Cooperative Learning; Optimising Initial Teacher Training

Leeds School Centred ITT is one of the longest running SCITTs in the region. With consistently ‘good’ or ‘good with outstanding’ Ofsted reports, delivering only top-quality, tried and tested strategies is a given.
Cooperative Learning is ideal for PGCEs, because each of these easily-managed, content-void packages effortlessly combine so many key elements of outstanding teaching, including effective classroom management, peer learning, metacognition, feedback, automatic differentiation, simultaneous and equal participation, high individual accountability, excellent monitoring opportunities, and written assessment,
to name a few.
One afternoon’s training lets even new, timid trainees secure student buy-in through engaging, effective teaching, in any subject, using any materials – with virtually no additional preparation. And in many cases, Cooperative Learning will slot in with, or even strengthen, other strategies taught at the SCITT, especially classroom management, monitoring, and social skills development.
The Leeds SCITT Cooperative Learning programme commences on October 31, 2016. Please contact myself or the Director, Ms Oldfield, for more information. Follow Leeds SCITT on‎ @LeedsSCITT.

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Welcome back to school; time for dessert

Preparing for academic year 2016-2017. The proof is in the pudding…

Anyone who looks through the copious research (including the meta-studies in the Teaching and Learning Toolkit)  is convinced by Cooperative Learning.

Cooperative Learning always works if you follow the steps, quite literally. But, unlike most other things in life, Cooperative Learning gives what you want from it.



If you’re looking to boost teachers individually, or provide one more exciting tool among many, then that’s what you will get; everywhere it’s used, it will benefit teaching and learning.  But if you are looking for cohesive, systematic improvement to school ethos on every front, then that is what you  will get –   through coordinated cooperation, any teacher you add to the mix will increase impact exponentially.

But, again, the proof is in the pudding.  This year, Tim Coulson, Regional Schools Commissioner, listed Stalham Academy , under Right for Success Trust, as one of seven schools in the Eastern region to contact for good practice, due to their incredible results, with 81% achieving the expected standard or above in Reading, Writing & Maths.

This this from a school that was a special measures 16 months ago. Cooperative Learning has also had substantial positive impact on behaviour, language, and thinking skills. It is integrated with assessment systems, and actively supports other programs in which the school has invested, including Attainment for All.

To achieve this, Stalham paid £150 per month over six months. 


 But … what does  Ofsted think?

Unlike Stalham, another client of mine in Norfolk, Norwich  Primary Academy,  has actually had an Ofsted inspection. The former Larkman Primary School was ruled “inadequate” by Ofsted in 2010. Converted to Academy status as Norwich Primary Academy  under the Inspiration Trust, the school had their first Skills & Mastery session in September 2014.  This is an extract from  The Academy’s first Ofsted report:

“Teaching is good because underperformance has been tackled. …  Pupils throughout the academy make good progress because they practise key skills very regularly in ways they describe as ‘fun’ and ‘interesting’. Pupils make particularly good progress in writing because they develop these skills in the imaginative tasks teachers provide for them.”

Reading and writing are two key areas of focus of the course, and both have been presented as separate modules for the benefit of Birmingham schools last academic year.  Speaking of writing, Judy Brady, a year 3 teacher in Norwich Primary Academy, made this remark:

“I really don’t think I could have achieved such a dramatic improvement using ‘usual’ methods. [One pupil], who’s partner told him he couldn’t read the sentence on Wednesday, earned himself a house point for improvement and I’m sure he left the room several centimetres taller!”

And  this is perhaps the most telling evidence of the  value of Cooperative Learning.

More desert anyone?


New SAT course in the pipeline

I want to make 81% achieving the expected standard or above in Reading, Writing & Maths  in SATs available to every school. Working  closely with  practising teachers in schools,  I’m in the process of creating a new course  to do just that.

Initially entitled SAT  through CL,  it will  let teachers effectively prepare Year 6 pupils for SAT tests. Not through mere drilling of the concepts being tested, but by recognising when and how to use various procedures. 

This is especially relevant for EAL or lower ability pupils with poor language and reading skills, who often find recognising the actual task itself is a challenge. Therefore, the Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) in this course are picked and ordered to drive deep integration of skills with higher level thinking processes. 

SATs through CL is  being developed and tested in close collaboration with Year 6 teachers, and consists of a series of content-void lesson plans immediatly applicable to any SAT-related material. These integrate procedural training, peer learning, feedback, accountability, knowledge sharing across class, and effective monitoring.

This is not teaching-for-the-test, it’s teaching the skills required for the test and everywhere else.   Super SAT results  are almost a by-product.

SATs through CL will hopefully be available to schools in the academic year 2016.

Contact me now for more information and follow on twitter for updates on this course.


In other news

One of the most exciting thing to happen  over the last six months  is my work with West Midlands Police. With Cooperative Learning, the true resources are the participants – regardless of age group or objectives.

These workshops mark a new way of staging complex citizen meetings, securing equal participation and accountability – with a lot of challenging engagement.

Using Cooperative Learning to work directly with communities, increase democracy and local empowerment  is a long-standing dream of mine. We are looking forward to the next session in Perry Barr on September 17.

Also  to be continued and expanded is my work with Uthman bin Affan Trust, which will, quite literally,  change the lives of hundreds of thousands of  Syrian children over time – inshallah.

The challenges are many; post-traumatic stress, oversized classes, five-year divergence within a single form, and in some cases virtually no classroom resources. Added to this, many wholly unqualified teachers are used to cover shortages.
Only Cooperative Learning leverages the resources within each child and promotes subject knowledge and, equally importantly, skills of collaboration, creative thinking, and a practical understanding of democracy, leadership and decision making; everything young Syrians needs to thrive in the 21st century.
Follow on twitter for updates on the full programme,  and for more news on new clients, including Great Hockham Primary & Nursery and Caston  Coe VA Primary, teacher training schools in the Midlands, and content providers.

 And finally, in every sense of the word, new website

You will find more information on courses, other clients,  and Cooperative  Learning in general on the recently redesigned – much lighter,  in terms of both colour  and words.  I do hope you like it.













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Active Citizens; Cooperative Learning goes Community


Thank you to Inspector Noeleen Murrin and her entire team for today’s #ActiveCitizens event to introduce the new funding process, and especially to all the delegates from the four wards of Perry Barr constituency.

With Cooperative Learning, the true resources are the participants, regardless of age group or objectives. This event marks a new way of staging complex citizen meetings, securing equal participation and accountability – with a lot of challenging engagement.

This event is unrelated to the event with Small Heath neighbourhood team and the local community organisation Maandeeq at Birmingham Football Club last month, described in elsewhere in Not Black & White: Bridging the citizen/authority gap.

The following is a brief outline of this 3-hour workshop/citizens meeting at James Watt College, mapped out in close collaboration with the Perry Barr neighborhood team under Inspector Murrin.

Jakob and Noeleen AC

Inspector Noeleen Murrin and myself (Photo by @RobAbdul)


The main objective today was to present the context and concept of Participatory Budgeting funding process, and tie this to the narrative of shared future, democracy in action, community building and empowerment, equal participation, citizen responsibility/accountability and choice.

You can read more about the Participatory Budgeting approach at the BP Network, but in brief,  a short dedicated presentation of the PB process goes: “Citizen X, get an idea, present it to your peers as a project, get them to vote for you to get the funds.” No more asking police and authorities  – projects are proposed and picked by communities themselves.

Using Cooperative Learning, this workshop-format citizens meeting set out to simulate some of this in mini-format, including the pitfalls of disengagement.

The presentation was  interspersed with icebreaker / “processing” activities to ensure the personal relevance of the was properly understood; a practical introduction to “be active or lose out.”

AC PAper X

Enquiry – Picking the problem?

Simulating the process, first, delegates were asked to come up with an actual problem to be dealt with. It was important that participants not jump to the solution/project phase before identifying the issue they are looking to solve, as this could potentially blind them to other, better solutions, or create “solutions” that do not actually benefit the community by missing the mark.

It was also an important objective that citizens coming in with ready-made concepts did not swamp or over-run their less well-prepared peers.

Active Citizens voting on issues

Each team member then had a couple of minutes to present their case in turns, explaining their particular issue should be given priority, and the table voted for one of the issues as the most important. (And one cannot vote for one’s own idea, Kinaka!! Bless you!


Collaboration – Solidifying solutions

Each team then worked all together to make a small presentation of the issue they had picked, through drawing, writing, mindmapping, etc. The below message was key:

Finally, each team  presented their issue and solution to representatives from tables outside of their wards. Here they compared their issues, commented and advised on possible solutions – and networked of course – only to return and share knowledge, ideas and reflections with their home teams.

The individual accountability here was very high and not paying attention or disengaging from one’s responsibility had instant negative impact on the home team. Fortunately, the format of Cooperative Learning gives a loop-hole to save this situation – but not before making delegates aware that problems here were entirely their responsibility. The pressure of the workshop to deliver tangible results within a set deadline is no different from the funding process in real life.

The brief project outlines  were then hung on the wall.


Matching resources

After the coffee break, where people circulated and got a chance to chat and eat branded cake, the experienced community builders  set up shop at various tables.

AC cake

Cooperative Learning? Have your cake and eat it!

Initially I had teams loosely group around each of these tables, and listen to specialists present their skill sets in 2 minutes shifts. Then these groups rotated from one specialist to the next, but after a couple of rotations, I let delegates freely rove , confident each person had seen all or most of the representatives.

“Inspector Noeleen Murrin’s team hosted a well thought-out very first Active Citizens event for the Perry Barr District. The attention to detail for active participation was innovative.”

– Rob Abdul, author & ecommerce expert, PR, Lecturer, photographer, and general active citizen…

Will be more on this as feedback and professional photos from @RobAbdul comes filtering – in so follow on twitter for updates.

For delegates asking about the educational aspect of my work, and Cooperative Learning and Community Building, please visit


Articles of interest: Not Black & White: Bridging the citizen/authority gap.

More posts on community building.


Simon Wade from Handsworth Community.GIF

Simon Wade from Handsworth Community (@B20-B21) discusses active citizenship in a Catch1Partner (Photo by @RobAbdul)



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Good teacher overnight; Cooperative Learning in low-resource environments

I have recently been charged by an Uthman ibn Affan Trust to empower Syrian teachers in Turkish refugee camps.

The objective of the Trust is to give the next generation of Syrians the skill set needed to rebuild their country. These skills include not only subject knowledge, but, equally importantly, skills of collaboration, creative thinking, democracy and leadership and decision making, to name a few; what would be called 21st century skills.

Due to a number of logistic constraints, we are looking to turn a highly mixed group of trainees into outstanding teachers in as little as four-five days; which is in itself daunting. In addition to my didactic methods, the Trust is considering a host of ancillary objectives, including IT technology, and, potentially, preparation for Level 3 to 5 City & Guild teaching qualifications. Added to this are the logistic challenges presented by the war, language barriers, short time frame per team, and other potential pitfalls.


Think your school is low on resources?    (Image from Parallels)

The Trust has picked Cooperative Learning, as this method is the only way such a variety of objectives can be successfully achieved – which will in itself demonstrate its effectiveness to trainees.

Among the special benefits of Cooperative Learning in such an unstable and incoherent environment is that it is content void: it works with any materials teachers may have to hand.

As for the courses themselves, rather than waiting for content to be decided by various bodies – only to potentially be changed at the last moment – we aim to leverage this content void nature of Cooperative Learning to create a modular and flexible framework that will accommodate any content, from  subject knowledge of maths to teaching practice. Having this ready will allow the Trust to re-draw course in midflight, as necessary.

Using modules which can be put together like puzzle pieces will also ensure the meta-assessment needed to continuously identify and improve best-practice for future courses. This is utterly impossible without the clear sub-outcomes provided by the modules.

More on low-resource learning environments and Cooperative Learning in my presentation at the UKFIET in Oxford.


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Not Black & White: Bridging the citizen/authority gap

It was a treat to be working with West Midlands Police Small Heath neighbourhood team and the local community organisation Maandeeq last Week at Birmingham Football Club.

Thank you to delegates, public services and 3rd sector representatives, and especially Birmingham City Football Club for the lovely venue. And, not least, to Sgts Neil Loy and Rob James, Ayan Tifow of Maandeeq and to Amina of Amsom Media Empire – that name says it all.

This conference used Cooperative Learning activities to let various services (from NHS Mental health to Counter Terrorism Unit) present their case to small groups in turn, to get intimate face-time with members of the Somali community.

“…so much positive feedback from both those attending the event and from the presenters…”

– Police Sgt Neil Loy, Small Heath neighbourhood team

Responses were overwhelmingly positive from all sides (thanks for the hugs, Omar, look forward to working with you, inshallah). It was especially clear from my interviews with representatives afterwards that this format helped achieve deeper understanding of the communities they serve. Several noted that the intimate, small-group format meant questions were asked that would be unthinkable in a more conventional setup. In fact, Offenders Management Team noted quite personal questions had been asked candidly. As for Somali delegates, their comments indicated that Talking with, rather than talking at, is the way to bridge the citizen/authority gap. No technique does this more elegantly than Cooperative Learning, perfectly designed for guided collaborative enquiry and knowledge sharing between peers.



Birmingham City Football Club 1

Two of the eight presenters; In the front, Offenders Management and in the background, NHS lines up to discuss mental health. Especially such sensitive subjects benefit from the small, familial group format. And no-one needs to feel shy about approaching a certain table: the tight control of the event means everyone meets everyone anyway.


Cooperative Learning and effective community outreach

Cooperative Learning balances the easy-going social aspect with achieving clear objectives and outcomes that will pay back the investment in time and money many times over.

The specific objectives in this workshop were:

  • Personal engagement/face-time with various services.
  • Building personal contacts and networks, and documenting these through sign-up forms for further networking.
  • Ensuring every attendee meets all services, not only those they may be superficially interested in.
  • In a practical way demonstrating the benefit of following rules and procedures for equality and empowerment, and tying this experience to democratic processess.
  • Understanding, through this practical demonstration, the personal duty upon each citizen to make the system work to mutual benefit. (I.e. the notion of rights & responsibilities).
  • Effective use of precious time for both presentation and Q&A.
  • Equal participation for all, including women
  • Securing adequate translator support in every situation.

All this is achieved solely through staging interaction through Cooperative Learning activities. (More about community building through CL and the Small Heath project).

The feedback I am getting from everyone is “simply amazing”.

-Ayan Tifow, Maandeeq Community Organisation


The Somali community in the UK is highly challenged. As one delegate dryly noted, “Though we are Muslims, we’re not in with the Asians, not black enough for the blacks, and too black for the whites”. The community is young with huge cultural gaps, especially related to the level of organisation and procedure of such complex societies as Britain, and a deep skepticism towards authorities, based on experience. An example of a toxic combination is when Somali youngsters feel they are not welcome in the police force, but are not aware of how to submit an application.

One of the key objectives was therefore to demonstrate, in a hand-on way, that rules and procedures may actually provide, rather than limit, empowerment. By not letting people rove freely between presenters, but keeping them organised in small (with one exception, ladies!) groups  it was possible for every individual to pitch in and get direct face-time. It also ensured that every attendee got to meet every represented service, to get an all-round view of what was in offer.


BCFC Slide 1

Introducing rules: A slide from introduction.  

An example of the importance of this was a gentleman who came only to discuss housing, but instead was amazed that Offenders Management actually worked to help people back on track.

Only through collaboration and open enquiry can a successful, multi-ethnic society of active citizens be realised, and I remain fully convinced that Cooperative Learning, to children in schools and adults in the wider communities, will provide the scaffolding for this process. We have seen this in primary schools, where Year 5 pupils choose interactions based on task levels and group dynamics, we have seen it with Tertiary education, and we are now seeing it directly with community building.

My long term goal is to help such challenged  local communities activate internal resources to prevent crime, engage youth and support the new “Participatory Budgeting” community-lead spending decisions. The benefit to police and other official bodies hosting or partaking is the that community empowerment saves huge resources thanks to situational awareness and effective collaboration with stakeholders.

We look forward to doing more events in Perry Barr in June and hope to have higher quality photos and interviews with attendees ready from Amsom Media Empire soon.  Stay updated on twitter.


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Better (Talk4)Writing through Cooperative Learning

The last of three open CPD sessions in Walsall took place yesterday at North Walsall Academy (previously Charles Coddy Walker).

For the benefit of attendees at these events, and schools who have gone through the Skills & Mastery or 21st century British Muslim courses, this short post demonstrates the integration of Talk4Writing with Cooperative Learning. For more on the events, see Better Reading through Cooperative Learning and “Outstandingly Simple”follow-up; an introduction to Cooperative learning at Queen Mary’s Grammar School.





First of all, thank you for your attendance to internal and external delegates. (Make sure you get your personal handouts from Lisa!)

In yesterday’s session, we looked at various ways to stage the exercise Simultaneous Write-Round, where pupils working in small teams produce writing on a sheet or blank A4, and, when prompted, pass it to the next person to continue the story or solve other tasks. This makes use of time pressure to get pens to paper, and gives a sense of responsibility for the finished product.

In Early Years or for EAL, writing one word per pupil would suffice. “I … see … an …car.” Simply spelling the words and identifying how they fit grammatically (e.g. car is the wrong subject after the definite article an ) or to give a meaningful sentence is challenging enough. In KS2, some students will write a lot, some will write only a couple of words.

Peer input aside, writing can be guided by tasks presented on the worksheets themselves, by peers or teacher, on a interactive whiteboard or just orally by the teacher.

We used the sheet “First what happened was… and then…” etc. To support structuring a short story.

We also looked at using Simultaneous Write-Round for assessment and meta-cognition, using some very dense questions to simulate the challenges faced by lower ability pupils under pressure. A bit too much on a late, drowsy afternoon – my apologies!


Talk4Writing through Cooperative Learning

Obviously, what everyone was most interested in, and had a good laugh about, were the collaborative stories you wrote.

So, focusing on this, I want to respond to a question posed by one teacher: “How does this slot in with Talk4Writing.”

What follows should be self-explanatory, but for readers looking for more information on  this system, please visit their homepage for more details.

To exemplify, I am going to walk through a description of the first stage,  Imitation. (All stages in the system found here).

As we all know, Cooperative Learning is a delivery tool for any materials and objective, so to provide content I have picked Adventure at Cambary Park found in the PDF Story Reading into Writing from the T4W resource page. You can read the story about two girls finding a stolen treasure and being chased by a dangerous criminal below.

Original text is italicised, my comments are regular text.

Once the teacher has established a creative context and an engaging start, a typical Talk-for-Writing unit would begin with some engaging activities warming up the tune of the text, as well as the topic focused on, to help children internalise the pattern of the language required.

Here Catch1Partner or Word-Round with relevant oral questions from the teacher are obvious and simple ways to integrate Talk4Writing with the simultaneous interaction and high individual accountability secured by Cooperative Learning.

As they are presenting their solutions to peers, use unobtrusive monitoring to assess children’s levels, areas of interest, uncover potential pitfalls, etc. and drive their thinking to reflect your observations by simply dropping relevant, guiding questions into one of these activities. “What would you do if you found £20 on the street?” – “Can we always keep things that we find?” – “Imagine being chased by a criminal! What would you do?” Just ask whatever you think appropriate to that specific class. No preparation necessary.

This is often followed by talking an exemplar text, supported visually by a text map and physical movements to help the children recall the story or non-fiction piece. In this way the children hear the text, say it for themselves and enjoy it before seeing it written down.

This seems to be individual listening and physical activities. So, just do this as you normally would. Only use Cooperative Learning when it supports your objectives!

Once they have internalised the language of the text, they are in a position to read the text …

Obviously, Rotating Role Reading springs to mind. Especially the summarising and connection between paragraphs would help pupils uncover the “pattern” of the text, which I think is a keys to T4W’s success.

…and start to think about the key ingredients that help to make it work.

Here, add in a role with relevant questions or tasks, as we did with the science text last Monday, to “think about key ingredients.” I am sure your Talk4Writing resources have lots of useful ideas on this. Simply deploy what you would use anyway. Always remember, don’t do extra work!

This stage could include a range of reading as-a-reader and as-a-writer activities. Understanding the structure of the text is easy if you use the boxing-up technique (see below) and then help the children to analyse the features that have helped to make the text work.

Here the boxed texts are passed around in the Simultaneous Write-Round, as you saw it done yesterday. But rather than carrying the story in any direction from the previous pupil’s input, every pupil now has a clear model to work from thanks to Talk4Writing materials.

Example of boxed text here (click to enlarge):

Talk4Wrtng task

In this way the class starts to co-construct a toolkit for this type of text so that they can talk about the ingredients themselves – a key stage in internalising the toolkit in their heads.

So, when all boxes are filled, team-members might take turns reading aloud  the collaborative story on the paper they wound up with, and perhaps voting for the best one in relation to the T4W model – e.g. “Which of our stories is closest to the original pattern?” (Phrased age-appropriately, of course!).

Use the Word-Round to make sure they explain their choice. (“Lower ability team” in the back of the class, we discussed this! :)

I hope this helped answer your question. Simple, instant, integration of Cooperative Learning with strategies, lesson plan and materials from Talk4Writing.

I am hoping to find time to do a piece on collaborative writing for EAL and lower-ability pupils. Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

The full Skills & Mastery course presents activities to formally share, compare and get feedback on products such as this one, taken from the second stage of Talk4Writing,The innovation stage:





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“Outstandingly Simple” – follow-up #2

This post is a further clarification for delegates at Outstandingly Simple at Queen Mary’s Grammar School. It deals with  some specific questions raised later feedback.

The twilight session Outstandingly Simple presented the Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern Catch1Partner. An outline of the session and a number of resources are found in the part #1 and the video introduction.

Before delving into the questions, I want to thank for all the positive feedback, which included “giving students ownership,” “impact on learning,” and “clear sense of direction from the trainer.”

One point made was the enjoyment of meeting teachers from other schools, and indeed, one teacher criticised that the session did not given enough time to share with them.

Here I want to point out that, ironically, the interaction between colleagues from different schools was an  ancillary objective actually made possible specifically due to the nature of the Cooperative Learning.

For Catch1Partner, one of the Learning Domains listed in the handouts is Classbuilding. But with external delegates outnumbered 10-to-1, there were simply not a sufficient amount to go around. We hope the coffee in the Bateman Room made up for it.

Measurable outcomes

Further down we shall discuss practical implementation, disruptive pupils, G&T and multiple-step problems. However, the most important concern for me to address is a question about the clarity of outcomes.

The detailed objectives of Outstandingly Simple are found in the first post. However, Learning Objectives are distinct from Learning Outcomes in that Objectives are the intended results of the activity, Outcomes are measured results of it.

Cooperative Learning always includes a real-time assessment element in that all students are orally accounting for their individual learning at every turn.

Also, most CLIPs (Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns) may include written elements, either note-taking before, during or after individual activity. (For a dedicated session on writing through Cooperative Learning, please visit Charles Coddy Walker Academy on 25 April).

However, Cooperative Learning does not, and should not, replace proper individual testing. Rather, the question one should ask when assessing the relationship between outcomes and Cooperative Learning is:

“Will a student who has been forced to account for his learning in every single lesson, every single day, by explaining and negotiating his knowledge with a diverse group of peers, be less or more able to account for his learning when tested individually?”

We note here that, as was seen in Outstandingly Simple, teacher instruction and student activity are interwoven. As is the case with testing, Cooperative Learning does not replace direct instruction and modelling. Rather, it is a way to effectively manage peer-learning following teacher modelling.  Also, CLIPs are followed by, or include, teacher feedback based on unobtrusive monitoring.


An example: Outcomes  in foreign languages

We demonstrated the practical  application of Catch1Partner in various subjects as described in the previous post. However, I would like to give one practical example of how my own students and I integrated Cooperative Learning with outcome measurement.

When teaching English as a foreign language in Denmark, starting in 2007, I would supply my in KS2-3 students with a list of key vocabulary, including the Cambridge list of 300 most common words.

In appropriate team-based CLIPs, English-Danish dictionaries were used to identify meanings of words, and their different uses.

After careful vetting by myself and peers, students would then log onto a free dedicated, account, and use their solutions to generate printable flashcards for use in class – and available for online use at home – with no further work from me except pressing “print.”

Using Catch1Partner, we drilled these homemade flashcards virtually every day, with a variety of tasks (“What does the word “turn” mean – give me an exemplary sentence please.” – “Well, turn has several meanings, e.g. I turn on the radio, it is my turn.”).

Within a few weeks, even students who had just started English as a foreign language would have up to 70% of words in any text they were working with.

To measure outcomes precisely, and with minimal work from myself and staff, I took out an afternoon to download the excel file from, and import the English words and their Danish equivalents into, an online Q&A test system.

In classmarker, every student has his/her own unique ID and password, so from then on, we could test and track every single student’s progress on vocabulary with no further marking – results would be delivered as mails, with details on class average and progress for each student.

The learning materials were not only created by pupils collaboratively, but were continuously developed by them as more and more subtle nuances of language was discovered.

What should be clear is that this is not mere “knowledge recall” though that certainly comes into it: In an activity such as Catch1Partner, half the class is explaining and exemplifying, and the other half is praising, helping or criticising. No teacher-led presentation from the board will allow this volume of direct, auto-differentiated investigation of understanding.

Yet the teacher is the invaluable resource for modelling, correcting misapprehensions, and guiding the learning through his choice of tasks, activities, timing and materials.

Any delegates who have questions, please leave a comment, so answers may be shared for the benefit of others.


Implementation and disruption

So, how long does it take to train pupils? It varies from class to class. The basics of Catch1Partner should be in place after three to four attempts for 95% of any class. Then there is the social skills issue, which varies tremendously.

Here, the point is that school behaviour policy go from words to being crucial day-to-day skills. “Ms Lamb, Ms Lamb, they are not letting me have my turn!” See this video with newly qualified teacher Ms Rebecca Lamb on adopting Cooperative Learning for the full context of that quote.

Disruptive pupils buy into Cooperative Learning, because they are given a chance to be on stage, rather than sitting bored senseless listening to something they don’t get. Also, when they do go off-task, they only disrupt the learning for their partner, who will soon be rid of them.

The subtle peer pressure to perform is another buy-in. These and other strategies for integrating personal development for both socially challenged and/or SEN pupils are presented in the CL & Social Skills course.


Gifted & Talented

As for concerns that Gifted & Talented will be pulled down, there is ample research to show they benefit from explaining their knowledge to people who see things very differently, because it forces them to re-think their vocabulary, examples and even understanding. On the social side, it gives them leadership skills, and by patiently offering help, they suddenly become an asset rather than a humiliation to lower ability pupils, again something discussed in Social Skills.


Solving multiple-step problems

Other CLIPs, such as the classic Think-Pair-Share are better suited to handle multiple-step problems. However, Catch1Partner, can be used to drill the procedure of such problems once the method is understood, or the individual steps may be discussed with peers across class.

A quick way of staging this would be to ask a more focused version of my own question Please write down, in bullet points, all the things you are not clear about in relation to this course so far. One minute, go!“.

Depending on the subject and the task, you could ask them to describe the various steps, write questions about each step, or simply describe problems they had with each step. The get up and compare or elicit answers to their problems from peers. Again, gathering these notes would provide you with written evidence of learning – adding to your ongoing unobtrusive monitoring.

Better Writing through Cooperative Learning on 25 April specifically discusses how to work with multiple-step tasks, such as setting up science experiments. Book now.


Bored yet?

To students, even the disruptive ones, the variety of tasks and subtasks will make Catch1Partner entertaining and engaging. However, two teachers present at the event were concerned about spending all sixty minutes of the CPD Twilight on just a single activity.

There are two aspects to this: As outlined in the invite, the objective was precisely to demonstrate how a single Cooperative Learning activity could be used for a wide scope of objectives, including rote and procedural tasks across all subjects, peer feedback, metacognition and social skills.

From this perspective, it might just as well have been four or five activities. The benefit of using a single one is the simple staging. As I pointed out in the session, messy interaction must never get in the way of the learning.

The less moving parts, the better. Outstandingly simple.


More on next week’s Reading event here:Better Reading through Cooperative Learning

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