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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''' 1. Provide students with an involved economic word problem.
2. Direct students to pull out the most important information from the problem (ideally the problem should consist of at least 6 important elements).
3. Tell the students to pair up.
4. One student should share three important elements and explain to their partner why they chose that information.
5. 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).
6. Finish class by presenting to the class all the important elements and why each element is essential.
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For the large classroom
Cooperative learning groups
1. 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.).
2. Organize the class time into three segments, an engagement period, an exploration/explanation period, and an evaluation/quiz period.
3. For the engagement period pose an economic question which presents the class theme and draws on student interest and/or prior knowledge.
4. Allow students 30 - 60 seconds to think about possible solutions to the economic question.
5. Allow students 3-5 minutes to discuss the question within their cooperative learning group.
6. Choose 3-5 groups where the reporter from each group will present their solution to the class (use handheld microphones).
7. A 15 minute lecture should follow highlighting ideas in the engagement period.
8. For the exploration period present another question to the class which builds from the engagement question and which builds student discussion.
9. Repeat steps 4 and 5
10. Written answers to the exploration period should be collected from each group to evaluate understanding.
11. Another 15 minute lecture highlighting ideas from the exploration period should follow.
12. A quiz either for individuals or for groups, should be provided and collected. Groups should be allotted 1-5 minutes to discuss the major concepts from the class.
This approach can be found in the following study here where it was implemented in a biology lecture. Although this approach can be easily translated to the economics lecture.