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Cooperative Learning

What follows is a discussion of cooperative learning issues and
strategies that took place on WMST-L in Oct/Nov 1993.  For additional
WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the WMST-L File List.
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1993 10:09:51 -0400
From: David Loberg Code <CODE @ WMICH.EDU>
Subject: cooperative learning
This is a pedagogical question not specifically about a WmSt class.  If it is
more appropriate for a different list, please tell me the list.
  BACKGROUND: I have been incorporating cooperative learning strategies into my
courses.  After some success with group homework assignments I decided to try
 integrating cooperative learning into a test situation.  I made the exam
in two parts.  The first part was done individually, and collected after the
first hour.  For the second part, students were randomly assigned a partner
from within the class with whom they would work together in answering a
second set of questions.  Each pair would turn in 1 answer sheet with both of
their names, and the grade for that portion would be shared evenly.  This was
combined with their individual grade to make up the total exam grade.

    THE PROBLEMS:  I have, naturally, received complaints from some
students about their partners.  Some pairings were unequal, and one person
ended up doing most of the work.  The 'hard workers' were either upset
because their partner got a free ride OR upset because their partner didn't
help and they got a poor grade.  Some pairing were equal with two
strong-willed individuals who didn't agree with one another.  These people
feel like they wasted time debating (and didn't finish everything) or
compromised on their answers (and hence one or both felt they wrote down the
wrong answer).

    MY REQUEST:  I think overall it was a valuable learning experience
and I want do to more cooperative learning in the future.  How have others
handled cooperative tests?  How do I deal with the peoples frustrations now?
I would like to discuss this in class, however I realize that it will be a
delicate subject matter.   First, students won't feel free to criticize their
partner with that person in the room (there are 20 students in the class).
Second, they might be hesitant to voice their criticisms about the exam to me
since I am their instructor.
Thanks for your help
David Loberg Code
School of Music
Western Michigan University
code  @  wmich.edu
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1993 10:56:21 -0500 (EST)
Subject: cooperative learning
David Code's posting about cooperative learning and assignments in the
classroom raises an issue I would also liked to see discussed (and don't think I
have seen in the last year).  I have seen these same frustrations when I have
assigned collaborative projects (I usually have students work in pairs to cut
down on the complaints that they can't find time to get together).
Unfortunately our students have had 12 years of individualized education by
the time they reach us (though they are now starting to do cooperative learning
in the schools, at least in my kids schools).  They have thoroughly
internalized the individualist values our culture promotes.  Changing them
isn't going to happen all at once.  (I have also heard parents of elementary
school children complain about cooperative learning and I have heard them say
their children complain, i.e. they are bored because their group's too slow).
I have to say my own experiences collaborating in scholarly research have been
wonderful and the most valuable experiences I have had.  It's wonderful to have
someone to bounce ideas off of and I suspect our students do get some of that
in casual acquaintance.   But our institutions do not really encourage it in
any sustained way as part of classroom experience (indeed I'm not sure our
institutions always value it in us; I have heard tenure committees scrutinize
who wrote what in a collaborative work).  I don't have an good suggestions
(except that we won't overcome this problem in one assignment or one class, but
need to make it a part of the institutional learning experience.  I'd love
to hear from others as well.
                                    (o o)
|        Laurie Finke, Women's and Gender Studies, Kenyon College            |
|                  Gambier, OH 43022       phone: 614-427-5276               |
|        home: 614-427-3428, P.O. Box 731     mail: FinkeL  @  Kenyon.Edu        |
                                   ()   ()
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1993 13:07:28 -0400 (EDT)
From: ethel tobach <ETTGC @ CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: cooperative learning
      For cooperative learning see the following list:
                          xlchc  @  ucsd.edu
                            This is out of Michael Cole's lab at San Diego.
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1993 13:58:44 -0400
From: Elizabeth Tobin <etobin @ ABACUS.BATES.EDU>
Subject: cooperative learning
I am responding to the query about cooperative test-taking.  Two years
ago, my co-teacher and I in a WS 100 class assigned a cooperative midterm.
It was a take-home essay assignment, without any time limit.  Our purposes
were two-fold: first, we wanted to foster cooperative learning; second, we
wanted them to think about the power of a researcher and writer in
comparison to a person interviewed.  The two people in each pair
interviewed each other about a topic which we, the teachers, had assigned.
 Person A, the interviewer, then wrote up the answers which Person B had
given, and we graded that written essay and gave the grade to Person B.
Person B did the same for Person A.
We had two kinds of results.  I thought our students were very thoughtful
ever after about interview data; they would ask about the types of
questions asked, the cultural background of interviewer and interviewee.
They were much more aware of the difference between the written results of
an interview and the ideas of the person interviewed.  But our other
result was a lot of anger from our students about the "unfairness" of our
grading.  In only one or two cases did we see serious problems with
match-ups, where one person simply hadn't put any work into the interview
and the interviewee felt her grade didn't reflect her knowledge.  Most of
the rest of the students didn't dispute that the written essay reflected
their ideas relatively clearly.  But they still were furious at the idea
that they should be graded on something for which they were not fully
How did we evaluate our students' anger?  First, we had to spend a whole
class listening to their complaints.  We tried not to be defensive
(although we didn't always succeed), and acknowledged ways in which we
could have made the assignment clearer or reduced the "risk" to students.
Second, we tried to point out to them our perception that their anger
touched other issues as well.  Our women's studies students often hate to
be graded, especially when their understanding of the material is
reinforced by examples from their own lives.  They get confused about
whether we are grading their ability to analyze material or whether we are
judging their lives.  We also tried to point out, as tactfully as
possible, that some of them seemed to have had the idea that women's
studies didn't require analysis.
If I were to do this again, I would try to prepare students better for the
assignment, pointing out what they might not like about it and suggesting
strategies for getting around those problems.  I would probably average
the two grades on the written results, so that each person in a pair would
end up with the same grade, reflecting more the joint nature of the work.
And I would prepare myself in advance for their anger, and try to channel
it into a discussion of why our academic "work" needs to be individually
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1993 15:47:22 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sherry Linkon <FR122601 @ YSUB.YSU.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
I use a lot of cooperative learning techniques, including collaborative
papers and presentations and small group discussions in all my classes.  I've
never tried a test, in part because I give very few tests, but students have
had similar responses to group grades on anything.  As Laurie Finke points out,
our students don't know how to work this way, because they have been trained in
an individualistic tradition.  To make collaboration more comfortable, I do 2
contradictory things:  1) spend a lot of class time talking about how to make
it work and why it's valuable and 2) assign both a group grade and a
contribution grade for each individual.  This balances things, so those who
work hard can worry less that others will get credit if they don't really
work, and it motivates everyone (usually) to work harder.
I'd write more, but I'm giving a colloquium to my department on, among other
things, collaboration in about 10 minutes (the colloquium starts in 10
minutes, I mean).  Gotta go.--Sherry fr122601  @  YSUB.YSU.EDU
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1993 18:22:40 -0400 (EDT)
From: Joya Misra <SOCAK663 @ EMUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Coop learning, men in classroom
I have my students give group presentations. Half of their grade is
determined by my grade of the entire group. The other half is determined
by the average of what all the students in the group thought that that
student should have earned for her/his work. Although the students tend
toward giving their classmates higher grades than I do on these projects,
the students also are relatively fair. Students who did no work lose
out (both in terms of the learning process and grade), and over time, all
the members of the group work because they are aware that their fellow
student's perceptions have an impact on their grade. Even when an
occasional student earns a very low grade through this system, I have
never had any complaints. My friend John organizes "study groups" at the
beginning of the term, and although the groups don't take tests together,
they can earn bonus points by all scoring above a certain level.Students
feel more of a responsibility to ensure the others learn the material.
I also have a question I'd like to post. I'm aware that there has been
a lot of discussion about men in the classroom, particularly men who
are hostile to Women's Studies or feminist theory. A professor in Women's
Studies here asked me to post to the list asking for techniques of
dealing with sympathetic men in the classroom. Particularly, the problem
of them becoming silent as the semester continues. She notes that
initially the men in her class were a little TOO talkative, but very
sympathetic. Now they have become so sympathetic that they do not want
to take space away from women by talking. She also thinks they may be
concerned that if they speak, they'll say something "wrong" and upset
the increasingly empowered and vocal women. The problem is not of course
that the women have become more empowered or that the men have
learned that they need to be more sensitive to taking up too much space -
this is what she hoped for! But she worries that the students also need
to learn how to effectively engage in dialogue about tough issues. Does
anyone have any suggestions or thoughts?
Joya Misra
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 08:30:36 +0000 (U)
From: Harrison-Pepper Sally <harrison-pepper_sally @ MSMAIL.MUOHIO.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
Sherry: you say that you assign both a group grade and a contribution grade for
each individual when you structure group projects. How do you collect
information on individual contributions?  By self report?  Or does each
student's contribution remain separate?  In my group assignments, I generally
require a single product, with no individual sections.  And, because I try to
let the group work out their process without much intervention from me, I'm
never completely sure how each individual contributed to the whole.  But I have
felt sometimes that I'd like to give some individuals credit for doing so much
of the work (though my knowledge of that work is always by self report).  I'd
appreciate some tips on your strategy.
Sally Harrison-Pepper
Harrison-Pepper_Sally  @  msmail.muohio.edu
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 07:59:26 -0400
From: marty laurence F <mlaurenc @ MACH1.WLU.CA>
Subject: Cooperative learning
I too have students complete group presentation assignments and in order
to cover for the possible unequal contribution of members I build in a
mechanism whereby they can communicate to me their individual perceptions
of their own and other members' relative contribution. They submit to me
points distribution for their group at the end of term. For example, if
there are four members of the group there is a total of 20 points to be
distributed (4 x 5).  Most of the time, they distribute the points equally
among themselves, but on the occasion when there has been unequal work
there tends to be a pattern of the responses from the group.  I am often
able to pick up some of the process of the group from the presentation
itself but this is one more piece of information. Scapegoating? That is
always a possibility and I give the weight of the "points" proportional
value in computing overall final grades which are rested on several items
all of which are spelled out at the beginning of term in an "Expectations
and Evaluation Contract".   It has worked well for me especially as I have
become clearer with both myself and my students.  Marty Laurence
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 06:39:31 -0800
From: Mikhail Ann Long <mlong @ CYMBAL.AIX.CALPOLY.EDU>
Subject: cooperative learning
Regarding David Code's posting on collaborative learning, I use it
regularly in my composition classes to teach technical material to the
class.  By technical I mean basic skills such as essay format,punctuation,
sentence combining, etc. I have not used it on exams.  It has worked well
for me since a small group of four or five is able to combine forces and
master the material well enough to instruct the rest of the class. Also
there is more peer pressure to participate with several students and they
are graded on their direct participation in front of the class.  In
otherwords are they doing something, or just sitting there. I have also
used it for composition of essays where they discuss the meaning(s) of the
material and come to some kind of conclusion/compromise which is then
relayed to the class in general.
Complaints from students about non-participation are handled by
pointing out that those who do  contribute are obviously learning more and
therefore those who don't are denying themselves a better education. I
feel that they must be allowed to learn or not learn from a given
situation in the classroom and don't interfere except to point out that
mlong  @  oboe.aix.calpoly.edu
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 09:58:00 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Laura.Julier" <21798JUL @ MSU.BITNET>
Subject: Cooperative learning
Karl Smith, from the Univ of Minnesota, who does a lot of work on cooperative
learning, says that he asks learners, in their self report on cooperative
projects, to write about the ways in which they will work to improve their
skills in group work.  In other words, part of the learning that occurs in the
cooperative project involves not only the explicit content of the course or
project, but also there is the presumption that learners need to *work* on
developing skills for collaborative, cooperative work.
I have added this to a practice I have used for years in writing, literature,
and women's studies courses.  For any written work students turn in for me to
read and respond, they must also write what I call a reflective commentary.
In it, they get to talk about the process of doing the paper, what they
struggled with, what they like, what they'd do differently now that they've
finished, what they need me to respond to.  If it's a cooperative project,
they must also tell me about how the group worked, what part they took in it,
and now, thanks to Karl Smith, I will add that they must talk about the
particular skills for effective group work which they see themselves
developing or struggling with.  It is, I tell them, as important to the
project as the project itself, and if often as long or longer.  The thing is
that I get a lot of information from the detail in this piece how they have
worked with the group, and how they are thinking about the group work, and how
they are negotiating their way into this different mode of learning and
working. If/When learners are nervous or resistant to the group grade, this (I
tell them) gives them a way to mitigate or influence how I will assess their
contribution to it.  The group grade, in effect, *depends* upon the collection
of individual reports.
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 11:05:42 -0400
From: David Loberg Code <CODE @ WMICH.EDU>
Subject: coop test: update
Thanks for all of your responses (public and private) so far.  I thought I
would give an update on the situation.  After taking the test, but before
getting it back I passed out 4 slips of paper to each student.  On the first
slip, they wrote their name and the percentage (between 25-50%) that they
wished the group part of the test to count towards their total grade.  Since
most of their anxieties were due to their feeling of a loss of control over
their own grade, I decided to give them back some control. Students who felt
they did poorly because of their partner, could minimize that portion of the
test.  The remaining 3 slips were all anonymous.  On slip #1, they wrote a
positive comment about the test, #2 a negative comment about the test, #3 a
proposal for how to do it better next time.  The anonymous slips were
redistributed to the students randomly.  Each student then read the comments
in front of them.  Everyone got their opinions voiced to me and the class,
but without publicly offending or ridiculing their partner.
david loberg code
code  @  wmich.edu
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 10:48:12 -0500
From: d000wgsp @ LEO.BSUVC.BSU.EDU
Subject: Cooperative learning
Sally Harrison-Pepper asks about how you can know in a cooperative assignment
which students did how much work.  I ask them, when they turn in the
assignment, to include a written report of how they did it--who did
what work and how it was determined that they should do it.  This works
pretty well to satisfy their need for fairness, and it also works as
a spur to everyone to cooperate so as not to look bad.
Irene Goldman  00ICGOLDMAN  @  BSUVC.BSU.EDU
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 17:22:10 -0500 (EST)
From: Claire Pedretti <vva @ MACE.CC.PURDUE.EDU>
Subject: cooperative learning
I  too use collaboration in composition.     First, groups do practice
assignments(samples of  a current topic).  I try  group students
with  similar grades  after grading the first paper.   I give one
grade for the work  (planning,  the   product   itself, and responding
to other groups' papers), and ask for journal entries  of  process
from individuals.  I may try the  combinations  mentioned on list.
I have had only one really bad experience with  a group  who claimed
one student didn't show  up for sessions and the student claimed   he
hadn't been informed of them.   I 'yanked' him from the  group.   I
think if that were to happen again, i'd lower  grades by one grade  of
all concerned, but i amnot sure.>
Like  others, I do some discussion of ways to work together and the
problems related to each pattern (ie, portioning out bits, then having
to edit to sound as  if one writer; each doing whole and
selecting/combining, then the rivalry problems; and writing
together--most satisfactory, but most time consuming).
I   love mlong's comment about  learning more by working more--just
because students are  hooked on grades as only value doesn't mean we
have to be.
claire pedretti
vva  @  mace.cc.purdue.edu
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 16:35:43 -0800
From: M DeMeritt <mdemerit @ CYMBAL.AIX.CALPOLY.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
In my technical report writing class, I ask my students to form teams of
two or three students.  They analyze a problem and write a report which
recommends solutions.  When I gave blanket grades, they complained about
the lack of fairness, they gossiped about one another, and, in general,
did not address the problem in an adult way because I had not suggested
that to them.
Now, for the past 5 years or so, I use a "self-evalation" sheet.  When the
team completes a project, they then fill out the evaluation sheet. There
are 8 criteria to judge who did the least, most, and "in the middle."
Criteria include: writing, meeting deadlines, innovative thinking, typing,
etc. I use a blinded system of points to add up and assign weight to each
of the group members.  Most often this works out to equal grades, but it
does catch the slackers and work to encourage them to "get with it."
I also coach in class on team dynamics.  For example, the "tit-for-tat"
mentality and the notion that all members of a team will have strengths
and _allowable_ weaknesses.  I also offer my ongoing support and
counseling for groups who experience problems.
It's a lot of work, but it is the way the real world works.  They need to
know that.
Anyone interested in handouts should mail me privately.  Thanks
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1993 23:27:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: Beatrice Kachuck <BEABC @ CUNYVM.BITNET>
Subject: coop test: update
does anyone who gives grades on the basis of cooperative learning address the
fact that the professor, an institutional authority figure, is giving a grade,
the coin that gives access to grades, the degree, and whatever social and/or
personal goods follow from that?  beatrice   beabc  @  cunyvm.cuny.edu
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 08:06:26 -0500
From: "Barbara J. Peters" <PETERS @ OSHKOSHW.BITNET>
Subject: Cooperative learning
I assign group presentations in a few of my classes.  The presentations are
given three grades weighted, my grade being weighted heaviest.  The
presentations are graded by the entire class (they hand in a small slip of
paper with the numerical grade), the group grades one another according to
each members participation, and I give the whole presentation a grade.  I
then average the grades given by each member of the class, that is averaged
with the average grade the individual student received from the other
presenters and then my grade is averaged with that score.  It has worked
quite well with the students from the class giving comments on why they
assigned the grade they did (which was not asked for).  The students took
the responsibility of assigning grades very seriously and I did not have
any complaints from any of the students.  This semseter they are presenting
in pairs and the only problem that I have had to deal with has been with
the team consisting of a disabled student who "speaks" using a spelling
board and an able-bodied student.  We worked through her being
uncomfortable with him and the accompanying manifestations of his
disabilities.  She is still part of the team and they present today.

BARBARA PETERS            University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
                          Dept. of Sociology
                          Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901
                          (414) 424-0848
Bitnet Address            peters  @  oshkoshw.bitnet
Internet Address          peters  @  vaxa.cis.uwosh.edu
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 09:46:12 -0400
From: Irene Isley <iisley @ UWCMAIL.UWC.EDU>
Subject: coop test: update
I have a variation on the collaborative learning grading schemes I've heard so
far.  I incorporate both group and individual papers into my composition
courses.  The writing of all types of papers (in this case, book reviews,
movie reviews, reviews of the literature, comparison-contrast papers,
arguments, and proposals) are first "sampled" in the group context.  For
example, the group writes a book review of a text the entire class has just
read and discussed.  Then, in a later assignment, the individuals in the
class write their own reviews of books they read and researched by their own
choice (this commitment is made the first week of class, so they've
been keeping up with their individual tasks while also working on the
group projects).
Groups have 3-5 members, depending on add-drops and schedule
conflicts (since students have to arrange time out of class, too, for their
group work).
Group papers receive 50 points while individual papers receive
100 points.  Of the 50 points available for the group paper, I assign up to
40.  The group members assign each other the remaining points, anonymously.
So, if there are four people in the group, each person receives three point
assignments, which I then average for an individual score and add to that
person's group score in my grade book.  Potentially, each group member could
assign the others 10 points each.  (But they never do.)  I don't limit the
number of points available and ask them to compete for the goodies.  They
can all do well, average, poor, etc.
I give six group paper assignments and eight individual paper assignments in
a fifteen week semester.  I assign more points to the individual papers so
that the students are satisfied that the bulk of their grade refers to their
individual work, yet a significant percentage is from group work.  I assign
the group "sample" paper first so that the students do help each other grasp
the format, the arguments, the standards for readability, etc.  Individual
papers are nearly always better after this sort of graded practice.  I am
comfortable with the arrangement now (after three years of trial) because
while students do indeed need to learn to collaborate and to negotiate
discourse in group settings and projects, they will not be with that group
with that group's problems and blessings, so they need to be self-reliant as
well as group responsive.
I am occasionally troubled by the fact that, yes, I am the Great Grade
Giver.  However, this is a composition class, and I see it as a skills
class, not a content class; so, I try to give them a variety of skills and
strategies, ackowledging that these are mostly pragmatic: given that people
have reading habits, if we want to be effective, we must accomodate those
habits. . . . But what would I do in a lit. class . . . ?  The furthest I've
gone there is to have group presentation of textual explications, and those
presentations were not graded.
Sorry for the length.
iisley  @  UWCMAIL.UWC.EDU
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 10:16:22 -0500
Subject: Cooperative learning
I would like to echo the concern about the exercise of power/authority in
this manner. Someone (sorry, can't retrieve who) compared this to valuable
cooperative work done by herself and colleagues. I wonder if this is a valid
comparison. Presumable, when faculty collaborate, it is with someone THEY
choose, because they know they are compatible on many fronts. A more apt
comparison, it seems to me, would be: Imagine that as a condition for tenure,
you are required to co-author a book with (let's say) Camille Paglia. How
would YOU feel then?
Ann Golubowski
COncordia University Library
goluban  @  vax2.concordia.ca
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 10:12:13 -0700
From: Harold Frank <hfrank @ BCF.USC.EDU>
Subject: David Code's joint testing
David Code's recent posting requesting experiences grading more than
one student with the same or joint exam came at a time when the issue
was being discussed in the context of peer systems of evaluation in
one of my classes.
The consensus of the (graduate public administration class in
organization behavior) was that the instructor ought to create
incentives which encourage students to: (1) help each other learn and
(2) develope evaluation standards and measures perceived as fair.  In
the former case one interesting suggestion was that if people in a
study group earned collectively a higher average grade for having
collaborated during the study procedure, then each of their individual
exam grades were deserving of a bonus .. e.g +5-10%.  Of 36 students,
15 are female.  82 % of the class favored individual vs joint grading
and there was no diference between men and women in this regard.
If David is still out there please contact me for more info.
+  Dr. Hal Frank                           hfrank  @  bcf.usc.edu       +
+  University of Southern California       Phone:  (213) 254-1022   +
+  P.O. Box 41992                          FAX: (213) 740-0001      +
+  Los Angeles, CA 90041-0992                                       +
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 15:14:39 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sherry Linkon <FR122601 @ YSUB.YSU.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
I'm enjoying reading everyone's ideas about how to balance individual &
group grading.  Onemore point to add:  as facilitator but non-participant, I
usually hae a lot of time to OBSERVE the groups in process (in my classes, I
try to give students a lot of time to get group work done during class -- it's
a commuter school with mostly non-traditional students, so they simply won't
get together enough outside of class).  Part of my evaluation is based on that
and part on students evaluations of each other.
Of course grading entails the use of power, and I don't see that as
necessarily contradictory to cooperative learning.  I do like the idea of
getting students involved in the grading process in many ways, though, that
aren't necessarily related to power.  I do usually give students the power to
choose their own groups.  This also gives them more control, and I haven't
seen any problems with this.  --Sherry, fr122601  @  YSUB.YSU.EDU
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 14:28:08 -0600
From: Diane Price Herndl <dpherndl @ NMSU.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
On Fri, 22 Oct 1993, ANN GOLUBOWSKI wrote:
> Imagine that as a condition for tenure, you are required to co-author
a book with (let's say) Camille Paglia. How would YOU feel then?
OK, besides tapping into the worst nightmares of untenured assistant
professors, there does seem to be a point here.  But there are two others
that make this analogy particularly not apt.
First, a grade on (presumably) one assignment of several in class IS NOT
equal to a requirement for tenure--no career is on the line, and scarcely
even a significant part of the final grade for that one class.
Second, we need to recognize that our students are most likely NOT going
to be academics and while academics have the luxury of choosing who they
are going to collaborate with, in most non-academic writing situations,
one does not.  It seems to me better for our students to learn how to
write and work with a group of people when something like 10% of the grade
in one class is on the line, rather than let them wait until it is their
job.  By NOT using collaborative work in classes, we are setting them up
for having to" write for tenure with Camille Paglia," without any practice
at it at all.
Diane Price Herndl
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 18:12:32 -0500
From: Jane Olmsted <olmst001 @ MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
In message ANN GOLUBOWSKI writes:
> I would like to echo the concern about the exercise of power/authority in
> this manner. Someone (sorry, can't retrieve who) compared this to valuable
> cooperative work done by herself and colleagues. I wonder if this is a valid
> comparison. Presumable, when faculty collaborate, it is with someone THEY
> choose, because they know they are compatible on many fronts. A more apt
> comparison, it seems to me, would be: Imagine that as a condition for tenure,
> you are required to co-author a book with (let's say) Camille Paglia. How
> would YOU feel then?
> Ann Golubowski
> COncordia University Library
> goluban  @  vax2.concordia.ca
Actually it would be pretty grim having to write a book with my best image of a
nightmare (not that that would have to be Paglia), but I disagree that this is
like what happens in a class when a group of students work together on a
project.  I've been on several committees that I did not select, and in several
instances our task was to come up with a report or proposal.  In one instance,
our proposal for a WS minor was a collaboratively written project, and a great
(Note:  it's possible I missed a posting or two, and perhaps A.G. is responding
to a particularly authoritarian example of cooperative work (whatever that might
be.  If so, sorry.
Jane Olmste
olmst001  @  maroon.tc.umn.edu
P.S.  My most successful cooperative assignment is a grant proposal.  I require
it of my advanced composition students, all social scientists (well almost all).
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1993 07:43:40 -0500
From: Jane Olmsted <olmst001 @ MAROON.TC.UMN.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
In message Jane Olmsted writes:
Well, it looks like I wrote nothing!  What happened, I wonder?  The system
didn't like my response?  I'll try once more, though I notice someone else has
already responded, saying a couple of things that I said [not].
I think having to write a book with one's worst nightmare would be grim, no
doubt (whether it's Paglia or not depends on the nightmare host, I suppose).  I
don't think this is what happens for students though (students aren't normally
placed with their best friends but nor are they placed with enemies...I usually
ask for a private note if there's someone a student doesn't want to work with).
Also, co-writing books is not the only cooperative work academics (or other
professionals) do.  I have been on several committees where we were asked to
produce a report or recommendation, and in one case, a proposal for a women's
studies minor (now in existence) at Berea College in Kentucky.  That proposal
was a truly cooperative venture, requiring lots of rewriting and
My most successful cooperative assignment is a group grant proposal, which I ask
my students to do in my advanced comp class, writing in the social sciences.  I
come up with the same small problems others have mentioned, but overall it's a
very good experience for them.
I hope this works this time!  Sorry about my gross invisibility last posting!
Jane Olmsted
olmst001  @  maroon.tc.umn.edu
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1993 15:27:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: cooperative learning
I teach courses in public relations, and one of the most important
job skills required for success in the field (as well as most others
in the "real world) is the ability to work
as a team member.  Consequently most of the primary assignments for
the courses require students to work on team projects.
One of the
ways I have dealt with the problem of giving credit where credit
is due is that I insist that they organize their reports on their
projects in such a way that each person on the team has a clearly
defined area of responsibility, for which they receive an individual
grade.  Each person also receives a team grade on their final projects,
part of which involves how well the different parts
fits together.  In addition, each receives an individual grade on
"teamwork" (something that
is often, tho' not always, relatively easy to determine by the end
of the semester, by observation).  I have a whole set of grade
sheets with criteria established for each aspect of their projects,
so that it is relatively clear what they are being graded on.
I have not yet attempted any kind of collaborative work in my women's
studies classes, primarily because I'm new at it and I find it easier
to use "traditional" evaluation means until I get a better handle
on the course material and the classroom dynamics.
The fact that the ability to work on teams is a highly rated skill in
the "real world" job market has usually been enough to convince my students
(well, by the end of the course at least) that team projects are
the way to go.
One of the things I tell my high achievers who
complain about the "laziness" of other group members is that
a good manager is one who is able to get the group to work together
toward a common goal.  Moreover, a good manager is also one who is
able to delegate responsibility, rather than take charge of everything.
Consequently, what they will learn in the
process of trying to get others in the group to meet their responsibilities
will be an invaluable lesson -- one worth $$$$$ in the long run, with one
of the first rewards being in the letter of recommendation I will write
to future employers about my perceptions of that person's potential
as a manager.
Occasionally I have had to step in as the "CEO" of our public
relations "firm" in order to warn a particularly unproductive
student, but usually I don't have to, since in most cases the team
members end up resolving the problems among themselves.
I must point out that in addition, because I am trying
to simulate a "public relations agency" and "real world" environment,
I make it possible for team members to "fire" a member for cause,
of course only after they have brought the problem to my attention
and given the student a chance to respond. So far one has been
fired, tho' a few have come close.
How well any of that would translate into other classes, I don't know.
Of course, some of my "simulations" in fact simulate a world I would
prefer didn't exist.  There are aspects of this that I would not
include in a women's studies class as they would probably be
counterproductive for my goals and go against the grain of my
values . . . which is one of the reasons I am trying to get out
of having to teach public relations!!!!
One more thing:  a very large chunk of the students' grades is
based on their final project.  That is submitted to me 3 weeks
in advance of the date of their final, and I return it with
substantial criticism and recommendations for revision (which they
grumble and gripe and moan about, of course).  So each member
as well as the whole team has ample opportunity to revise for
a substantially better grade -- that's when the REAL teamwork
starts to happen.
Georgia NeSmith
Communication Dept.
SUNY Brockport
Brockport NY 14420
gnesmith  @  acspr1.acs.brockport.edu
P.S.  Incidentally, for those who may remember my dissertation defense
announcement and are curious, the defense was a success.
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1993 11:16:51 -0600 (MDT)
From: Dayna Daniels <daniels @ HG.ULETH.CA>
Subject: cooperative learning
i have used cooperative techniques in testing and have found it to be
useful.  students report that they studied harder for the exam, but they
also indicate that they felt under greater stress while writing.
what i have done differently from what david describes is:
 1. students choose their own partners.  this way there are no surprises
and strong/weak partnerships are self selected.
 2.  students each have their own answer sheets and turn in their work
separartely.  so even though they work together, they do not have to agree
on answers/responses.  students papers are marked separately and partners
do not share grades in anyway...unless their answers are identical.....which
usually does not happen!
dayna daniels
daniels  @  hg.uleth.ca
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1993 11:29:40 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: cooperative learning
One thing I forgot to add to my lengthy discussion of my own uses
of cooperative learning in public relations classes is an
experiment I tried last fall.  I gave short individual assignments
within the first few weeks of class (plus I knew more than half of
the students already from other classes) to get some sense of
their levels of ability and commmitment.  Then I put ALL the
high-achievers and usual team leaders on ONE team.  That meant
that the under-achievers had to develop leadership qualities
rather than rely upon students who already had them.  AND the
high achievers were much happier since they didn't feel that
anyone was a drag on the group.  I was extremely well-pleased
with the outcome because the underachievers ended up producing
far more than I expected they would.  Interesting, huh?
Georgia NeSmith
Communication Dept.
SUNY Brockport
Brockport NY 14420
gnesmith  @  acspr1.acs.brockport.edu
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 1993 21:20:35 -0500 (EST)
From: Claire Pedretti <vva @ MACE.CC.PURDUE.EDU>
Subject: Cooperative learning
Several have mentioned letting groups select their coworkers.
Have you had any problems with someone not being wanted by anyone, and
how did you handle that?  That worry has kept me from letting groups
self select.
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1993 10:42:19 -0500
Subject: selecting groups
on Fri, 29 Oct 1993, Claire Pedretti wrote
> Several have mentioned letting groups select their coworkers.
> Have you had any problems with someone not being wanted by anyone, and
> how did you handle that?  That worry has kept me from letting groups
> self select.
This is one of the reasons I don't use self selected groups.  It
reminds me too much of the elementary school team selections when
some children -- the least athletic and/or the least popular -- are
always selected last.  A real threat to one's self- esteem!
I also recall reading somewhere that students actually prefer
professor selected groups to student selected groups.  I felt
relieved when I read this but unfortunately I don't have any
recollection about where I read it, nor do I recall the nature of the
supporting evidence.  All that stuck with me was the conclusion.
Perhaps someone else on the list knows more about this.
My experience with professor selected groups is that when they work
well, and fortunately most of them do, in varying degrees, the
students feel very good about them, and when they don't work well,
and of course that occasionally happens, they can always blame me.
I'm not suggesting that they shouldn't take personal responsibility,
but merely that it may be useful for their self-esteem if they can
diffuse some of that responsibility.  Anyhow, students almost never
complain about the fact that I select the groups (sometimes on the
basis of shared interests, established by giving them a short
questionnaire on various aspects of course content, sometimes I do it
more or less randomly -- depends on the course).
Beth Percival
Psychology & Women's Studies
University of Prince Edward Island
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 08:07:25 -0500 (EST)
From: Sherry Linkon <FR122601 @ YSUB.YSU.EDU>
Subject: Student groups
My students DO complain when I assign them to groups, but when they choose
groups, they seem to feel more respondibility for making them work.  They
can't blame me, so they have to focus on themselves.  I've never had a
problem with students not wanting to choose someone.  Last spring, I had a
very difficult "nerdy" student in a class, but other students not only let him
join their group, they worked hard to include him fully and work well with him
I was impressed, and it reminded me that one reason I do collaborative projects
is to teach students how to work in groups--no matter who is in their grops--
argh--groups (better--I can't edit on this computer for some reason).
In the end, I'm not sure it really matters.  I';ve yet to see a significant
difference in the quality of group work according to how groups w3ere put
together. --Sherry Linkon, fr122601  @  YSUB.YSU.EDU
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 08:47:58 -0500
From: "Barbara J. Peters" <PETERS @ OSHKOSHW.BITNET>
Subject: Student groups
I have been using the old count off method for the making  of discussion
groups.  Actually I have done different things in different classes.  IN
one of my classes I have a student with Cerebal Palsy.  He cannot speak
except to use a spell board.  His lack of muscular control means that he
drools.  His laugh is loud and sounds different than the other students.
Counting off has let him be included in the discussions.  The students have
been wary of him.  IN the beginning of the semester no one would even sit
near him.  Recently I heard students wishing him a good week-end.  I
believe this random assignment gave various students a chance to interact
with someone who is very discriminated against.  It has been good for all.
In another class, the students write discussion questions every week.  They
divide into groups and I use their questions for the discussion.  It has
worked very well.  Over the weeks, I have been watching the disscusants
cloesly.  Until last week, the group assignments were random.  Last week, I
assinged the groups by "speaking style."  Those that dominate are now all
in one group.  Those that would contribute, but to a lesser degree made up
another and the third group is all women students who have not contributed.
 It worked wonderfully.  Each group was aware of the different styles of
discussing and have asked to keep these groups as they are for the rest of
the semester.
BARBARA PETERS            University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
                          Dept. of Sociology
                          Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901
                          (414) 424-0848
Bitnet Address            peters  @  oshkoshw.bitnet
Internet Address          peters  @  vaxa.cis.uwosh.edu
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 09:59:46 -0500
From: Irene Isley <iisley @ UWCMAIL.UWC.EDU>
Subject: selecting groups
I only use self-selected groups for the second set of group projects, and I
allow it after first saying that I will be reconfiguring groups for the second
projects, but that those groups that found they worked well together could
retain their configuration if they really wanted to.  And I suggest that the
group reconfigurations this time around be motivated by scheduling
possibilities, etc., since there is so much work to be done, and this is a
commuter campus.
Irene Isley
Date: Mon, 01 Nov 1993 17:03:22 -0600
From: "HAL D. QUIGLEY" <quigleyh @ CS4.LAMAR.EDU>
Subject: Selecting Members of Work Groups
The following is a contribution to the on-going discussion of
the positives and negatives associated with selection of students
for assignment to task/working groups in a course.
I have students complete a three by five card the first day of
class that includes major and year of matriculation. I later add
to the card the race and sex of each student. At the end of
the second week I assign each student to a group and each group
to a seating area. The students sit with their group members the
rest of the semester. I try for diversity in the four categories
that I mentioned above. I also emphasize that the groups are
opportunities for leadership and that I expect upper
division students to take responsibilities for junior persons
in their groups. So far no complaints about such "added
I have learned from students to announce at the initial
assignment that "the assignments are temporary for the first
two weeks. At the end of two weeks any student may request
a different group without any questions being asked."
This was taught to me at the Univ of Iowa when a female
student approached me after class on the day that students
were first assigned to a group. She told me that she wanted
to change groups because she had been assigned to a group
that had a fellow student in it who had sexually assaulted
her. Of course she was immediately assigned to a different
group. Hal Quigley quigleyh  @  cs4.lamar.edu

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