How can reading comprehension strategies be implemented in content-area classes?
Page 9: Cooperative Learning
Once his students are able to independently apply the four reading strategies, the next step for Mr. Dupree is to teach them to work in pairs or small groups. One of CSR’s great strengths, and a key to its effectiveness, is that it requires students to apply the four reading strategies in cooperative learning groups. Cooperative learning is a teaching method that uses heterogeneous (mixed ability) groups and that seeks to maximize the learning of everyone in those groups. It also helps students to develop social skills by requiring them to interact with one another. In addition to improving academic performance and cultivating more positive social behaviors, cooperative learning has been found to:
- Lead to greater motivation toward learning
- Increase time on task
- Improve self-esteem
Research has demonstrated that cooperative learning methods have yielded especially favorable results for students in at-risk groups, such as those with learning disabilities. Despite such findings, some teachers have expressed concern about whether mixed-ability cooperative groups actually decrease the participation of lower-ability students, including those with learning disabilities, because higher-performing students do most or all of the work. CSR, however, addresses this concern by assigning specific roles and responsibilities to everyone in the group, requiring each member to participate while also establishing the structure of that participation.
Listen as Sharon Vaughn describes the cooperative features of CSR (time: 0:56).
Sharon Vaughn, PhD
Professor of Special Education
Director of the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts
University of Texas, Austin
Transcript: Sharon Vaughn, PhD
CSR also has, as a practice, the notion of grouping students in groups of two to four—that is, either pairs or small groups of four in which students play a role in these groups—and it requires teachers to give students a fair amount of training in how to function in these groups, but also having confidence that students can learn from each other. And so teachers have various levels of comfort with that. If you are accustomed to being sort of the sage-on-the-stage and directing and coordinating all of the activities related to learning about social studies or science then it may be harder for you to turn simple learning over to students. But teachers who are more accustomed to allowing students to work in small groups or pairs will find the practice much easier to implement.
For Your Information
Cooperative learning methods have yielded favorable results for English learners (EL). One positive outcome of heterogeneous grouping is that proficient English speakers model the learning of English language and, consequently, promote the language acquisition of ELs.