Bukharbaeva Elvira, School №61,
Using Collaborative Learning in Social Studies
Collaborative learning is a strategy or structure for learning that can be adapted to many lessons and activities. There are many models or approaches to collaborative learning (or cooperative learning), but all of these models share certain basic characteristics:
Students work face to face in heterogeneous groups.
Each member of the group has a clearly defined role and is individually accountable.
Each member makes an important contribution to the success of the group`s effort (“positive interdependence”).
In addition to the advantages that it offers in all curriculum areas, collaborative learning is an especially appropriate strategy for social studies. Working together in collaborative groups is an excellent way to develop students` skills of social participation, always a key goal of the social studies curriculum.
As a teacher, you should feel free to take collaborative learning at your own pace. You may wish to begin with simple strategies in which students work in pairs. As both you and your students become comfortable with this approach to learning, you can tackle more elaborate activities involving groups of four.
Your Role as Teacher
It is important to bear in mind that collaborative learning supplements direct instruction - it does not replace it. As always, the teacher provides the solid instruction that basis for learning. And simply putting students in groups and giving them an interesting assignment does not lead to successful collaborative learning. Instead, you as teacher play the key role of providing structure, guidance, and feedback. In a very real sense, your role becomes that of coach or facilitator.
An important ingredient in the success of collaborative groups is effective use of interpersonal skills. As facilitator, you can help groups identify ahead of time the kinds of interpersonal skills that will be important to the task they are undertaking. These skills may range from something as simple as speaking quietly to more complex skills such as encouraging participation and giving constructive criticism. Modeling these skills for students and helping students practice them are important parts of your role.
Another area in which student groups need support is in learning to manage the process of group interaction. It is usually easier for students to divide up tasks such as research and writing than it is for them to make sure that someone keeps the group on target and monitors their progress. Supporting and guiding students in these process tasks can help assure the success of the group`s efforts.
It takes time for group members to become comfortable with one another and work together effectively. You may want to begin by having groups engage in some simple brainstorming activities just to become acquainted and begin to develop trust. For the same reason, it is usually best to keep groups together for at least several weeks before regrouping.
To promote the development of interpersonal skills, you may wish to provide reinforcement to groups for exhibiting particular social skills in their work together.
Try to build in time for groups to evaluate their performance after completing an activity. How well did they do not only with the academic task but with their interpersonal and group processes? What lessons can they apply to future collaborative efforts?
The following strategies can be adapted to many lessons and activities.
Procedures: Students work in pairs to interview each other about an assigned topic:
One student interviews the other about the topic.
The students switch roles interviewer and interviewee.
Each student then shares with the group what he or she learned during the interview.
Uses: The Three-Step Interview can be used effectively to build background knowledge in conjunction with the Introduce part of the Teacher`s Edition lesson. You can use the notes under Introduce to formulate a question for the interview, such as “What do you know about \topic of lesson\?” As an option for the Close part of the lesson, occasionally you might also have students do a Three-Step Interview on question such as “What`s the most important thing you learned about \topic of lesson\?” or “What else would you like to know about \topic\?”
Benefits: Promotes participation, listening skills, divergent thinking.
Procedures: In the Jigsaw strategy each member of the team becomes “expert” about a particular topic related to a larger team project. Team members then share information to prepare a presentation or solve a problem. Following are the main steps:
Identify several manageable topics related to a larger topic or concept.
Set up an “expert” group for each topic made up of one member from each team.
Have expert groups work together to research their topic/
Experts return to their original teams and share what they have learned/
You as teacher may assign the teams a particular format for presenting their findings, or you may let teams select for themselves the formats they wish to use.
Uses: The Jigsaw approach can be used with many of the activities in the Unit Reviews. It is particularly effective in helping students to prepare for informed debate or to acquire and present new information.
Benefits: Promotes interdependence, helps students discover connections among concepts and bodies of information.
Procedures: Students work in teams to prepare a presentation or project to share with the class. Students form teams based on a shared interest in the topic and divide the work so that each student on a team has a definite tasks to perform.
Uses: This strategy is helpful to students in synthesizing information from several sources, including interviews and library research.
Benefits: Promotes organizational and presentation skills, helps students direct their own learning.
Procedures: Students debate an issue in pairs. First, each student defends one side of the issue, then pairs switch partners, and each student must defend the other side of the same issue.
Uses: Pair Debate can be used as an effective Close for many lessons, especially those that deal with conflict or controversy in history.
Benefits: Promotes role-taking, knowing, and respecting different points of view.
For Further Reading
Aronson,E., The Jigsaw Classroom.
Johnson,D., Cooperation in the Classroom.
Slavin,R.E., Learning to Cooperate
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