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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.orgPOD@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,
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.
Sat, 6 Jan 2001LAURA MCEWEN <laura@EDUCATION.CONCORDIA.CA>
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
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>
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hal Portner <PORTNER_ASSOCIATES@COMPUSERVE.COM>
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.
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
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
In answer to your question why so few responses--could it be that most
Perhaps you needed to ask how many are currently using this
Hope you get more responses this time. Thanks for the useful
Consider also that there are some on the list who still subscribe to the
Cooperative learning is fine as a change of pace, but most learning should
I do believe that students learn from one another and that the teacher
I also think that the notion of "cooperation" rather than competition
I'm not looking for a debate, so you don't need to respond.
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.
I'm really not surprised at the type of response and non-response you
A retired superintendent of schools taught a graduate course I had a few
My guess would be that most people on the list are either using CL
My guess is that many of the POD folk already believe in/incorporate