Effective Classroom Instruction Using Tech: Cooperative Learning

10 May

Photo Credit: DoDEA Communications via Compfight cc

Eight years ago, the authors Pitler, Kuhn and Malenoski1 took the eleven essential instructional strategies that were identified originally by Marzano, Pickering and Pollock2. These essential instructional strategies allow teachers to then use them purposefully to steadily improve student learning. In this digital age of learning and in considerations of this research, I have included not only an outline of how technology could be used to complement and enhance these teaching strategies but also specific technology tools/resources.

Essential Instructional Strategy #7

In cooperative learning teachers focus on having students interacting with each other in groups to enhance their learning experiences. Technology facilitates group collaboration and communication. It also provides structure for group authentic tasks.

To enhance student learning and engagement by providing all students with equal opportunities to respond to the teacher’s questions and orally process their learning

Oral Processing – we remember more of what we say than what we hear, so frequent oral processing and sharing are important.

  •         Dr. Marcia Tate, author of Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites – “The person doing the most talking is the person doing the most learning.”
  •         Cooperative Learning is not about putting kids in groups to create a product or to demonstrate their learning after the teaching and learning; it’s about putting kids together to learn together during / as part of the teaching and learning.
  •         Vygotsky suggests that “learning takes place through the interactions students have with their peers, teachers, and other experts. Consequently, teachers can create a learning environment that maximizes the learner’s ability to learn through discussion, collaboration, and feedback.” Learning Theories Website

Because it requires that students talk to each other, cooperative learning:

  •         Helps develop listening and speaking skills
  •         Helps develop social skills
  •         Helps students think deeper

In order to develop these skills, we need to provide the opportunity and the structure (we need to teach them how to learn together in socially respectful ways).

Within the learning environment, various resources may be used. Below is a complementary list of actions and ideas, but by no means is it an exhaustive list. Please add your ideas in the comments section if you like.

Group processing with advance organizers and rubrics through DigiTales, Digital Storytelling.

Join a collaborative project like JASON, Literature Learning Ladder or check out How Stuff Works.

Join ePals.

Collaborate online with shared calendars, bookmarking (Diigo) and managed courses (Google Classroom, Moodle).

Interactive multiplayer simulation games such as Girls Inc., PowerUP, Education Arcade.

A starting point for integration of Kagan Structures is well summarized by Gavin Clowes.

Kagan structure RallyRobin is used for:

  •         For generating lists
  •         For brief answers to simple questions or tasks that have multiple short answers
  •         For reviewing information that has been presented
  •         By helping the brain clear its working memory and tag information for storage in long-term memory

When you might use RallyRobin:

– in early years for things like having students take turns each reading a sentence of a story that you have already read together; for saying the alphabet; to count by 2’s…

– In middle years, it might work for naming the different parts of a cell in science class, or answers to a simple recall question about a list of information you want students to learn.

Gambits- phrases or stems that the teacher provides for students; give students the language for developing social skills

Timed Pair Share uses a copycat gambit paired with a complete the sentence gambit.

Sample gambits for Timed Pair Share:

  •  Thank you for sharing your thinking. From your answer I learned…(paraphrase)
  • Your answer was well thought out. The part I remember most is…

* That’s an interesting answer. It made me think of …

Kagan structure Timed Pair Share is used:

  •         For open- ended questions or tasks that have complex answers
  •         For processing information that has been presented
  •         For activating prior knowledge about a topic

When you might use Timed Pair Share:

– in Language Arts, you might use Timed Pair Share to have students discuss character traits of a particular character-

An open-ended task might be – Which parts of this chapter best reveal the main character’s traits? Talk about what the character did or said, and what trait is revealed by these actions.

In early years it might be “what do the pictures on this page tell you about what might happen next in the story?”

–  Timed Pair Share would also work great for having students respond to critical thinking questions- those open ended questions that require students to use criteria and evidence to support their judgement.

–  In lower grade levels- who says “show and tell” needs to be reserved for ONE student a day? All kids can “show and tell” their partner something they brought that relates to a SS or Science topic. Take turns with partner showing and telling.

–  The question might be: How does your object relate to our SS topic?

–  Provide a gambit that would be appropriate to that task.

–  OR when assigning different teams, tell students the day before that the next day they will be getting new teammates. Students can bring in an object the next day that says something about themselves, and do a show and tell to their new teammates.

–  The question might be: What does this object say about you? Gambit: Thank you for sharing this information about yourself. I learned that you…



1 – Pitler, H., R., E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. Alexandria: ASCD.

2 – Marzano, R. J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Also look at Dean, C.B., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H. & Stone, B.J. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement, 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.



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