son is in second grade. I have noticed that seating arrangements in his
kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms look different from the way they
looked when I was in these grades in the seventies. There is more emphasis on
working together. I remember teachers saying, "Do your own work." Why the
increased interest in what the teachers call "cooperative learning"?
TLR, Menlo Park
You are correct that there is much more cooperative
work in schools than during the years you were in these grades. The changes have
been implemented since the eighties. I remember taking a class in cooperative
learning during the summer of 1988.
Drs. Roger and David Johnson, of the University of
Minnesota, have pored over more than six hundred studies concerning the benefits
of cooperation and its effect on learning. Their conclusion is that building
community in school through cooperation is a vital method to counter the
violence, drug abuse, gang membership, dropout rate, suicide, and alienation
that many young people experience. Cooperation is a significant way to include
those students who have been alienated and isolated, both in and out of schools.
In kindergarten and first grade, the most common ways
that children work cooperatively is in pairs. Starting in second grade, children
may work in groups of three or four.
The following tasks lend themselves to working with
partners or groups:
- proofreading of writing assignments. Children read each
otherís work, let each other know if it makes sense, and look for spelling and
- discussing reading material. Children share what they got
out of reading assignments.
- going over math facts.
- comparing the way they solved math problems. This is
especially important, as children understand from peers that there is more
than one way to find the answers.
Research has shown that teaching another person is an
effective way of learning something oneself. Therefore, this happens all the
time in cooperative learning settings.
Parents should also understand that while we encourage
children to learn in partnerships or groups, all assessments (tests) are done
individually. This remains the place where we tell children to "keep your eyes
on your own paper."
Next week, I will discuss some of the benefits of