There is a distinct difference between group work and co-operative learning. During ‘group work’ there is generally a problem that a group is set to work on without structure, or with limited structure, often leading to one student doing the main body of work and the other students riding on the coat tails. Co-operative learning is the opposite, it is highly structured, every group member is expected to follow the rules to put in the same amount of work, with a public performance (in front of their small group, not the entire group!).
The aim of co-operative learning is to stop ‘desktop truancy’ so that students can have an opportunity to think about something as opposed to copying answers from a friend.
Co-operative learning is not about ‘kids teaching kids’, the best way I can describe it is with an analogy of chewing gum. The expert, the classroom teacher, teaches something that is new, this is the chewing gum. The students want to get to grips with the new material, so they need some ‘gum chewing’ time. This is the co-operative learning time.
To make sense of something you have to think about it, you have to ensure that it fits with your knowledge that is already there, if it doesn’t, your knowledge needs refining. The discussion allows chance to refine the knowledge, to see how other students contextualise it, to see if there is any shared ground.
Given what Dan Willingham informs us that ‘memory is the residue of thought’ – verbalising ideas clearly relies on you thinking about the idea more deeply than just having it in your mind.
So, when I get a readership of greater than 0, I will upload a few of my resources with a plan of use, just so you can see if it is helpful to you!