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Groups analyze progress and


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Plan presentation and display

Evaluation by class of group’s contribution

Tournament, tables with 3 students of

equal ability representing

different teams. They play games using academic

material: Winner, 6 pts.; Second, 4 pts.; Third, 2 pts.

Newsletter recognizes winning

team (and first-place scorers)

15-minute written quizzes students

take alone

Students earn points for their

team by improving on their own prior


Winning teams posted

Divide material into 5-6 parts for 5-6 students on

a team

Member learn their parts solo

Teams disband. Individuals from different teams who have the

same item form an “expert

group” to coach each other and prepare presen- tations for their


Teams reassemble for peer teaching

Individual tests

Talk given to groups

Social skills training and debriefing

Groups decide how to divide it up to produce a single cohesive


Groups work together; do job

Receive group grade

Team Games



Student Teams, Achievement


Jigsaw Johnson and Johnson

Group Investigation

Whole Class Instruction

4-5 students on a heterogeneous team quiz each other, and do worksheets

Figure 20.1 Formats for Cooperative Learning



T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R530


comparing test scores reflects competitive qualities inherent in humans, and the culture, in the process of testing itself (“Whadjaget?”).

The kind of competition we looked for was one designed into the learning ex- perience by the teacher or the curriculum—something like a team game, a con- test for speed or accuracy involving a group of students, or a recitation period where a student gives right answers in competition with peers. Many competi- tive forces emanating from students themselves, peers, family, or the culture and community may affect student behavior. These forces are not examined here. This attribute looks at aspects of the design of the learning experience that set up, by virtue of that design, interactions that are competitive, cooperative, or individualistic in nature. Only students’ behavior of these three types that is encouraged or arranged by the design of the learning experience will enable us to make a judgment on this attribute. Competitive, cooperative, or individual- istic behavior of children that cannot be attributed to the design of the learning experience that comes from some other source is deemed irrelevant to the judg- ing of this attribute.

In the case of the science lab course, competition would not be scored as a significant quality of the learning experience because whatever of it there was couldn’t be traced to the teacher or the design of the learning experience.


It is not hard to get a discussion started among educators, families, or even passersby on the street about the merits or evils of competition. It is a condi- tion of life we have all experienced and about which we all have formed some values. This attribute of teaching calls attention to teachers’ ability to control, in aware and deliberate ways, how competitive, cooperative, or individualistic the experiences of students are in schools. Educational decision makers bring different values and different histories to their settings, as has always been the case. But whatever their decisions about the shape of learning experiences, these decisions can be informed and deliberate, if made by professionals who know the full implications of their acts.

This attribute provides tools for surveying your own teaching to see how much cooperation or competition you are putting into students’ experiences. It also offers resources for getting the balance you want. Despite the “era of cooperative learning” (1960s to 1980s) having come and gone, it is striking that John Hattie’s (2012) meta-analysis of the literature concludes that it is a power- ful intervention, and gives it an overall effect size of .41!



T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R 531



There is matching if the teacher differentiates deliberately among groups or in- dividuals as to the competitive, cooperative, or individualistic quality of learn- ing experiences.

5. Degree of Supervision


Students may be directly supervised by a teacher who checks on what and how everybody is doing, may be independent and responsible for their own work, or the teacher may facilitate their work by being available as a resource person and occasionally intervening with suggestions, recommendations, or stimulating questions (Dunn & Dunn, 1978). As we reflect on the learning experiences we design, the number of these three possible conditions present in our teaching— supervised, facilitated, or independent—can be counted.


A limited range on this attribute—for example, a teacher who always super- vises all learning activities—excludes certain kinds of learning in a classroom. The breadth or narrowness of range on this attribute is something we can look at for its nurturant effects on students, that is, the effects on them of living in an environment of that kind. We can then ask if that is what we intend. And we can, of course, compare this range of supervisory modes and the nurturant effects attached with the goals of the curriculum.


Teachers who discriminate among students on how much supervision they re- quire or can tolerate so as to maximize their performance are matching the amount and kind of supervision they provide to the characteristics of students.

Jane flourishes if left to work independently much of the time, checking in oc- casionally for conferences with the teacher. Working under direct supervision for the bulk of the day unnecessarily limits her learning experiences. But Moira can’t seem to get herself organized. She’ll have several false starts and then may socialize away her morning if she is not directly supervised in her work. Her teacher provides much direct supervision for her and much independence for Jane. The same kind of distinction can be made for subgroups of the class and would enable us to conclude “yes” for matching on supervision.



T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R532


6. Self-Expression


Students may or may not be given the opportunity to express something of themselves in a learning experience. If they are given such an opportunity, the self-expression may be delivered through drawing, creative writing, perform- ing, speaking, or building or construction of some sort. Merely to respond or recite is not to express one’s self as meant here. Expressing oneself means ex- pressing something that is unique to the individual or expressing some stan- dard information in a way that encourages students to bring something of themselves to the expression.

An assignment to diagram mitosis for biology (though different students will embellish the product to different degrees) is a prescribed product that has the student express mitosis, not himself or herself. An assignment to represent the 1812 Overture in paint is also prescribed but frees the student to express things unique to him or her that are stimulated by the music. A recitation question asking a student to summarize Turner’s frontier thesis does not allow self-ex- pression as would a question asking a student to say how he would have re- sponded to the offer of free western land had he been alive a hundred years ago.


The significance of this attribute relates to the value placed on self-expression by those responsible for the educational program. Data on the attribute en- able us to raise the attribute as an important and perhaps overlooked aspect of learning experiences over which program designers and teachers have con- trol. And as before, we can compare realities with intentions, where intentions about self-expression have been considered by program designers and made explicit.

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