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Monitor and Intervene

Preparing for and Recording Observations

When there is a desire to identify and record the extent to which groups display specific behaviors during the cooperative learning exercise, a number of key steps help to facilitate the process.

The Practice of Observation

This step may seem self-explanatory, but generating quantitative data from watching your groups isn't trivial. You are looking for specific actions or verbal cues related to your target behaviors. When a student engages in that action, the observer puts a tally mark on the group's observation form. This is a good reason to start small and only look at a few behaviors to begin with. But the observer should also keep notes about specific positive contributions made by group members to supplement the tally data, as well as to use in praising student actions during processing.


In the process of observing your students working in groups, you will likely see patterns of behavior that impede their progress and thus you'll want to intervene. These might include misconceptions of the task and concepts involved in the project or deficiencies in use of social skills and communication.

When faculty interact with groups, their role should be one that is supportive of cooperation rather than simply telling them what they are doing wrong and how to fix it. Kagan (1992) suggests that students should be advised to to use the "three before me" method- seeking input from three sources before asking the instructor a question. Barkley, et al. (2005: 71-72), citing Johnson and Johnson (1984) and Silberman (1996), provide a number of strategies that promote supportive interaction:

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