During two crisp fall days in early November, thirty-five middle and high school teachers and principals from Laurel and Jackson Counties gathered at the Laurel County Center for Innovation to learn how to coach their peers in incorporating cooperative learning structures into their classrooms. Based on research conducted by Clinical Psychologist, Spencer Kagan, cooperative learning structures increase student engagement in class activities and improve student communication skills. Research suggests students who are more engaged, improve their academic achievement.
The five days of cooperative learning training for all middle school and high school teachers and the two days of coaching training for selected teachers is funded through the GEAR-UP Grant Program. Cooperative learning structures training began in July of 2015 and will conclude in July of 2017. The twenty Laurel County student engagement coaches selected by the schools completed the fifth day of cooperative learning training in September of 2016 before attending the coaching training to learn how to best support and coach their colleagues. The coaches will receive onsite support from Kagan consultants as they begin to support their fellow educators in effectively implementing various cooperative learning structures.
The training on one morning focused on providing the skills and information needed to teach students to learn through a buddy system referred to as “Shoulder Partners.” The idea of “Shoulder Partners” is to let students gain the skills to learn to work together and share ideas, but also support peer learning. Students work as a team on completing selected assignments, seeking encouragement and support from within the group. Much like in the real world, students learn the importance of effective communication and teamwork at a workplace to solve a problem and to reach a positive outcome.
The goal of implementing cooperative learning structures is to increase student engagement by involving all students, not just a select few. Students who may be wary of answering a question wrong may not volunteer to answer when asked by a teacher in front of the entire classroom. However, through the implementation of a cooperative learning structure, every student is given an opportunity to answer a question, ask a question, and to support fellow students through the use of small groups. Cooperative learning structures provide instructional strategies to incorporate different ideas and lessons to create an engaging environment for learning and growth.
The cooperative learning structures are just another example of the daily activities that Laurel County teachers and administrators are using to increase student learning and engagement. The newly trained teachers and administrators will share their new knowledge and demonstrate the importance of working together to provide the highest quality education for Laurel County students.