“Unobtrusive monitoring” – indeed!
As pointed out in the workshop, the continuous discussions which form the backbone of Cooperative Learning present a unique opportunity to follow thought processes as they unfurl. In a well-oiled classroom, in theory, all the teacher needs to do is to set them off and sit back and listen in.
One, this means that the assessment of the individual student is much more accurate and detailed than the usual presentation of a finished result.
Two, it means you can catch subject-related misunderstandings or problems before they fester. (No, the Indians in “The Last Mohican” aren’t from the Subcontintent, Team 2!)
Three, it’s a perfect arena to observe social skills in action. (Can Bob wait for his turn? Can Katie politely ask him to be quiet? Who in the team is ready to support his/her mates?).
Four, and perhaps most importantly, it allows two-way real-time feedback, as any points of interest, exiting angles and unforseen connections may be picked up on and suddenly send both teacher and students for a autonomous stroll out of the fixed lesson plan.
A trick is to create a rota of students to focus on; and then look at another team while you are listening to not disturb with you presence. Unobtrusive. Moms the word.