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Cooperative Learning Techniques

Cooperative learning techniques can be loosely categorized by the skill that each enhances (Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005), although it is important to recognize that many cooperative learning exercises can be developed to fit within multiple categories. Categories include: discussion, reciprocal teaching, graphic organizers, writing and problem solving. Each category includes a number of potential structures to guide the development of a cooperative learning exercise.

Discussion: communicating
"A good give-and-take discussion can produce unmatched learning experiences as students articulate their ideas, respond to their classmates' points, and develop skills in evaluating the evidence of their own and others' positions." (Davis, 1993, p. 63)
Reciprocal teaching: explaining, providing feedback, understanding alternative perspectives Slavin (1996), in a review of hundreds of studies, concluded that "students who give each other elaborated explanations (and less consistently, those who receive such explanations) are the students who learn most in cooperative learning." (p. 53)

Graphic organizers: discovering patterns and relationships "Graphic organizers are powerful tools for converting complex information in to meaningful displays...They can provide a framework for gathering and sorting ideas for discussion, writing, and research." (Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005, p.205) See also, concept mapping.

Writing: organizing and synthesizing information The Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse at Colorado State University encourages the use of written assignments across the campus because is teaches students to communicate information, to clarify thinking and to learn new concepts and information.
Problem solving: developing strategies and analysis Research by mathematics educators Vidakovic (1997) and Vidakovic and Martin (2004) shows that groups are able to solve problems more accurately than individuals working alone.
For additional structures associated with each of these skill categories, see Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005.

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