With the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, students are encouraged to develop (through the application by their teachers of a program of learning encompassing four capacities) to become Successful Learners, Responsible Citizens, Confident Individuals and Effective Contributors.
This article was originally published in the April 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine. You can order a printed version of the magazine by clicking here, or freely read the article in our online version by clicking here.
A strategy that aims to develop these four strands is Co-operative Learning. This is not just a trendy buzz word for group work, or a justification for apparently unstructured lessons. It is a theory that allows students to make the transition from individual and predominantly passive learners, into independent and confident young people with a broad range of both social and academic skills. Using Co-operative Learning in the classroom from an early stage across a range of subjects allows students to achieve their potential in the new style National exams, with their emphasis on continuous assessment and use of a wide range of resources. Equally, having taught GCSE and A-Level, I feel that co-operative learning techniques could prove equally beneficial to students south of the border.
I re-worked a unit of work I was teaching to my S2 (Year 8/9 equivalent) Geography class at Inverness High School, incorporating a Co-operative Learning technique known as the Expert Jigsaw Puzzle. Both the unit of work and the technique were new to the class, but I knew the group well and decided to see how they responded.
How does it actually work?
- Unit of work: Health and Disease. Length of Activity – 4×50 minutes
- Learning Intention – to gain a detailed understanding of the main aspects of a disease.
The students were divided into groups of between 2 and 4 people. Each group was then given a disease to study – malaria, cholera, obesity, measles or heart disease – chosen randomly by picking them from a hat. Within each group students were each given a number between 1 and 4, referring to different aspects of the learning intention. (1=location and causes; 2=symptoms and impacts; 3=solutions; 4=case studies). The idea was that each student would become an expert in their own section/sections, then bring their knowledge back to the group to complete their understanding of all aspects of the disease. Four stations were set up around the classroom, and each student had to visit the stations to gather information about their disease. The information was in a variety of forms – maps, graphs, text and images – and students had to make their own notes. Students spent 20 minutes gathering the information (the jigsaw pieces) for their disease, then came back together with their group to share their knowledge. They then had a further opportunity to go back to the stations to collect their final pieces of information, returning to …