Letters to the Editor...
Cooperative Learning & Interactive Skills
Throughout all the research that
has been done in the past, cooperative
learning has been the emphasis in the
educational field. Although this has been
the emphasis,competitiveness still seemed
to be the norm. The problem I perceived
was that students needed to learn to work
cooperatively within heterogenous groups in
order to raise academic performance and in
turn working cooperatively would improve
relationships among the students within and
outside the classroom setting.
Teaching students interactive
skills prior to putting them into learning
groups was done at the beginning of the
year. Over the course of six weeks, the
interpersonal skills: leadership,
communication, trust-building, decision
making, individual accountability, and
conflict management, were taught through
modeling and practice of the skills with the
students. When students fully understood
the expectations, heterogenous teams were
formed. The guidelines for group work was
very explicit. Students who were not being
responsible and participatory within the
group assigned them, were removed from the
group and required to complete the
assignment or project alone. Usually this
resulted in a change of attitude and active
participation and accountability when given
the next opportunity for group work. Over
the course of the school year, student’s
enthusiasm and interest in group work
increased. Confidence and positive
attitudes became the norm. This
differed from the beginning of the year
when some students felt they could not do
the work. Most often the statements made
were they were “ I am dumb, I can’t do the
work.” With the support and encouragement
of their peers, they found success in the
goals set and with that self esteem
Next, my endeavor was to find out
if cooperative learning would build positive
relationships among my students. Through
observations inside and outside of the
classroom setting, surveys, interviews,
and journal entries, I was receiving
positive feedback from the students. At
the onset of the year, students congregated
within their small circle of friends.
As the year progressed, there was more
intermingling taking place. By years end,
the majority of students felt like they
were an integral part of the class and had
developed stronger relationships with their
peers. Students who still felt insecure
were at two opposite ends of the spectrum.
They were the students who were in special
education classes and gifted students.
They felt more comfortable, but still felt
they were not on the inside, most
especially the gifted. They could not wait
to move onto high school and felt it
would be easier to fit in at the upper
My final analysis was whether
positive feedback would have an effect on
students success, both academically and
socially. Again portfolios, tests,
and surveys were used to assess the
results. Students relied on feedback and
learned how to self evaluate and evaluate
peers, but it was still extremely important
for them to receive feedback from me. Some
of the feedback was given in the group
settings, reading the written pieces and
giving oral feedback.
There was positive growth
throughout the school year. The focus on
improvement of writing skills was
remarkable. Over half of the class’s
writing skills were inferior at the
beginning of the year. By the end of the
year, some students had surpassed all
expectations. About 10% of the students
were writing outside of class assignments
and requesting feedback. One particular
student at the beginning of year had
intentions of quitting school
at age 16, changed his mind and wanted to
go into journalism study in college. He
volunteered to share his writing with whole
class and was very proud of what he had
accomplished. His peers were in awe of how
far he had come throughout the year.
Everyone learned the lesson of how
important it was to continue to practice for
improvement. Over 80% of the students had
increased academically. Students were more
confident and felt they had accomplished
goals they had set.
The study resulted in evaluation of
my teaching methods and what I can do to
improve. The most important element of
cooperative learning is to teach students
interactive skills prior to putting them
into cooperative groups. Also it is very
important to have rules and guidelines that
everyone must abide by in order that all
P. Schmidt, email@example.com,
This month's letters:
Educational Evaluators, 7/31/00, by Cyndy.
Alternatives to the NEA, 7/24/00, by JM.
Interview Questions, 7/24/00, by Heyley.
Uk Chatboard., 7/21/00, by aguk.
Breaking the ah-durn myth of permanence in ability, 7/21/00, by Rick Lynn.
Testing and School Supplies, 7/21/00, by Natalie.
Cooperative Learning & Interactive Skills, 7/20/00, by P. Schmidt.
Mother of All Voucher Battles!, 7/19/00, by David Blomstrom.
Campaign Donations, 7/19/00, by David Blomstrom.
teacher pay, 7/15/00, by Pat.
This Web/Teachers Only, 7/15/00, by The parent you resent.
teacher pay, 7/13/00, by Ralph.
Who Do We Have To Blame?, 7/13/00, by questions2much.
Who Do We Have To Blame?, 7/11/00, by Beacon.
Remarks by Sec. of Educ Richard Riley at NECC 2000, 7/03/00, by U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.