From Diversifying Economic Quality: A Wiki for Instructors and Departments
Cooperative learning is an educational approach that promotes students working in small groups in order to collectively learn.
Examples of Cooperative Learning
Steven Yamarik, a associate professor of economics at California State University at Long Beach, conducted a trial study demonstrating that cooperative learning exercises resulted in students achieving higher test scores. In order to incorporate cooperative learning in his intermediate macroeconomics course Yamarick first established groups of three to four students which he called "base groups." These students remained in the same "base group" for the entire course. Then, Yamarick had students work with one another both inside as well as outside of the classroom. Finally, rather than use a teaching assistant, Yamarick personally facilitated the group cooperative learning exercises and assessed the results. The academic work which the students were assigned included handouts as well as additional readings. In class, groups typically reviewed the questions in a given handout, came to a group consensus concerning answers, and presented one solution to the class.
How to Incorporate Cooperative Learning
There are a number of cooperative learning techniques which can be applied in the economics classroom.
For the small classroom
Think-pair-share - Provide students with an involved economic word problem. Then direct students to pull out the most important information from the problem (ideally the problem should consist of at least 6 important elements). Once students have completed this task, tell the students to pair up. One student should share three important elements and explain to their partner why they chose that information. The other student should also share three important elements and explain their relevance (if the problem consists of more than 6 elements, have each partner responsible to the appropriate number of elements). The exercise will be completed once the instructor presents to the class all the important elements and why each element is essential. For more information Click Here
For the large classroom
Cooperative learning groups - Establish cooperative learning groups by assigning four students into the same group based upon seat number and letter (e.g. 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 2A, 2B...). Within each group roles should be rotated every class period (reporter, materials gather, recorder, ect.). Then organize the class time into three segments, an engagement period, an exploration/explanation period, and an evaluation/quiz period. The purpose of the engagement period is to allow the instructor to present the theme for that class period, as well as draw on student interest and prior knowledge by presenting a question. Allow students 30 - 60 seconds to think about possible solutions to the question. Then allow students 3-5 minutes to discuss the question within their cooperative learning group. Choose 3-5 groups where the reporter from each group will present their solution to the class (use handheld microphones). A 15 minute lecture should follow highlighting ideas in the engagement period. The exploration/explanation period consists of presenting a another question to the class which builds from the engagement question and which builds student discussion. Written answers to the exploration period should be collected from each group to evaluate understanding. Another 15 minute lecture highlighting ideas from the exploration period should follow. Finally, a quiz either for individuals or for groups, should be provided and groups should be allotted 1-5 minutes to discuss the major concepts from the class.