Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, teachers at Clinton Public, Exeter Elementary and Upper Thames Elementary School volunteered to participate in a second year of learning about and implementing Cooperative Learning in their classrooms. Cooperative Learning is a research-based teaching approach that blends academic work with the explicit teaching of desired social skills. It is especially helpful for mixed-ability groups.
Cooperative Learning differs from group work in that there are essential elements that help teachers to circumvent the woes that can come about with group work, such as students not getting along or only one person doing the majority of the work or learning. At the three participating schools, teachers explicitly teach desired social skills necessary for successfully working with others. Students know that they are not successful until everyone in the group is successful. Teachers across the three schools are using Cooperative Learning across all subject areas including Language, Math, Science and Social Studies.
Spotlight: Exeter Elementary
Many teachers at Exeter Elementary begin their day with Base Groups, long term heterogeneous groupings that check in with each other daily about how they are feeling and what they are learning. Base Groups can help to create a positive classroom culture where students feel safe to ask questions and take risks in their learning. Teachers noted real changes in student learning and behaviour. “After we started using Base Groups, students started taking care of each other in ways that I hadn’t seen before. Because they are getting to know each other better, they care more,” explains Grade 3 teacher Jenn Regier.
Spotlight: Upper Thames Elementary
Upper Thames Elementary is now in their third year of implementing Cooperative Learning. This model has now spread across divisions, with regular implementation in classrooms in both Primary and Junior Divisions.
In the 2017 / 2018 school year, Upper Thames Junior Division teachers Emily Agar, Laura Terpstra, Jody Horne, Tara Watters alongside Resource Teacher Mary Coleman, were the recipients of a $4000 Ontario Teaching Federation Grant to develop further their deeper understanding of Cooperative Learning, alongside Peter Liljedahl’s Thinking Classroom model in their classrooms. Teachers were able to purchase dynamic resources to support learning in their classrooms, attend the Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators annual conference in Toronto and collaborate as a school team to create meaningful, sustainable Cooperative Lessons which positively impacted not only individual students and classrooms, but the Upper Thames community. Now, a continuum of Cooperative Learning can be seen in classrooms across Upper Thames, with students familiar and thriving with the CL model for much of their time at Upper Thames.