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Tips for Implementing Collaborative Learning in Your Classroom

written by: Nicole Borkoski • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/11/2012

Are you struggling with how to group students together because of their different levels of learning and academic prowess? Read on for some great strategies for collaborative learning!

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    What is Collaborative Learning?

    SImply put, cooperative learning is when a group of students with different ability levels work together using different strategies to learning something new or complete an activity. There are many benefits, including:

    • learning how to work with a group
    • recognizing that each member of the group is an imporant member of the team
    • promotes academics
    • promotes learning
    • students enjoy the learning process more
    • students must learn to communicate well with each other
    • students work with people they may have not chosen on their own
    • it helps shy students come out of their shell because of the small group environment
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    PIGS FACE -- Yes... PIGS Face!

    Sometimes we have to trick students into learning, and the acronym PIGS FACE does just that!

    PIGS FACE is a way to ensure that your activity is, in fact, a collaborative one. As long as you (and your students!) are following PIGS FACE, some great learning should be taking place. So what does it stand for?

    P stands for positive interdependence.

    This means that all members of the group must work together to foster a positive outcome. One person can't complete all of the work, and there is no room for a students to sit back and do nothing. As a teacher, you need to have clear roles, goals and responsibilities for each member of the group. This will help decrease failure rates and encourage each student to do his or her job, and do it well!

    I stands for individual accountability.

    Each and every student will be accountable not only to their group, but to themselves as well. You can structure this however you want; quizzes, participation monitored by you, listening and speaking skills or a final test. Most students like to know up front what they will be responsible for and how they will be graded.

    G stands for group processing.

    After a group completes a task, each student has to analyze how he or she did individually as well as a team. Again, this helps promote students to achieve at the best of their ability because they know they are going to get "graded" by their classmates. This evaluation can be done privately so the students aren't afraid to tell how they really feel.

    S stands for social skills.

    Teachers expect students to act and behave a certain way, but sometimes forget to teach and model the desired behavior. For example, maybe a teacher wants her students to leave his or her trash on their desk and only get up at permitted times to throw the trash out. The teacher needs to explain (in detail!) how to do this, why it is important and how this will benefit the class as a whole. Most importantly, the teacher needs to model this behavior to show how it is done.

    FACE stands for face-to-face interaction.

    It is vitally important that in students in your classroom feel safe enough to voice opinions, ask questions, share ideas and talk about their feelings. If the students don't feel safe, they won't share what is on their minds. And, as a teacher, we need to respect all of the students, no matter how immature or silly some may seem at times.

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    I hope this provided you with a great way to easily incorporate collaborative learning strategies into your classroom. Please share with us in the comments strategies you've employed to encourage cooperation and shared learning among your students!

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