SCS Digital Dispatch

News You Can Use, March 7, 2019

Can Students "Hide" in Your Classroom?

This old gal has seen all kinds of "cooperative learning" in classrooms. Many times, students can "hide" in a cooperative group by allowing one or two of the go-getter students to do all of the heavy lifting.

So let's think through why that may be happening. If the activity is not carefully structured by the teacher, that scenario will most definitely happen. So the question becomes, "What can I do, as the designer of the activity, to make sure all students are engaged and accountable during the activity?".

There are four basic principles when it comes to effective cooperative learning (PIES):

  • P - Positive Interdependence. Does one doing well help others? Does task completion depend on everyone doing their part?
  • I - Individual Accountability. Must everyone perform in front of someone?
  • E - Equal Participation. Is participation approximately equal in time and/or turns?
  • S - Simultaneous Interaction. "What percent are performing at any one moment?

If you have become frustrated with group work, please reach out to me. I would love to model some cooperative learning structures or give you some "critical friend" feedback on ones you currently use. Group work without STRUCTURE can do more harm than good.

Always ask this question when your students are in groups...Can a student hide while in this group? If the answer is yes, then add more structure so they cannot.

Example of a Structure in a Cooperative Group Activity - Team Interviews

If you are interested in learning more about structured cooperative learning and making it work better in your classroom, take a look at some of the videos featured on the Kagan website. Specifically, look at the team interview. Note how one person in the group is standing so eye contact is natural. Note how the teacher has structured a role for everyone in the group so no one can HIDE. And finally, look at all of the speaking and listening skills that are built into the content very naturally.

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Shelly Hollis

Shelly is the C&I Specialist and Technology Integration Specialist for Sheffield City Schools