Before the second semester started, as part of my long-term plan, I decided to incorporate cooperative learning strategies in my Mathematics classes to enhance the learners’ learning of Mathematical concepts and the contextual uses of the English language. Provided that it would be properly implemented, I believe it would help both the average and the fast learners in the classroom.
Through cooperative learning, the learners’ social skills could be enhanced as they work with their teammates in ensuring both individual and group success. In addition to, I found this strategy to be very interesting because learning usually happens in a very natural way wherein everyone could get support from every member of the group. Other advantages of cooperative learning strategies include a greater chance of developing the learners’ social skills, oral communication skills, self esteem and most of all their academic achievement regardless of their academic background.
However, in order to accomplish tremendous success in this strategy, as teachers, we need to fully understand how cooperative learning works best in the classroom. We need to effectively communicate to the learners that through this strategy, no one of the team members could be considered loser for every member gain from each other’s efforts. Instead, we have to make sure that the learners fully understand how every member share a common fate, thus, how one’s performance could positively or negatively affect other members.
Before fully implementing the strategy in the classroom, learners need to completely understand the importance of each member in a team. At this point, they need to understand that they would not only be working with those students they like or the ones who are good. Instead, they need to recognize their individual responsibility in helping one another in order to succeed in every learning endeavor.
In my all-boy class, I related a learning team to a football team. In every game, one or two players would always stand out but that is not important at all because what is more important, is that, they won the game as a team and no good player could win without the support of other team members and the same is true in a learning team. One might be good in one area and the others might be good in another area. As a team, they could use their differences as a tool to learn from one another.
And to personally build their respective teams, I gave time to my students to creatively think of a name that would best describe their team as learners of Mathematics. I gave them enough time to discuss and decide for it and in the end they were able to coin interesting names which they cheered as I read them. Some of the teams came with names like MathMatrix, The Absolute, Math Boys, Super Math and Math Rangers and they all justified why they came up with such names for their teams. Teams could also create their team logo or team tag to keep the spirit of their teams alive.
After building their respective teams, we are now confident to move to the next level which is the heart of this learning strategy. Of course, we didn’t just divide the class into teams for the sake of doing it. The very reason why learners are with their respective teams is for them to maximize learning on the subject matter.
This is the very reason why we encourage heterogeneous type of grouping because we want learners of different levels and abilities to help each other in achieving common learning goal. In my class, I always emphasize to every group that they need to consult every member of their team if they have any idea about the lesson and I also encourage them to be as resourceful as possible. I tell my students to make their teacher as their last resource so they could practice doing appropriate actions when problems occur during the learning process. As teachers, we have to be extra careful in entertaining simple questions which sometimes lead to the answer and in helping a group because when other teams will see that you are spending much time with one group, they would also ask for your help and the domino effect goes on. When that happens, dividing the class into teams do not make any sense at all because what a teacher would usually do is move from one group to another teaching the concepts.
During the group learning process, the responsibility of the teacher is to facilitate the activity by monitoring each group. We need to observe each group and keep a record of the students’ behavior and level of participation in the activity. We also have to constantly provide immediate feedback to each team so that they would know how to improve in the following activities.
To make the class livelier and to keep every team’s spirit alive, have each team participate in a team tournament. Show which group is excelling and monitor each team’s standing from time to time so that every team will be encouraged to participate. The score of each team could be taken from the score each member earned during individual assessment and group assessment. Authentic assessment is highly encouraged in cooperative learning. Assessment should be anchored upon the learning objectives specified before the introduction of the subject matter. Constantly communicate these objectives so that it would become a goal for each team.
After working so hard for the achievement of their goals, it’s always good to end it up with a rewarding team celebration. As teachers, we need to recognize both individual and group efforts of our students.
In my class, I am awarding certificates and other prizes to the best performing team at the end of the semester. I also give special awards to add more fun during the awarding day. However, this reward is a long-term reward and this could not contribute to the present learning needs of the students. To keep each team’s enthusiasm, I do give constant rewards in the form of simple recognition every time a team does something worthy of recognition.