By cooperative learning tasks I mean giving particular “jobs” to students during group work; here’s a sampling from this website:
Checker: Checks team members for understanding and agreement
Datakeeper: Keeps track of information generated by group
Helper: Gives help in reading, spelling, problem solving, or using materials
Questioner: Asks questions of instructor or other groups
Reporter: Gives oral reports to the total group
Summarizer: Sums up what the group did or the conclusions the group came to
Validator: Paraphrases what is said for clarity
Writer/Recorder: Writes down ideas and records the task
I tried experimenting with them last year (based on the urging of several people) but I’ve been distinctly unhappy. It feels like the jobs segment up the work in a rote sort of way which gives a student permission to “shut down” when they aren’t needed for something in particular. I’ve still had some luck with engineering-like projects which involve building, but this sort of thing fails for me in general. For example, today I’m having my Algebra I students work on these questions in groups:
You have an
a row by b column matrix
and want to multiply by a
x row by y column matrix.
1. When is this multiplication impossible?
2. If the multiplication is possible, what is the size of the new matrix?
3. When multiplying 2×2 matrices, there is an identity operation (just like multiplying by 1 is an identity operation in arithmetic). What is it?
4. What about for nxn matrices?
5. Give an example (with all work) that shows that multiplying 2×2 matrices is in general not a commutative operation.
6. Even though the commutative law doesn’t apply in general there are specific cases where it works. Give an example of a matrix A and B such that AB = BA.
How would working out answers here divide neatly into jobs?
[EXTRA NOTE: I still think matrices shouldn’t be taught before vectors. I’m making my best go at the curriculum I need to do, though. Bert Speelpenning’s series on matrices (especially this post) is helping me get some motivation out there.]