9 Ways to Foster Collaboration through Cooperative Learning

This article is part of the 12 Days of Learning. Click now to see all articles.

Has the thought of working with a group ever made you cringe? Or have you ever been in a group with someone who just didn’t seem to be interested in contributing OR one person who seemed to take over?

We’ve all been there.

However, being able to collaborate and work effectively in groups is critical to success not only in school, but also in college and the workforce. Luckily there are a variety of cooperative learning strategies that can be applied to foster students’ collaboration skills.

What is Cooperative Learning?
Cooperative Learning is students working in groups or with partners to put together pieces of a puzzle, achieve a common goal, and learn from one another. It’s a powerful strategy to help students learn, get them out of the box, and get them discussing a topic at another level.

Research has shown that students who work in cooperative groups often perform better on tests, and are better critical thinkers. And, if that alone isn’t enough, it’s also said to improve students’ social skills, enhance oral communications, and even heighten self-esteem.

With cooperative learning, it’s also harder for students to fade to the background, and when their contributions are accepted and acknowledged, they are more engaged in the learning experience.

Putting it Into Practice
While there are a wide variety of approaches for cooperative learning, we’ve gathered together a list of nine popular options that you can quickly introduce in your classroom.

  1. Think-Pair-Share
    One of the most commonly used cooperative learning strategies in education today. First the teacher poses a question to the class, and then gives students time to think about their responses individually before having them pair up with a partner to discuss their response. Based on individuals’ responses and perspectives they could learn something new or be challenged with something they’d not previously considered, and have an opportunity to discuss it with their partner before the teacher calls the class back together for pairs to share what they’ve discussed.

    Think-Pair-Share is very easy to use and can be a powerful tool for learning. If you're interested in trying it yourself, you can learn more in Atomic Learning’s Think-Pair-Share course.
     
  2. Prairie Fire
    The Prairie Fire approach is designed to get your students talking in groups about more high-level questions. To start, gather students in groups of 3-5 before posing a question, then give the groups time to discuss and formulate a single group response to share. Next each group quickly shares their answer and learns the correct response before being instructed to continue their group discussion on what was shared, what they may have gotten wrong, and why.

    This approach is a great way to help students practice the group processing component of cooperative learning, including incorporating feedback from other groups.
     
  3. Four Corners
    Start by dividing students into larger groups – say where they stand on an issue, for example, and ultimately directing them to one of the four corners in the room to join a team with similar values, opinions, philosophies, etc.. Then pose a question to answer or assign a task for these groups of like-minded individuals to complete. After allowing time for discussion, have groups share out to the class.  

Oklahoma City Public Schools Go Above & Beyond with 1:1 Devices & PD

Oklahoma City Public Schools has partnered with Apple Inc. and their ConnectEd iPad Program to provide every Arthur Elementary School’s 600+ students with a new iPad. Access to such devices not only builds students' critical technology skills, but ensures they have the opportunity to learn in the ways that work best for them.

Rhonda Schroeder, Principal at Arthur Elementary, is taking her district above and beyond standards with the help of the incredible teachers and staff that she works with.  Before moving forward with the 1:1 iPad initiative, Schroeder asked her staff if this was something they wanted to do, knowing that it would take a lot of hard work, and nearly every single one of them responded “YES”!

4 Soft Skills Every Student Needs Before College

While many occupations have specialized skillsets, there are underlying, often career-agnostic skills that individuals need to utilize on a daily basis. These skills, commonly referred to as career or soft skills, are a hot topic not only for many schools, districts, colleges, and universities, but also among companies seeking qualified job applicants.

A multitude of studies, surveys, education-related articles have published various takes on the importance of soft skills, yet often overlook what can be done to build these skills. In this post, we’ll examine four of the most discussed skills—and provide some of our own ideas and resources focused on building each individual skill.

  1. Collaboration
    One of the most sought-after soft skills is collaboration. It only makes sense, since so many professionals today work together on functional teams to achieve a common goal. As anyone who’s worked on a group project knows, collaboration is closely tied to other skills and behaviors, such as communicating, offering and accepting criticism, delegation, and a host of others.

    Students participating in extracurricular activities, such as a sports team or club, are already working on these skills.  Teachers can also support students’ skill building in the classroom with group projects. Outside of school-related activities, students can practice collaboration through volunteer opportunities or after-school employment. (If it seems like a lot to balance, be sure to check out skill number four: Time Management.)

    Looking for a place to start?
    Here are just a few Atomic Learning courses around this topic:
    Integrating the 4 C’s in Your Classroom

    Strategies for Working with a
    Group
    Evernote in Instruction
     

Working with Media Specialists on CCSS

A recent article by Middle School Teacher Josh Work of Maryland provided a great overview of the important role your schools media specialist can play in successfully implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In his words:
The implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and rapid integration of technology in schools around the country has created a shift in instructional design and practice. I have found the most valuable school-based resource for brainstorming, discussing, planning and implementing anything to do with technology has been my school's media specialist.

Educators: Connect and Collaborate - Guest Blog Post

Guest Blog Post by Maria Burnham, Library Media Specialist

I'd like you to think about ways to connect and collaborate with the outside world.  In this day and age of global connectivity via the web, the options are endless!

Below are some collaboration tools, as well as Atomic Learning tutorial links to get you started.  

Share Your Opinion

Did you know that Atomic Learning uses a crowd-sourcing tool to hear from users, just like you, regarding ideas for new training resources, features and more?

Coming Soon: Microsoft Office 365 Training Series

In this online training series, you'll learn how to use Microsoft Office 365 to collaborate, create and store information. Using your favorite web browser, you can access your information anytime and anywhere! Check out this video to learn more about the new series coming soon to Atomic Learning.

 

New to Atomic Learning: Evernote Training

Evernote® is a robust cloud note-taking and memory enhancing app. It can be used on just about any device and on just about any operating system. Notes are auto synchronized across devices and can be shared with others so project collaboration becomes a snap.

New to Atomic Learning: Edmodo Training

Edmodo is a social networking site for teachers and students—and it has a mobile version! Teachers can use Edmodo to communicate information to students, post assignments, quizzes and polls, and encourage discussion and collaboration in their classroom.

Educators Benefit from School Improvement Network and Atomic Learning Collaboration

Districts across the U.S. are utilizing numerous resources to provide teachers with a well-rounded professional development program. While the use of multiple resources allows districts to provide comprehensive training, it creates a challenge for end users in accessing resources from various websites and managing multiple log-ins.

To begin addressing this challenge, Atomic Learning and School Improvement Network announce a collaboration to provide shared resources to guide educators on a path to technology-empowered learning.