;

other times the same theme just doesn't seem to go anywhere and one has to

think quickly and be very resourceful to keep the situation evolving well.

Analysis of one's efforts designing group work and learning (not learning)

within them can add immeasurably to the resources to be drawn on in future

efforts, but never eliminates the improvisational aspect which stems from

the ideas about learning, the topic and the setting that group members

themselves bring to the situation.


Re: Co-op learningWed, 10 Jan 2001Nancy Johnston <davidge@SFU.CA>

I concur with the notion that learning and performance often involve

an improvisational aspect and have found the work of Donald Schon

(focusing on reflective practice) to be informative as we have

explored how students may be learning through their co-operative

education work experiences (not to be confused with theco-operative

learning talked about on this forum- though we do also sometimes

engage in co-operative learning with our co-op students).Schon

talks about the notion of "reflection-in-practice" where

"problem solving requires more than just applying a set of solutions

to a given situation, it is an art that you practice which requires

on the spot reflection on what you are doing and how that influences

the original problem and the experiences you bring to it."

In this sense we in Co-op have considered that there may be basic

employability related "rules or heuristics" learned through co-op

educationcurriculum that are then built upon and modified by the

student in each new work placement or experience encountered.The

real value of the co-op educator, in our context, may then well be to

facilitate this improvisation so as to enhance the students' "art of

professional practice".Just some thoughts on co-op learning from

another perspective!


Re: Co-op learningThu, 11 Jan 2001

Johan Viljoen <edlingtc@CIS.CO.ZA>

Nancy Johnston and Ron Sheese point out what I have

experienced as very valid issues in group work, whether it be co-op

learning or co-op education (the latter involving employment), viz.

the (sometimes) very dynamic and unpredictable nature of group

learning processes.

This is exactly what I find exciting about these 'new paradigms' of

learning. My students constantly surprise me with new insights

when they get some freedom of movement. I think I often learn

more from them than vice versa (cliché, OK! but still true).

Somewhere on his very useful Web site (if I remember correctly)

Ted Panitz has something about the distinction between

cooperative and collaborative learning. Those people who do

distinguish between the two, seem to see cooperative learning as

the more 'structured' or systematic of the two approaches.

I like the distinction for utilitarian purposes. If one accepts the

distinction, collaborative learning can sometimes literally be a

thrilling experience owing to its often unexpected and maverick

results, both for the learner and the teacher/facilitator/mentor (or

whatever fashionable name). However, it seems that it is also the

more risky and un-I(S)D approach.

Letting go of one's joystick can be jolly unnerving to a conventional

educator bred in the typical School of Education and weaned on

Gagné's 'Events of Instruction' (or whatever rigid 'paradigm' was

the vogue in those days).


Re: What is student centered?Mon, 8 Jan 2001


Following is an article titled "Active Learning" that I wrote a couple of

years ago. It touches on the process of student-centered learning and

offers a brief bibliography on the subject.

Hal Portner


Active Learning

Throughout the decade, numerous leaders in the field of higher education

together with a series of national reports repeatedly urged college faculty

to actively and directly involve and engage students in the process of

learning. The phrase most frequently used to describe this process is

"Active Learning."

What is Active Learning?

Charles Bonwell and James Eison (Active Learning: Creating Excitement in

the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1, 1991. Washington

D.C.) attempt to answer this question by conjecturing that some educators'

use of the term "active learning" has relied on intuitive understanding;

consequently, they assert that all learning is inherently active and that

students are therefore actively involved while listening to formal

presentations in the classroom. Though the term "active learning" has never

been precisely defined in educational literature, analysis of the

literature suggests that students must do more than just listen: They must

read, write, discuss, or be engaged in solving problems. Most important, to

be actively involved, students must engage in such higher-orderthinking

tasks as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Within this context, active

learning strategies might be defined as instructional activities involving

students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing.

Why is Active Learning Important?

"Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by

sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments,

and by spitting out answers. The use of active learning instructional

strategies in the classroom is vital because of their powerful impact on

students' learning. They must talk about what they are learning, write

about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives.

They must make what they learn part of themselves." (Chickering, A. and

Gamson, Z. "Seven Principles for Good Practice." AAHE Bulletin 39, 1987. P.


The use of active learning instructional strategies is important because of

their powerful impact on students' learning. For example, Bonwell and Eison

cite several studies that have shown that students prefer strategies

promoting active learning to traditional lectures. Other research studies

evaluating students' achievement have demonstrated that many active

learning strategies are comparable to lectures in promoting the mastery of

content but superior to lectures in promoting the development of students'

skills; especially in thinking and writing. Further, some cognitive

research has shown that a significant number of individuals have learning

styles best served by pedagogical techniques other than lecturing.

Some Active Learning Literature

Brookfield, Stephen D. The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,

1990. (LB2331 B68 1990)

The author identifies critical areas in the teaching-learning relationship

- such as building trust with students and overcoming resistance to

learning - and demonstrates what teachers can do to improve their skills to

enhance students' classroom involvement. Especially germane to active

learning are chapter 6, Lecturing Creatively; Chapters 7 and 8, Preparing

and Facilitating Discussions; and Chapter 9, Using Simulations and Role


Sutherland, T. and Bonwell, C. (eds.), Using Active Learning in College

Classes: A Range of Options for Faculty. New Directions for Teaching and

Learning, no. 67. San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 1996. (LB1027.23 U85 1996)

The seven chapters in this volume describe the concept of the active

learning continuum in higher education and tie various practical examples

to that concept. Chapter topics include Choosing Activities to Engage

Students in the Classroom, Providing Structure, Enhancing the Lecture,

Writing as Active Learning, Using Electronic Tools to Promote Active

Learning, "Groupwork," and Emerging Issues in the Discussion of Active


Millis, Barbara J., and Cottell, Philip G., Jr. Cooperative Learning for

Higher Education Faculty. Pheonix, Arizona: Oryx Press, 1998. (LB2331 M4816


Two key characteristics of Cooperative Learning are 1) its ability to

create active learning communities within the classroom, and 2) its

structure in which students learn independently outside of class then

process the material cooperatively. Within the context of Cooperative

Learning, the authors provide an overview, discuss classroom management and

structure, student assessment, and supporting efforts.

Bonwell, Charles C. and Eison, James A. Active Learning: Creating

Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1, 1991.

Washington D.C.: The George Washington University School of Education and

Human Development, 1991. (LB2331 B56 1991)

The authors not only discuss in detail, but also provides numerous examples

of Active Learning and its application. Specifically, the book suggests

answers to such questions as: What is active learning and why is it

important? How can active learning be incorporated in the classroom? What

are its barriers? and What conclusions should be drawn?

An "Active Learning" file of articles, newsletters and monographs is also

housed in the Library. Its contents includes:

Idea Papers #13 (The Feedback Lecture), #14 (Improving Lectures, and

#15Improving Discussions) from the series by the Kansas State University

Center for Faculty Development.

Cuseo, Joseph B., Cooperative Learning: A Pedagogy for Addressing

Contemporary Challenges & Critical Issues in Higher Education. Stillwater,

OK: New Forums Press, 1996.

Cooperative Learning in College Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and

Technology, Volume 8, Number 3 (Spring 1998) of Cooperative Learning and

College Teaching. Edited by Jim Cooper. Contributing Authors: Nada Mach,

Mel Silberman, and Leonard Springer.

"Getting from Teaching to Learning: Energizing the College Classroom."

Teaching at UNL, Vol. 20, No. 1 (August/September 1998).

"Cooperative Learning: Acquiring Wisdom or Goofing Off?" Instructional

Development, University of Minnesota, Duluth. Winter Quarter, 1999.

Michaelsen, Larry M. (professor of management, University of Oklahoma)

Three Keys to Using Learning Groups Effectively. December 1998.

Foote, Elizabeth, Collaborative Learning in Community Colleges, ERIC Digest

#ED411023 97.


Elaine Tarr <ETarr55667@AOL.COM>

      In answer to your question why so few responses--could it be that most

people on the listserve already use cooperative/collaborative
teaching/learning techniques and therefore felt that the question didn't
apply to them?

      Perhaps you needed to ask how many are currently using this

teaching/learning technique, under what circumstances, and how frequently.  I
also wonder how many have actually been trained to use cooperative learning.

      Hope you get more responses this time.  Thanks for the useful

information you provide.
Anne Pemberton <apembert@CROSSLINK.NET>

        Consider also that there are some on the list who still subscribe to the

original learning theories of this list which centered on the work or Rita
and Ken Dunn on Individual Learning Styles, which may be the opposite
theory to cooperative/collaborative learning.

        Cooperative learning is fine as a change of pace, but most learning should

be directed at the individual, not at a group, hoping they all get it! We
must teach each child before us, and not be content at seeing just "most"
of the kids "get it" ... We cannot lose sight of the fact that our students
are unique indivuals, not teams ....
Elaine Tarr <ETarr55667@AOL.COM>


      Thanks for your thoughts, though I truly didn't expect any from
others.  I see your point of view, but quite frankly I never considered
cooperative learning and Dunn & Dunn's (or others') theory of learning styles
mutually exclusive.

      I do believe that students learn from one another and that the teacher

is not the only one from whom students learn.  I also believe that unless a
class consists of 12 or fewer students it is virtually impossible to truly
"individualize" instruction all the time (though it is possible to
individualize assignments and projects). An alternative would be to create
groups of individuals with similar learning styles.

      I also think that the notion of "cooperation" rather than competition

is a good one.  I like the idea of students working together collaboratively.

      I'm not looking for a debate, so you don't need to respond.

Dennis Hoban <hoband@yahoo.com>
Ted--- My reaction to why people aren't posting about cooperative learning is that K-12 education has
become so politicized and so directed by state  government and increasingly  federal government that few teachers would dare be student centered.  They (the teachers) are under great pressure to produce a product that is uniform and robot-like that they dare not engage in "subversive" activities like cooperation.  Heck, some teachers even think they could be fired if the kids "have fun" in their classrooms.  And many of  the university types (I would include myself in this group but in the medical education side of things) have kept our mouths shut about what is happening  K-12 education.  Shame on us!  We know better, but we've been too cowardly and too apathetic to say to state departments of instruction, governors, boards of education, etc. that they are misguided about what they are doing in education. We know, for example, that a surprisingly large number of children have trouble learning in the teacher or content centered classroom.  Depending on where you teach perhaps as many as half of your class or more could have one or more of the following conditions or combination thereof:  ADD/ADHD, dyslexia,  other learning disabilities, fetal alcohol syndrome/fetal alcohol effect, malnourishment, inadequate support systems at home, lack English language skills, etc. Despite this predicament  we let states develop rigid standards of learning and incomprehensible testing systems aimed at taking raw material (kids) and making standard widgets of them.  Shame, shame, shame on us for allowing this kind of thinking to rule K-12 education in the US as we start the 21st century.

It is my belief, that until professional educators like you and your colleagues in the trenches, reestablish the efficacy of social learning theory  and reintroduce the importance of individual differences, cooperative learning will not be discussed or be taken seriously.  Politicians need to taught what you professional educators know, so they can modify their " business" approach to education.

I hope this message speaks to your question.  I have spent nearly a quarter century working with problem-based learning (pure: student driven, group determined learning issues, self, peer, and teacher evaluations etc) and know that this form of cooperative learning  provides an ideal education for living in a democracy and prepares students  for a lifetime of  learning.

        Betty Stoner <wwriters@ns.neiu.k12.pa.us>

I'm really not surprised at the type of response and non-response you

received on this question.  Most teachers I have met tend to be rather
conservative souls.  It's very easy to close our doors and do what we think
is best for our students in our own classrooms.  I don't think many teachers
see themselves as shortchanging students with this attitude.  I think we all
do the best that we can, as we perceive that best to be.  Technological
cooperation with other teachers and schools suddenly brings the teacher into
a world with a direct audience....and that is threatening for many of our

A  retired superintendent of schools taught a graduate course I had a few

years ago.  Our first assignment was to tell him what we would like to have
permission to do as teachers.  I startled him when I said, "I would like
permission to crash and burn now and then."  I explained that I like to try
new things in my classes, but when I do try new things, they don't always
work.  Some administrators are not comfortable with that.  They want us to
always be successful teachers.  The paradox, as I see it, is that you can't
be a successful teacher if you don't make a few mistakes.

My guess would be that most people on the list are either using CL

already (or think they are) or don't particularly want to advertise the
fact that they're not doing so.
bmullini <bmullini@monmouth.edu>

My guess is that many of the POD folk already believe in/incorporate

cooperative/collaborative teaching/learning techniques in their classes - so
perhaps this is the wrong audience to ask the question as phrased.  First,
people have to know what it is...then they have to think about how that would
change their current approach (i.e. this must be asked of more traditional
teachers)... then they can begin to answer it.  Most of the folks on this list
are likely already converted...so I wouldn't take a whole lot (and they
therefore might not answer).  Just my thoughts as to why.