miércoles, 23 de junio de 2010


We believe Globish is a tool for communication but not a language in itself ...

viernes, 11 de junio de 2010

The Origin of Words and Names

The Origin of Words and Names

Where Words Come From

The English language has developed from an Anglo-Saxon base of common words: household words, parts of the body, common animals, natural elements, most pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs. Other modern words in English have developed from five sources. These are discussed below.

Words Created From Nothing

Examples of words that have just appeared in the language out of nothing are byte, dog (replacing the earlier hund), donkey, jam, kick, log, googol, quasar and yuppie. The latter two are acronyms (words made from initials).
Shakespere coined over 1600 words including countless, critical, excellent, lonely, majestic, obscene.
From Ben Johnson we got damp, from Isaac Newton centrifugal and from Thomas More: explain and exact.

Words Created In Error

The vegetable pease was thought to be a plural so that the individual item in the pod was given the name pea. The verb laze was erroneously created from the adjective lazy. The word buttonhole was a mis-hearing of button-hold.
Borrowed and Adopted Words
English has borrowed words from a variety of sources and other languages. Three examples show this.

The name of the fruit was NARANJ in Sanskrit. This language was spoken in ancient India. Indians traded with Arabs, so the word passed into Arabic as NARANJAH. The Spaniards were ruled by north African Arabs who passed the fruit and word into Spanish as NARANJA (pronounced as NARANHA).
This came into English where the fruit was a NARANJ. Words ending in J are not common in English so the spelling quickly changed to a NARANGE.
The initial N moved to the a because of mis-hearing to give an ARANGE (this is called metanalysis).
Over time, the initial A became an O to give an ORANGE.


When the Spanish arrived in Mexico they came across the Aztecs. The Aztec language is called Nahuatl. The Aztecs had a drink which they made from a bean they called CHOCO (bitter). They would put this bean into water (ATL) to produce CHOCO-ATL (bitter water).
The TL sound is common in the Aztec language but not in Spanish. The Spaniards mispronounced the drink CHOCOLATO.
This drink was brought to Europe (with sugar added) where the pronunciation and spelling in English became CHOCOLATE.


This is a mathematical term. It comes from Arabic.
Mohammad al-Khwarizmi was a mathematician who flourished in Baghdad around the year 800. He wrote a book about the solving of equations. It was called ilm al-jabr wa'l muqabalah (the science of transposition and cancellation).
The term al-jabr from this title gave the English word, ALGEBRA.


This is a term in chess. It is from the Farsi language spoken in Iran and Afghanistan. The original phrase is SHAH-K-MATE (every syllable pronounced) which means "The King is Dead".
The word SHAH means a "king" as in the last monarch (or SHAH) of Iran. MATE has the same root as the English "murder" and the Spanish "matador" (killer).
The word came via French (where the SH became a CH) and into English where the MA-TE (two syllables) became MATE (one syllable) to give CHECKMATE.
Words that imitate or suggest the source of the sound they are describing (onomatopoeia)
Many words were invented because they sound like the action, for example: a bell when struck makes a noise bing, so from there you get bingo like the sound, so when people are playing bingo games and they win they say bingo like it's like a bell has been rung; or when a cat makes a noise it's called meowing and the word sounds like the name meow.

Changes In Words

Many words used in modern English have changed their meaning over the years. This is shown in the table below.
Word Original Meaning
awful deserving of awe
brave cowardice (as in bravado)
counterfeit legitimate copy
cute bow-legged
girl young person of either sex
guess take aim
knight boy
luxury sinful self indulgence
neck parcel of land (as in neck of the woods)
notorious famous
nuisance injury, harm
quick alive (as in quicksilver)
sophisticated corrupted
tell to count (as in bank teller)
truant beggar

The word silly meant blessed or happy in the 11th century going through pious, innocent, harmless, pitiable, feeble, feeble minded before finally ending up as foolish or stupid.
Pretty began as crafty then changed via clever, skilfully made, fine to beautiful.
Buxom began with the meaning obedient and changed via compliant, lively, plump to large breasted.

The word nice meant stupid and foolish in the late 13th Century. It went through a number of changes including wanton, extravagant, elegant, strange, modest, thin, and shy. By the middle of the 18th Century it had gained its current meaning of pleasant and agreeable.
Words are changing meaning now: consider how the words bad and gay have changed in recent years.

Words Created By Subtraction Or Addition

Words can be created by adding suffixes: -able, -ness, -ment. They can also be created by adding prefixes: dis-, anti-.
Examples include: sellable, brightness, pavement, disestablish, antimatter.
Words can be combined to form new words (air and port gave airport; land and mark to give landmark). Sometimes the combination can go in more than one way (houseboat, boathouse; bookcase, casebook).
Many common words have been shortened from the original term as in the table below.

Modern Word Original Form

bra brassière
bus omnibus (Latin: for everyone)
exam examination
gym gymnasium
knickers knickerbockers
lab laboratory
mob mobile vulgus (Latin: fickle crowd)
petrol petroleum (Greek: rock oil)
pram parambulator

Metanalysis is the process where a letter is added or subtracted because of a nearby word. Examples below.

Modern Word Original Form
a nickname an ekename
a newt an ewt
an adder a nadder
an apron a napron
an orange a narange
an umpire a nonper
Where Surnames Come From

English and British surnames (family names) have four main sources: the person's occupation, the place of origin, a nickname and relations. Examples of these can be seen in the tables below.


Name Meaning
Archer bow and arrow user
Bishop bishop's man
Butcher meat worker
Carpenter wheel repairer
Fletcher arrow maker
Fuller cloth cleaner
Miller grain grinder
Shepherd herder of sheep
Smith metal worker


Name Origin

Devonshire an English county
French from France
Lincoln an English city
Kent an English county
Preston an English city
Scott from Scotland
Walsh from Wales
Name Meaning
Armstrong strong armed
Campbell crooked mouth
Goldwater urine (derogatory)
Kennedy Gaelic: ugly head
Morgan Welsh: white haired
Russell French: red haired
Whistler one who whistles
Whitehead white headed


Name Meaning
Johnson son of John
MacDonald son of Donald (Scottish)
O'Connor son of Connor (Irish)
Robinson son of Robin

Where First Names Come From

First names (given names in American English, a more accurate term) have many sources as can be seen in the tables below. Please note that the phrase first name may be ambiguous in some cultures (eg. Chinese) where the family name comes first. I do not use the term Christian name as it makes cultural assumptions.
There is a Search facility for finding names or meanings.
Arabic Names
Examples: Amber, Ali, Mohammed...
Aramaic Names
Examples: Bartholomew, Martha, Thomas...
Celtic Names
Examples: Brian, Dylan, Kermit, Tara...
French Names
Examples: Alison, Bruce, Olivia...
Germanic Names
Examples: Charles, Leonard, Richard, William...
Greek Names
Examples: Angel, Christopher, George, Selina...
Hebrew Names
Examples: Adam, David, John, Michelle...
Italian Names
Examples: Bianca, Donna, Mia...
Latin Names
Examples: Cordelia, Diana, Patrick, Victoria...
Norse Names
Examples: Brenda, Dustin, Eric...
Old English Names
Examples: Edward, Oscar, Wayne...
Persian Names
Examples: Esther, Jasmine, Roxanne...
Phoenician Names
Example: Hannibal...
Sanskrit Names
Examples: Beryl, Opal, Uma...
Slavic Names
Examples: Boris, Nadia, Vera...
Spanish Names
Examples: Dolores, Linda, Rio...
Turkish Names
Example: Ayla...
Search on First (Given) Names
A search engine that allows a search for First (Given) names.

Where Place Names Come From

The table below shows the historical influence of various languages in names of places and their derivations for the British Isles.

Source Language Meaning Modern Forms

ac Anglo-Saxon oak Ac-, Oak-, -ock
baile Gaelic farm, village Bally-, Bal-
bearu Anglo-Saxon grove, wood Barrow-, -ber
beorg Anglo-Saxon burial mound Bar-, -borough
brycg Anglo-Saxon bridge Brig-, -bridge
burh Anglo-Saxon fortified place Bur-, -bury
burna Anglo-Saxon stream, spring Bourn-, -burn(e)
by Old Norse farm, village -by
caer Welsh fortified place Car-
ceaster Latin fort, Roman town Chester-, -caster
cot Anglo-Saxon shelter, cottage -cot(e)
cwm Welsh deep valley -combe
daire Gaelic oak wood -dare, -derry
dalr Old Norse valley Dal-, -dale
denn Anglo-Saxon swine pasture -dean, -den
dun Anglo-Saxon hill, down Dun-, -down, -ton
ea Anglo-Saxon water, river Ya-, Ea-, -ey
eg Anglo-Saxon island Ey-
ey Old Norse island -ey, -ay
gleann Gaelic narrow valley Glen-
graf Anglo-Saxon grove -grave, -grove
ham Anglo-Saxon homestead, village Ham-, -ham
hyrst Anglo-Saxon wooded hill Hurst-, -hirst
-ing Anglo-Saxon place of ... -ing
leah Anglo-Saxon glade, clearing Leigh-, Lee-, -ley
loch Gaelic lake Loch-, -loch
mere Anglo-Saxon lake, pool Mer-, Mar-, -mere, -more
nes Old Norse cape -ness
pwll Welsh anchorage, pool -pool
rhos Welsh moorland Ros(s)-, -rose
stan Anglo-Saxon stone Stan-, -stone
stede Anglo-Saxon place, site -ste(a)d
stoc Anglo-Saxon meeting place Stoke-, -stock
stow Anglo-Saxon meeting place Stow-, -stow(e)
straet Latin Roman road Strat-, Stret-, -street
tun Anglo-Saxon enclosure, village Ton-, -town, -ton
thorp Old Norse farm, village Thorp-, -thorp(e)
thveit Old Norse glade, clearing -thwaite
wic Anglo-Saxon dwelling, farm -wick, -wich
© 2001, 2005 KryssTal

miércoles, 2 de junio de 2010

Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning

Please visit http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html

Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
What is constructivism?

Constructivism is basically a theory—based on observation and scientific study—about how people learn. It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know.
In the classroom, the constructivist view of learning can point towards a number of different teaching practices. In the most general sense, it usually means encouraging students to use active techniques (experiments, real-world problem solving) to create more knowledge and then to reflect on and talk about what they are doing and how their understanding is changing. The teacher makes sure she understands the students’ preexisting conceptions, and guides the activity to address them and then build on them.

Constructivist teachers encourage students to constantly assess how the activity is helping them gain understanding. By questioning themselves and their strategies, students in the constructivist classroom ideally become “expert learners.” This gives them ever-broadening tools to keep learning. With a well-planned classroom environment, the students learn HOW TO LEARN.
You might look at it as a spiral. When they continuously reflect on their experiences, students find their ideas gaining in complexity and power, and they develop increasingly strong abilities to integrate new information. One of the teacher’s main roles becomes to encourage this learning and reflection process.
For example: Groups of students in a science class are discussing a problem in physics. Though the teacher knows the “answer” to the problem, she focuses on helping students restate their questions in useful ways. She prompts each student to reflect on and examine his or her current knowledge. When one of the students comes up with the relevant concept, the teacher seizes upon it, and indicates to the group that this might be a fruitful avenue for them to explore. They design and perform relevant experiments. Afterward, the students and teacher talk about what they have learned, and how their observations and experiments helped (or did not help) them to better understand the concept.
Contrary to criticisms by some (conservative/traditional) educators, constructivism does not dismiss the active role of the teacher or the value of expert knowledge. Constructivism modifies that role, so that teachers help students to construct knowledge rather than to reproduce a series of facts. The constructivist teacher provides tools such as problem-solving and inquiry-based learning activities with which students formulate and test their ideas, draw conclusions and inferences, and pool and convey their knowledge in a collaborative learning environment. Constructivism transforms the student from a passive recipient of information to an active participant in the learning process. Always guided by the teacher, students construct their knowledge actively rather than just mechanically ingesting knowledge from the teacher or the textbook.
Constructivism is also often misconstrued as a learning theory that compels students to “reinvent the wheel.” In fact, constructivism taps into and triggers the student’s innate curiosity about the world and how things work. Students do not reinvent the wheel but, rather, attempt to understand how it turns, how it functions. They become engaged by applying their existing knowledge and real-world experience, learning to hypothesize, testing their theories, and ultimately drawing conclusions from their findings.
The best way for you to really understand what constructivism is and what it means in your classroom is by seeing examples of it at work, speaking with others about it, and trying it yourself. As you progress through each segment of this workshop, keep in mind questions or ideas to share with your colleagues.
How does this theory differ from traditional ideas about teaching and learning?
As with many of the methods addressed in this series of workshops, in the constructivist classroom, the focus tends to shift from the teacher to the students. The classroom is no longer a place where the teacher (“expert”) pours knowledge into passive students, who wait like empty vessels to be filled. In the constructivist model, the students are urged to be actively involved in their own process of learning. The teacher functions more as a facilitator who coaches, mediates, prompts, and helps students develop and assess their understanding, and thereby their learning. One of the teacher’s biggest jobs becomes ASKING GOOD QUESTIONS.
And, in the constructivist classroom, both teacher and students think of knowledge not as inert factoids to be memorized, but as a dynamic, ever-changing view of the world we live in and the ability to successfully stretch and explore that view.
The chart below compares the traditional classroom to the constructivist one. You can see significant differences in basic assumptions about knowledge, students, and learning. (It’s important, however, to bear in mind that constructivists acknowledge
that students are constructing knowledge in traditional classrooms, too. It’s really a matter of the emphasis being on the student, not on the instructor.)
Curriculum begins with the parts of the whole. Emphasizes basic skills.Curriculum emphasizes big concepts, beginning with the whole and expanding to include the parts. Strict adherence to fixed curriculum is highly valued.Pursuit of student questions and interests is valued.
Materials are primarily textbooks and workbooks. Materials include primary sources of material and manipulative materials.

Learning is based on repetition. Learning is interactive, building on what the student already knows. Teachers disseminate information to students; students are recipients of knowledge. Teachers have a dialogue with students, helping students construct their own knowledge. Teacher’s role is directive, rooted in authority. Teacher’s role is interactive, rooted in negotiation. Assessment is through testing, correct answers.
Assessment includes student works, observations, and points of view, as well as tests. Process is as important as product. Knowledge is seen as inert. Knowledge is seen as dynamic, ever changing with our experiences.
Students work primarily alone.Students work primarily in groups.

What does constructivism have to do with my classroom?
As is the case with many of the current/popular paradigms, you’re probably already using the constructivist approach to some degree. Constructivist teachers pose questions and problems, then guide students to help them find their own answers. They use many techniques in the teaching process. For example, they may:
prompt students to formulate their own questions (inquiry) allow multiple interpretations and expressions of learning (multiple intelligences) encourage group work and the use of peers as resources (collaborative learning)
More information on the above processes is covered in other workshops in this series. For now, it’s important to realize that the constructivist approach borrows from many other practices in the pursuit of its primary goal: helping students learn HOW TO LEARN.
In a constructivist classroom, learning is . . .

Students are not blank slates upon which knowledge is etched. They come to learning situations with already formulated knowledge, ideas, and understandings. This previous knowledge is the raw material for the new knowledge they will create.
Example: An elementary school teacher presents a class problem to measure the length of the “Mayflower.” Rather than starting the problem by introducing the ruler, the teacher allows students to reflect and to construct their own methods of measurement. One student offers the knowledge that a doctor said he is four feet tall. Another says she knows horses are measured in “hands.” The students discuss these and other methods they have heard about, and decide on one to apply to the problem.

The student is the person who creates new understanding for him/herself. The teacher coaches, moderates, suggests, but allows the students room to experiment, ask questions, try things that don’t work. Learning activities require the students’ full
participation (like hands-on experiments). An important part of the learning process is that students reflect on, and talk about, their activities. Students also help set their own goals and means of assessment.
Examples: A middle-school language arts teacher sets aside time each week for a writing lab. The emphasis is on content and getting ideas down rather than memorizing grammatical rules, though one of the teacher’s concerns is the ability of his students to express themselves well through written language. The teacher provides opportunities for students to examine the finished and earlier drafts of various authors. He allows students to select and create projects within the general requirement of building a portfolio 1. Students serve as peer editors who value originality and uniqueness rather than the best way to fulfill an assignment.

In a history class, asking students to read and think about different versions of and perspectives on “history” can lead to interesting discussions. Is history as taught in textbooks accurate? Are there different versions of the same history? Whose version of history is most accurate? How do we know? From there, students can make their own judgments.

Students control their own learning process, and they lead the way by reflecting on their experiences. This process makes them experts of their own learning. The teacher helps create situations where the students feel safe questioning and reflecting on their own processes, either privately or in group discussions. The teacher should also create activities that lead the student to reflect on his or her prior knowledge and experiences. Talking about what was learned and how it was learned is really important.
Example: Students keep journals in a writing class where they record how they felt about the class projects, the visual and verbal reactions of others to the project, and how they felt their own writing had changed. Periodically the teacher reads these journals and holds a conference with the student where the two assess (1) what new knowledge the student has created, (2) how the student learns best, and (3) the learning environment and the teacher’s role in it.

The constructivist classroom relies heavily on collaboration among students. There are many reasons why collaboration contributes to learning. The main reason it is used so much in constructivism is that students learn about learning not only from themselves, but also from their peers. When students review and reflect on their
learning processes together, they can pick up strategies and methods from one another.

Example: In the course of studying ancient civilizations, students undertake an archaeological dig. This may be something constructed in a large sandbox, or, as in the Dalton School’s “Archaeotype” software simulation, on a computer. As the students find different objects, the teacher introduces classifying techniques. The students are encouraged to (1) set up a group museum by developing criteria and choosing which objects should belong, and (2) collaborate with other students who worked in different quadrants of the dig. Each group is then asked to develop theories about the civilizations that inhabited the area.

The main activity in a constructivist classroom is solving problems. Students use inquiry methods to ask questions, investigate a topic, and use a variety of resources to find solutions and answers. As students explore the topic, they draw conclusions, and, as exploration continues, they revisit those conclusions. Exploration of questions leads to more questions. (See the CONCEPT TO CLASSROOM workshop Inquiry-based Learning)
Example: Sixth graders figuring out how to purify water investigate solutions ranging from coffee-filter paper, to a stove-top distillation apparatus, to piles of charcoal, to an abstract mathematical solution based on the size of a water molecule. Depending upon students’ responses, the teacher encourages abstract as well as concrete, poetic as well as practical, creations of new knowledge.

Students have ideas that they may later see were invalid, incorrect, or insufficient to explain new experiences. These ideas are temporary steps in the integration of knowledge. For instance, a child may believe that all trees lose their leaves in the fall, until she visits an evergreen forest. Constructivist teaching takes into account students’ current conceptions and builds from there. What happens when a student gets a new piece of information? The constructivist model says that the student compares the information to the knowledge and understanding he/she already has, and one of three things can occur:
The new information matches up with his previous knowledge pretty well (it’s consonant with the previous knowledge), so the student adds it to his understanding. It may take some work, but it’s just a matter of finding the right fit, as with a puzzle piece.
The information doesn’t match previous knowledge (it’s dissonant). The student has to change her previous understanding to find a fit for the information. This can be harder work. The information doesn’t match previous knowledge, and it is ignored. Rejected bits of information may just not be absorbed by the student. Or they may float around, waiting for the day when the student’s understanding has developed and permits a fit.

Example: An elementary teacher believes her students are ready to study gravity. She creates an environment of discovery with objects of varying kinds. Students explore the differences in weight among similarly sized blocks of Styrofoam, wood, and lead. Some students hold the notion that heavier objects fall faster than light ones.
The teacher provides materials (stories, posters, and videos) about Galileo, Newton, etc. She leads a discussion on theories about falling. The students then replicate Galileo’s experiment by dropping objects of different weights and measuring how fast they fall. They see that objects of different weights actually usually fall at the same speed, although surface area and aerodynamic properties can affect the rate of fall.

What are some critical perspectives?

Constructivism has been criticized on various grounds. Some of the charges that critics level against it are:
It’s elitist. Critics say that constructivism and other “progressive” educational theories have been most successful with children from privileged backgrounds who are fortunate in having outstanding teachers, committed parents, and rich home environments. They argue that disadvantaged children, lacking such resources,
benefit more from more explicit instruction.
. Social constructivism leads to “group think.” Critics say the collaborative aspects of constructivist classrooms tend to produce a “tyranny of the majority,” in which a few students’ voices or interpretations dominate the group’s conclusions, and dissenting
students are forced to conform to the emerging consensus.
. There is little hard evidence that constructivist methods work.
Critics say that constructivists, by rejecting evaluation through testing and other external criteria, have made themselves unaccountable for their students’ progress. Critics also say that studies of various kinds of instruction—in particular Project
Follow Through 1, a long-term government initiative—have found that students in constructivist classrooms lag behind those in more traditional classrooms in basic skills.

Constructivists counter that in studies where children were compared on higher-order thinking skills, constructivist students seemed to outperform their peers.

What are the benefits of constructivism?

. Benefit - Children learn more, and enjoy learning more when they are actively
involved, rather than passive listeners.
. Benefit - Education works best when it concentrates on thinking and understanding, rather than on rote memorization. Constructivism concentrates on learning how to think and understand.
. Benefit - Constructivist learning is transferable. In constructivist classrooms, students create organizing principles that they can take with them to other learning settings.
. Benedit- Constructivism gives students ownership of what they learn, since
learning is based on students’ questions and explorations, and often the students have a hand in designing the assessments as well.
Constructivist assessment engages the students’ initiatives and personal investments in their journals, research reports, physical models, and artistic representations. Engaging the creative instincts develops students’ abilities to express knowledge through a variety of ways. The students are also more likely to retain and transfer the new knowledge to real life.
. Benefit - By grounding learning activities in an authentic, real-world context, constructivism stimulates and engages students. Students in constructivist classrooms learn to question things and to apply their natural curiousity to the world.
. Benefit -Constructivism promotes social and communication skills by creating
a classroom environment that emphasizes collaboration and exchange of ideas. Students must learn how to articulate their ideas clearly as well as to collaborate on tasks effectively by sharing in group projects. Students must therefore exchange ideas and so must learn to “negotiate” with others and to evaluate their contributions in a socially acceptable manner. This is essential to success in the real
world, since they will always be exposed to a variety of experiences in which they will have to cooperate and navigate among the ideas of others.

Cooperative and Collaborative Learning

Please visit the link below and see the videos!!!


Cooperative and Collaborative Learning: Explanation

- What are cooperative and collaborative learning?
- How do cooperative and collaborative learning differ from the traditional approach?
- How have cooperative and collaborative learning developed since they became popular?
- What are the benefits of cooperative and collaborative learning?
- What are some critical perspectives?
- How can I use cooperative and collaborative learning in conjunction with other educational techniques?

What are cooperative and collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is a method of teaching and learning in which students team together to explore a significant question or create a meaningful project. A group of students discussing a lecture or students from different schools working together over the Internet on a shared assignment are both examples of collaborative learning.
Cooperative learning, which will be the primary focus of this workshop, is a specific kind of collaborative learning. In cooperative learning, students work together in small groups on a structured activity. They are individually accountable for their work, and the work of the group as a whole is also assessed. Cooperative groups work face-to-face and learn to work as a team.
In small groups, students can share strengths and also develop their weaker skills. They develop their interpersonal skills. They learn to deal with conflict. When cooperative groups are guided by clear objectives, students engage in numerous activities that improve their understanding of subjects explored.
In order to create an environment in which cooperative learning can take place, three things are necessary. First, students need to feel safe, but also challenged. Second, groups need to be small enough that everyone can contribute. Third, the task students work together on must be clearly defined. The cooperative and collaborative learning techniques presented here should help make this possible for teachers. Also, in cooperative learning small groups provide a place where:
learners actively participate; teachers become learners at times, and learners sometimes teach; respect is given to every member; projects and questions interest and challenge students; diversity is celebrated, and all contributions are valued; students learn skills for resolving conflicts when they arise; members draw upon their past experience and knowledge; goals are clearly identified and used as a guide; research tools such as Internet access are made available; students are invested in their own learning.
For more detailed descriptions of cooperative and collaborative learning, check out the books, articles, and Web sites listed on our Resources page.

How do cooperative and collaborative learning differ from the traditional approach?

Cooperative and collaborative learning differ from traditional teaching approaches because students work together rather than compete with each other individually. Collaborative learning can take place any time students work together—for example, when they help each other with homework. Cooperative learning takes place when students work together in the same place on a structured project in a small group. Mixed-skill groups can be especially helpful to students in developing their social abilities.
The skills needed to work together in groups are quite distinct from those used to succeed in writing a paper on one’s own or completing most homework or “seatwork” assignments. In a world where being a “team player” is often a key part of business success, cooperative learning is a very useful and relevant tool. Because it is just one of a set of tools, however, it can easily be integrated into a class that uses multiple approaches. For some assignments individual work may be most efficient, while for others cooperative groups work best.
Research suggests that cooperative and collaborative learning bring positive results such as deeper understanding of content, increased overall achievement in grades, improved self-esteem, and higher motivation to remain on task. Cooperative learning helps students become actively and constructively involved in content, to take ownership of their own learning, and to resolve group conflicts and improve teamwork skills.

How have cooperative and collaborative learning developed since they became popular?

Over the past twenty-five years, the use of small-group learning has greatly increased. Informal collaborative projects have grown into structured, cooperative group work. Cooperative learning became especially popular in the early 1980s and has matured and evolved since.
One evolving aspect of cooperative and collaborative learning involves how the educational community approaches the composition of the small groups. Debates still occur on this topic. Researchers disagree mainly about whether to group students according to their ability, or to mix them so that stronger students can help the weaker ones learn and themselves learn from the experience of tutoring.
Some researchers, such as Mills 1 and Durden (1992), suggest that gifted students are held back when grouped with weaker students. More researchers support diversity in small groups, however. Radencich and McKay (1995) conclude that grouping by ability does not usually benefit overall achievement and can lead to inequalities of achievement. With good arguments on both sides, most teachers make choices based on their objectives.
Or, they simply alternate. Sometimes they group according to the strengths or interests of students, and other times they mix it up so that students can learn to work with different types of people. Just as experts differ on the make-up of groups, they also debate about the most effective size for small groups. According to Slavin 2 (1987), having two or three members per group produces higher achievement than groups with four or more members. Antil et al. (1997) conclude that most teachers prefer pairs and small groups of three and four. Elbaum et al. (1997) suggest that we have dialogues with students about their preferences for group composition and expected outcomes. And Fidler (1999) discusses the value of reflecting in order to correct errors we make in group assignments. Through many mistakes, Fidler learned how to refine the composition of his groups.
As we work through some examples of cooperative learning, you will learn how to devise groups that work best for particular assignments.
Science teacher Janet Torkel at Brooklyn’s P.S. 200 discusses how collaboration between teachers helps her students learn better. Seeing teachers working together helps reinforce the students’ own collaborative work. Most recently, new technologies have added an exciting new dimension to collaborative and cooperative learning. With the Internet, collaboration can occur without regard to distance or time barriers: e-mails can be sent at students’ or teachers’ convenience to practically anywhere around the world, and the recipient can reply when he or she has time. Students can work together to create Web pages or find and share data gleaned from the Net. There is software that can be used with school computer networks to allow students in different classrooms to work together simultaneously or a group of students to collaborate on projects like desktop publishing. For more on using technology with cooperative and collaborative learning, see the topic “How can technology be used with cooperative and collaborative learning?” in the “Exploration” section of this workshop.

What are the benefits of cooperative and collaborative learning?

Benefits from small-group learning in a collaborative environment include:
Celebration of diversity. Students learn to work with all types of people. During small-group interactions, they find many opportunities to reflect upon and reply to the diverse responses fellow learners bring to the questions raised. Small groups also allow students to add their perspectives to an issue based on their cultural differences. This exchange inevitably helps students to better understand other cultures and points of view.
Acknowledgment of individual differences. When questions are raised, different students will have a variety of responses. Each of these can help the group create a product that reflects a wide range of perspectives and is thus more complete and comprehensive.
Interpersonal development. Students learn to relate to their peers and other learners as they work together in group enterprises. This can be especially helpful for students who have difficulty with social skills. They can benefit from structured interactions with others. Actively involving students in learning. Each member has opportunities to contribute in small groups. Students are apt to take more ownership of their material and to think critically about related issues when they work as a team. More opportunities for personal feedback. Because there are more exchanges among students in small groups, your students receive more personal feedback about their ideas and responses. This feedback is often not possible in large-group instruction, in which one or two students exchange ideas and the rest of the class listens.

In Part 1 of this video clip, Kathryn Mitchell Pierce, who teaches grades one through three in Clayton, Missouri, talks about adjusting the make-up of cooperative groups. In Part 2, she discusses how even shy students can blossom when assigned to the right kind of group.
Beneficial, cooperative-learning situations are not easy to set up. In many situations, particularly those in which people must work together on a problem, conflicts prevent learning. As a result, cooperative learning requires teaching kids to work well with others by resolving these inevitable conflicts. In the next section, we will present specific techniques for dealing with group conflicts.

What are some critical perspectives?

Critics of small-group learning often point to problems related to vague objectives and poor expectations for accountability. Small-group work, some claim, is an avoidance of teaching. According to these critics, dividing the class into small groups allows the teacher to escape responsibility.
Vicki Randall (1999), who has taught elementary, high-school, and college-level students, cautions against abuse and overuse of group work. According to Randall, the many benefits of cooperative learning sometimes blind us to its drawbacks. She identifies the following practices as common weaknesses:
Making members of the group responsible for each other’s learning. This can place too great a burden on some students. In mixed-ability groups, the result is often that stronger students are left to teach weaker students and do most of the work. Encouraging only lower-level thinking and ignoring the strategies necessary for the inclusion of critical or higher-level thought. In small groups, there is sometimes only enough time to focus on the task at its most basic level.
You can find information about this and other critical works we cite on our Resources page.
Some critics cite the mix of students as a source of potential difficulties, although they disagree on which types of groups are problematic. Other dissenters highlight the overuse of cooperative groups to the detriment of students who benefit more from learning alone. Yet others recommend that we negotiate more with students to determine how they learn best and apply these ideas to the way we structure classes.

Recommendations from advocates of cooperative learning to address issues that critics raise include:

.making sure to identify clear questions at the outset and to show how these questions relate to students’ interests and abilities and the teaching goals;
.resolving small-group conflicts as soon as they arise and showing students how to prevent trouble in future;
.creating rubrics 1 at the beginning of any assignment and using these for guiding the learning process and for assessing final work;
.helping students reflect on their progress on a regular
.expecting excellence from all students and letting them know that you believe in them and their ability to produce excellent work.
Another possible problem with cooperative learning involves racial and gender inequities. Research (Cohen 1986; Sadker et al. 1991;
Linn and Burbules 1993) shows that in science, and perhaps in other areas of the curriculum as well, group learning may be LESS equitable for girls than autonomous learning. Group learning may reinforce stereotypes, biases, and views of science and math as a male domain. Male students may discredit females, and the classroom may become a microcosm of the “old boy” network that has frequently discouraged women and minorities from participating in certain curricular activities. Specifically, according to Sadker et al. (1991):
The different and contradictory findings of the relatively few studies analyzing cross-gender performance in cooperative learning organizations suggest that, by itself, the implementation of cooperative learning groups does not necessarily lead to a more equitable and effective learning environment for females and minorities.
Group formations that avoid diversity—e.g., all female or all racial-minorities—may be useful in these situations, but these groups also have drawbacks of their own.

How can I use cooperative and collaborative learning in conjunction with other educational techniques?

Since cooperative-learning techniques revolve around the use of a particular tool—small groups—they can be used with almost any other educational strategy.
Many of the other teaching techniques detailed in previous workshops include small-group learning activities. The cooperative-learning techniques described here will help you and your students make the best use of these small-group activities. Some types of cooperative learning (like those demonstrated in this workshop) have been developed in concert with the theory of multiple intelligences, so they work very readily with this strategy. In small groups, students can share their strengths and weaknesses and use the group activities to develop a variety of their intelligences.
Cooperative activities involve the construction of new ideas based on personal and shared foundations of past experiences and understandings—so they naturally apply some of the principles of constructivism. Learners also investigate significant, real-world problems through good explorative questions, and as a result these groups can easily be used for an inquiry-based approach. They can also help students meet national, state, or local standards. Cooperative and collaborative activities can have many different objectives, ranging from mastery of basic skills to higher-order thinking. Because the specifics of a cooperative-learning project depend on the objectives of the particular teacher, the teacher can easily orient the project toward meeting these standards.