Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cooperative Learning Equals...

Cooperative learning equals group work equals team-based learning equals accountable talk equals letting the smart kid do all the work. And I concur with this person's opinion:

I think kids can learn a lot trying to explain something to somebody else. The trouble is most kids have a hard enough time just being students. Arguing that they can learn more from other kids than they can from their teachers is ludicrous.

Forty minutes talking with all my students usually better serves their education than two minutes talking to each of them. Reformers, including TBL (team-based learning) boosters, rail against "sage on the stage" teachers who try to "impart knowledge," as if that's a bad thing, but the fact is I can usually lead my students better than they can lead themselves. If I can't, please show me the door.

If you disagree, please derive the Quadratic Formula and then get back to me.

Yes, I know that scientists and people in just about every other profession work in groups to solve problems. There's an underlying assumption, though, that everyone in the group is knowledgeable and that they all bring something to the table. That is not the case in school so much of the time.

Group work has its place, but certainly not as a primary pedagogical tool in K-12 education.

14 comments:

Rhymes With Right said...

Gotta agree with you.

I know history and geography. They don't. They can talk for days and not figure it out without input from me -- often a great deal of input.

Now, does that mean there is not learning from each other than can go on? Hardly -- but without me laying the foundation, it is like building one's house on desert sands.

ChrisA said...

Our school district suffers from:

1. Group learning

2. algorithms are bad

I'm planning to let the school board know my opinion one more time, although it's pretty much a waste of breath. Also a bummer is the school board meets on Wednesday night, which has been beer night for the last 17 years!

Doug said...

I read the "editorial comments" by the "IP" and think he has not understood the point that the author was making. His examples of College and Grad school study sessions was MUCH different than an actual group assignment during a class, and the "peer pressure" he mentions is vastly diminished since he was in school. I have students in my class that would rather pull out their eyelashes than "collaborate" with someone on work. TBL reminds me of something... let me think... oh yeah, Socialism. Doesn't work for government and it doesn't work for Education either. College level collaboration is useful in very small groups, like 2 or 3, but even there it's dicey.

Kristy said...

Hi Darren,

I've been following your blog for awhile now and enjoy your thoughts. That being said, I believe that group work can be effective with the right structures in place.

I often use small group inquiry to arrive at science concepts. With my guidance, my students are usually able to create the knowledge that is more meaningful to them and extremely close to verbatim from the text. My assessments have demonstrated that they internalize and apply the information at a higher level. Additionally, I have a few methods in place to ensure individual accountability.

I think that it is important to mix up your instructional strategies to create the most successful and engaging environment.

EdD said...

Madeline Hunter once said that cooperative learning leads on to collective ignorance. That's probably the only thing she ever said with which I agree.

teacherblogger411 said...

I concur with you. Cooperative learning = the smart kid doing everything and everyone else sharing in the success. I teach advanced placement students, and they HATE cooperative learning.

pseudotsuga said...

I would add to that most undergraduate college courses, too.
By the time the 3rd and 4th year major classes come around, then there is enough background and expertise among students to actually make it work.
But no, educrats infect higher ed with their touchy-feely "group work is good" propaganda.
Idiots...

KauaiMark said...

"...people in just about every other profession work in groups to solve problems."

I would actually like challenge that statement.

In 30+ yrs in the software industry, it's normally ONE person working on ONE problem, set of problems or a clearly defined part of ONE program to complete.

A guy who never seems to be able to finish or complete his part of a project makes everyone miss the target date and will be shown the door.

Only the govt seems readily willing to keep deadwood around till it rots to dust.

Anonymous said...

It's back with a vengeance in SJUSD, only now its referred to as "accountable talk". Administrators and their bosses are visiting classrooms regularly to see if this new "baby" is being done in every classroom. Another trend that will probably come and go.

Darren said...

Doh! How could I have missed that one?! Thanks, I'll add that to the post.

Kristeen & Keith said...

when forced to 'diversify' my instructional techniques and employ group work I always let my students pick the groups. Everyone always wanted to work with the smart kids but no one wanted to work with the slackers no matter how popular they were. My hard working students always thanked me for this arrangement - they learned more and didn't have to carry the deadwood. The slackers still didn't learn anything but now didn't have anyone to copy. My second favorite was to allow the group to grade other team members anonymously (only I knew who gave the grade) and make that part of their final grade. Other than that, not a great instructional strategy in my opinion as a science instructor.

Curmudgeon said...

I tell my kids flat out. I like cooperative learning that has kids working together to find a goal, a goal that they can take very small steps towards and one which has limited AHA! requirements. Lab work, recording data, taking measurements and that sort of thing. Essentially, cooperative work that isn't being graded based on what each kid does separately.

Where I draw the line is the large project in which John is supposed to do the PowerPoint and Sue is supposed to do the research and SmartyBoy all the calculations (and winds up with the research and the Powerpoint cause the others didn't bother). If the smart kid has to depend on his friends for a grade then that's a problem.

Ellen K said...

The push for group work came about as a way to encourage girls to succeed. It seems girls work better in groups-although that was never my experience. Boys on the other hand benefit from competition. Competition is "bad" in the view of conventional wisdom. So yes, the smart kid does all the work because he or she are afraid of the bad grade and the rest of the kids just follow along. Only the smart kid learns. I was the smart kid back when. My kids were the smart kids when they were in school. And because the smart kids care, they get screwed over and do everyone's work. Sort of like our society right now.

Anonymous said...

One of my kids was in a mixed freshman science class (gifted, regular and spec ed), in which groupwork was the order of the day. My child and friends were all under the gifted label, but were forced to include a spec ed kid (LD) in their group. Said kid whined all day, cried if asked to do anything and was given the same A grade as the kids who did the work. At the end of two marking periods of this, the kids who had done the work asked the teacher to reassign the non-worker. He refused and when one of the kids accused him of not wanting to deal with that student himself, he agreed. But teachers are paid to teach/deal with kids; students aren't! It's child abuse!