Collaborative problem solving methods were primarily designed for management of children with social, behavioral and emotional problems (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). However, collaborative problem solving as a teaching method has developed to include other students of normal temperaments and behavior (Fitzell, 2010). It may be defined as the organization and instruction of students as small groups whereby the learners work together for the purpose of enhancing their individual and group learning. Individual students realize that they arrive at their goals when their fellow students are able to arrive at theirs. The number of students in each group depends on the method that is used and is usually between 2 and 6 students (Fattig & Taylor, 2007).
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These methods include Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (STAD), Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition (CIRC), Jigsaw, Learning Together, Group Investigation and Cooperative Scripting (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). For the purpose of this assignment, Student Teams—Achievement Divisions (STAD) will be discussed. All these approaches are characterized by positive interdependence among the members of the group, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small groups’ skills, face to face promotive interaction and group reflection. Members of the group must all actively participate in the group’s activities, trust each other’s efforts in the success of the group, and be able to communicate effectively among themselves (Fitzell, 2010).
Cooperative learning methods have been proven to encourage students’ tolerance towards others of different origins, develop interpersonal skills, and enhance good academic performance as well as understanding, reasoning, and problem solving skills (Fattig & Taylor, 2007).
Student Teams—Achievement Divisions (STAD)
Student teams achievement divisions is one cooperative learning method that was developed by Slavin and others at Johns Hopkins University (Fitzell, 2010). It is a method that has a lot of room for flexibility and is useful in subjects such as mathematics, languages, and even in sciences (Fattig &Taylor, 2007). STAD is suitable for students between grade 2 and grade 12. This is a cooperative learning method whereby students are divided into groups of four people of mixed abilities (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). Each of these teams should have students that are different in terms of performance level, gender and ethnicity (Fitzell, 2010). Team recognition and group responsibility are critical for individual learning. STAD consists of four steps, teaching, group studies, test and recognition.
While using STAD as a collaborative problem solving method, the first step is to form groups of students whose members should be four in each group (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). These groups should be heterogeneous and should be representative of the different gender, ethnicity and academic performance of the class as a whole among other significant characteristics (Fitzell, 2010). Members of these groups are given specific goals which they are expected to attain at the end of the exercise. They are also made to understand that these goals will only be attained through the mastery of the topic by every member of the group. Formation of heterogeneous groups is used to capitalize on the different talents that are possessed by different students. It promotes social skills as well as cross race and cross sex integration. Finally, the formation of a heterogeneous group provides a good platform for peer teaching. The selection of the groups by the teacher also avoids the tendency of some students to form groups with their friends only which in addition may leave out other children. Groups formed by the students themselves may not be heterogeneous and may have their own objectives in the course of the study (Fattig & Taylor, 2007).
The teacher then shall present the lesson to be learnt; in this case, how plants and animals interrelate in a saltwater marsh. Here, the teacher will introduce a discussion on the topic and tell the students the importance of the topic (Fitzell, 2010). This topic was chosen because of its relevance to the academic level of the student. In addition, it is a captivating topic for most students as it refers to a part of the environment that most of them can associate with. The teacher introduced this topic by herself to the students in order to give them a basic understanding of the topic at hand; giving them a base for further reading and discussions (Fattig & Taylor, 2007).
Then the teams are given the task and members of the group that understand the topic better are able to help the other members to understand it (Fitzell, 2010). This step may involve peer teaching, exchange of educational material, thoughts and information and challenge of each others’ reasoning. The students are also able to give each other feedback on the spot besides initiating and maintaining motivation among themselves (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). This may stop once all the members in a group have understood the topic. The teacher may provide additional materials for the group discussions to enhance their understanding (Fitzell, 2010). The additional material are provided to enable the learners to have an in depth knowledge of the plants and animals interrelation in a saltwater marsh (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). It is essential for the students to learn how to work together and help each other to achieve through support and encouragement. This encourages specific cognitive and interpersonal dynamics that are useful for the students even beyond the classroom (Fitzell, 2010). It also enhances positive interdependence which occurs when the potential rewards for individuals within a group and the group itself are positively interrelated. To some extent, individual accountability is also developed at this point as all the participants of the group are responsible for their own acquisition of knowledge for the purpose of improving the scores of groups and of individuals. During their discussions, students are also more likely to develop their interpersonal skills (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). Sometimes however, the teacher has to intervene and teach basic skills such as leadership skills, conflict resolution and decision making in the course of these discussions especially to students that seem to be behaving inappropriately. Lack of management of issues such as domination and disagreements due to differences in opinion may cause the entire group to not meet its objectives (Fitzell, 2010).
The teacher then administers a test which is undertaken by each student individually (Fitzell, 2010). The teacher assesses the results that the individual students obtain in this in comparison to former test scores by the same students in previous quizzes in the same subject (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). This is done to assess the effectiveness of this cooperative teaching method in this situation. In addition to the discussions that the group members are involved in, the results of the quiz, which are done by individuals, promotes individual accountability (Fitzell, 2010). The score of the team depends on the score of individuals. For students who manage 100%, three points are earned by the team (Fitzell, 2010). For students that score between 95% and 99%, the team earns two points (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). In addition, a team that manages 10 points and above receives an extra three points whereas a team that scores between 5 and 9 points receives an extra two points and a team that scores four points earns one extra point. Teams that score less than four points get no extra points. This method of evaluating the students serves to encourage all the students to perform well while at the same time not penalizing the high achievers. Consistency while awarding scores to groups is highly recommended although the method offers a lot of opportunities for experimentation (Fitzell, 2010).
After this has been done, the teacher awards groups that have performed extraordinarily well in the quiz. The awards given in this case may be certificates, or recognition in the school’s notice board (Fitzell, 2010). This will encourage individual students to work in harmony with others for their own benefit (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). This will ensure that students work in cooperation with one another and support each other. They will realize that they cannot win any awards unless their fellow group members perform well (Fitzell, 2010). However, some scholars are strongly against awarding students for good performance while in their groups. This is countered with advice for teachers to award students for good work done and to ensure the students understand the reasons for the awards (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). Besides awards for high performance, students should also be awarded for improvement as individuals and as groups. This motivates students to be useful in a group and encourages them to contribute to their betterment as well as that of their fellow team mates (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). This procedure is then repeated on a weekly basis.
In conclusion, STAD, normally used for instruction of students between 2nd grade and 12th grade consists of four steps that include teaching, group work, quiz, evaluation and recognition (Fattig & Taylor, 2007). These steps are for the achievement of the objectives of the cooperation learning method as a whole; to create harmony and good relations among students of different backgrounds, promote learning, and to encourage students to develop interpersonal skills. STAD as a method of cooperative learning has been found to be extremely successful (Fitzell, 2010). This has been seen in the positive attitudes that students develop towards schooling, good inter racial interactions, support of their fellow students, good relationships among the students, and locus of control (Fattig & Taylor, 2007).
Fattig, M., & Taylor, M. (2007). Co-Teaching in the Differentiated Classroom: Successful Collaboration, Lesson Design, and Classroom Management, Grades 5-12. London: Jossey-Bass.
Fitzell, S. (2010). Co-Teaching and Collaboration in the Classroom (2nd Ed.). New Jersey: Cogent Catalyst.