Making Cooperative Learning Work for Teaching and Learning, pp. 7 of 9

Assessing Student Learning in Cooperative Learning Lessons

Assessment is part of learning and should be on-going. It should not be confined to after the lesson is completed. During the lesson, teachers can monitor both the academic learning and social skills. Questions that teachers can ask themselves when planning cooperative learning lessons are: “What academic and social skills objectives should I assess?”, “What multiple indicators should I use to assess academic learning? Do I use a combination of teacher questioning, quiz test items, individual work, group work and performance tasks to ensure the holistic assessment of academic learning?”, “What kind of assessment should I use – should it be self, peer and/or teacher assessment?”, “What proportion of the individual grade is based on group performance or work as the intentions are to promote both individual accountability and positive interdependence?”, “How should I monitor and assist groups in achieving the academic objectives?”, “What social skills should I monitor in terms of the specific words/phrases used or actions taken?”, “How should the observations be structured? Should I use a checklist for observation?” and “How should I have students reflect on their interpersonal and academic development?” (Abrami et al, 1995; ASCD, 1990)

Teachers can monitor group work by circulating through the classroom and observing and recording student behaviour on a piece of paper or using a checklist. They can provide immediate feedback to their groups on their behaviours and single out groups with exemplary behaviors and praise them with the intention of using them as positive role models for the rest of the class. Sometimes, teachers may need to re-teach academic objectives if they find that their students are struggling with the content or have misconceptions or have queries about the task. Re-teaching can be targeted at the groups with problems or at the entire class (ASCD, 1990). During monitoring, teachers can remind their students to practise the TTT rule so that they are freed to attend to genuine cases of learning difficulties.

Group processing is one of the cooperative learning elements and is therefore an important aspect of the cooperative learning lesson. Involving students in group processing can provide them with feedback on how well they have worked together in achieving the task goals and how they can improve. One question teachers can ask when planning cooperative learning lessons is “During group processing, how should feedback be given to students and how should the analysis be done?” Group processing can be done in various ways. One way is for teachers to provide feedback to the class and discuss with the class on how to improve the next time. Another way is to appoint an observer from each group to observe and record the verbal and/or physical behaviours exhibited during the group work and report the findings to the individual groups and the analysis is done within the groups. Alternatively, the observers can report the findings to the whole class and the analysis can be done with the whole class (ASCD, 1990). Still other ways include teachers asking the class for a quick group processing by doing a thumbs-up, thumbs-down or so-so in situations of time constraint. For lower primary, teachers can ask students to colour happy or sad faces as indicators of their group behaviours and write a sentence on how they can improve the next time.        

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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