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Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience > Cooperative Learning > How to Use Cooperative Learning > Introduce the Activity > Reinforcing Cooperative Skills
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Reinforcing Cooperative Skills

Teaching cooperative skills requires providing students with the motive and means for doing so. Before you begin, use something like this Social Skill Teaching Plan (Microsoft Word 28kB Aug3 06) to explicitly spell out for yourself what you want to teach them.
  1. The first step is to ensure that students see the need for the teamwork skill.
    1. Present a case to students that they are better off knowing, than not knowing, the chosen skills.
    2. One way to do this is to role play a counter-example where a skill is obviously missing in group. This is a fun way to illustrate the need for the skill.
  2. The second step is to ensure that students understand what the skill is, how to engage in the skill, and when to use the skill.
    1. It is not enough to tell students what skill you wish to see them use during the lesson (e.g., "Please check each others' understanding of what is being learned.").
    2. Instructors must explain exactly what they are to do. One way to do this is through a T-Chart.
    Example of T-Chart showing good examples of what Contributing Ideas looks like and sounds like in a cooperative learning setting.
    Example of T-Chart showing good examples of what Checking for Understanding looks like and sounds like in a cooperative learning setting.

  3. The third step is to set up practice situations and to encourage mastery of the skill.
    1. Observe each group and record which members are engaging in the skill with what frequency and effectiveness.
    2. One way to do this is to inform the class that you will be focusing on one student—a "Mystery Student"—whose name will be kept secret. Observe during the lesson without showing whom you are observing. Describe to the whole class what the person did (frequency data).
  4. The fourth step is to ensure that each student (a) receives feedback on his or her use of the skill and (b) reflects on how to engage in the skill more effectively next time.
    1. Practicing new skills is not enough. Students must also receive feedback on how frequently and how well they are using the skill.
    2. One way to do this is to assign the role of "Observer" within each group. This person collects observational data on the given skill for each member of the group. After, the observer reports the information gathered to the group. Small group processing then focuses on how to use the skill more effectively in the future and set improvement goals.

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