Category Archives: workshop

Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants with Cooperative Learning #1

The seminal EEF Guidance Report Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants point out the often-unrealised negative impact of many TAs on attainment. This series of articles explores how one MAT uses Cooperative Learning to operationalise the seven recommendations found in that report.

On their dedicated page, the Education Endowment Foundation introduces the topic of teaching assistants thus:

“380,000 teaching assistants (TAs) are employed across the country, at an annual public cost of some £5 billion, but previous research had shown that in many schools (…) for students from poorer backgrounds the impact of TAs was too often negative. “(Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants).

To drive the point home, TAs cost ¼ of an average school budget, TAs are present in most classes, and, furthermore, often handle interventions with vulnerable SEN and PPG pupils who have a disproportionate impact on results. In small schools, a bad day for a certain child during those fateful hours of SATs may spell doom.

Fortunately, the text continues:

“However, EEF trials have demonstrated that, when they are well-trained and used in structured settings with high-quality support and training, TAs can make a noticeable positive impact on pupil learning.”

Much to their credit, Evolution Academy Trust of Norfolk have been among the first MATs to give this issue their undivided attention, putting money towards professional staff surveys and following up with tailored training to turn the recommendations of the EEF research into cost-effective practice that will increase staff engagement and outcomes for children.

This is, of course, where Cooperative Learning comes in.

A summary of recommendations

Before we investigate the Cooperative Learning angle, this is a brief summary of the seven recommendations. Items I-IV cover class room context, V-VI cover out-of-class interventions, VII discusses the connection between the two.


I. TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low-attaining pupils. Systematic review of the roles of both teachers and TAs is needed.

II. TAs should add value to what teachers do, not replace them. If TAs do have a direct instructional role it is recommended that these interventions supplement the teacher and are kept brief, intensive, and structured (see V).

III. TAs should help pupils develop independent learning skills and manage their own learning, e.g.  concentrate on helping pupils develop ownership of tasks, rather than task completion.

IV. TAs should be fully prepared for their role in the classroom by providing sufficient time for TA  training and for teachers and TAs to meet out of class to enable the necessary lesson preparation and feedback.

V. TAs should deliver high-quality one-to-one and small group support using structured interventions. (This is where we find a consistent impact on attainment of  up to four additional months’ progress).

VI. Adopt evidence-based interventions to support TAs in their small group and one-to-one instruction. As a minimum, sessions should be brief, by TAs who are professionally trained, follow a plan with clear objectives, include real-time assessment, and connections should be made between the intervention and classroom teaching.

VII. Ensure explicit connections are made between learning from everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions.


“Consistency with class…”

– TA’s brainstorm output, Costessey Junior School, Evolution Academy Trust, 13 July 2017.

As can be garnered from the above quote, much to their credit, our TAs raised all of the seven points ad verbatim during the opening brainstorm. It was impossible not to remark that the EEF might have saved all that time and money invested in education’s top PhDs by simply asking the TAs what they thought might be a good idea. Alas…


EEF Report photo.PNG


The enigma of the TA

The concern that TAs might not only not improve outcomes, or even decrease them, is not actually new. In 2009, a government-funded study by the IoE was headlined “Pupils receiving help ‘do worse'” by the BBC. Given that the average school shelves out a quarter of their often desperate budgets on TAs and the ever increasing focus on measurable results, one would think that everything else would be put on hold until the issue was resolved.

Added to the obvious problem of investment-vs-outcome are the “soft” issues of TAs often feeling disenfranchised, undervalued or downright abused, or, adversely, are so much a part of the current school fabric that any changes their roles and responsibilities is met with passive obstruction. In some extreme cases, they actively undermine teachers:

“I’ve had several TAs like this – worst when they have a colleague in the room and they can exchange “eye rolling” glances at each other whilst you are teaching!”

– Anonymous teacher, TES Forum thread, Please help…problems with teaching assistant, 2010.

It is a strange balance, as there seems to be a tacit understanding they can get away with almost anything, including scuttling outcomes, because they are straddled with the pupils and the work no-one else wants to touch – at an absolute minimum wage. There is little wonder some feel undervalued.

Assuming Corbyn fails to pull the brakes on the neoliberal orthodoxy, the next government step will likely be to fire all teaching assistants, UK wide, and throw the £5 billion they currently cost English schools at trained teachers.

To put this into perspective, three antagonistic TAs who scupper school improvement cost as much as a fully qualified teacher or SEN specialist who might, for example, be used to halve the number of pupils in a difficult class, making dedicated TAs irrelevant.

However, the negative impact on the school community in itself would make any headteacher think twice before pulling the trigger on something so radical. Fortunately, the EEF Guidance notes that recent findings indicate TAs may add 3-4 months to pupils’ yearly progress – if given proper training and support.

In summary, school leaders who want fast, high-impact improvement using their current resources need to look no further than their Teaching Assistants. Enter Evolution Academy Trust, Norfolk.

Cooperative Learning and MATs

Aside from the impact on TAs, adopting Cooperative Learning as a Trust-wide approach presents MATs with a cost-effective, DfE/EEF-recommended, and legally compliant way to spend its ample pupil premium funds on benefiting every child with 5-8 months of progress per pupil per year. (This is Cooperative Learning on its own, without the 3-4 months of additional progress noted above).

Some key considerations:

      • It is vitally necessary for any MAT looking to convert more schools to demonstrate it can improve results and close achievement gaps rapidly – and what better incentive than to demonstrate that current schools have achieved rapid results with even minute investments in Cooperative Learning CPD. (As well as high staff retention, even in the face of conversion turmoil (e.g. See Stalham Academy).
      • For MATs such as Evolution, whose ethos includes the independence of each school, Cooperative Learning simultaneously provides a practical toolkit that works and is easy to deploy and monitor for converting schools, yet its content-void nature means schools can retain their uniqueness and enhance the value of current good practice. This supports the Evolutions narrative of support, sharing, and egalitarianism.
      • Cooperative Learning works equally well with adults and provides a very powerful, coherent tool to share good practice at MAT “conferences.”
      • The monetary and social value of shared ideas and resources between 7+ schools would be immeasurable.


Objectives of the TA events

With a view to increase understanding of TAs own perceptions of their role, and to empower them to improve outcomes, I was requested by Mr Tony Hull, CEO of Evolution Academy Trust, to tailor and present four Cooperative Learning sessions to TAs in July 2017 under the title “The Real Value of TAs.” I was then further to consider the implications of evidence gathered in these sessions for a Cooperative Learning programme to support the seven EEF recommendations for the MAT’s seven schools.TAs discussing.PNGThe objectives of these events were:

      1. Instilling a sense of worth and belonging among TAs, leading to heightened engagement, staff retention, fewer sick days, etc.
      2. Information gathering of any specific grievances, in the form of wish lists and possible solutions – and the roles various staff, including SLT and teachers, in these solutions. The key was to link TA empowerment, ownership and accountability throughout, again to positively impact daily work.
      3. Providing TAs with one or two very simple, manageable Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) with clear outcomes, to use with smaller groups of students by means of a unique, tailored CPD experience.
      4. Giving present members of senior leadership an opportunity to directly vet Cooperative Learning with a view to adopting this method in their schools.

All slides and handouts were tailored and branded for the event, and effort was expended to ensuring a light-hearted, enjoyable ethos. Each session fielded up to six tables of TAs.



Each session ended with delegates giving rated responses to three questions and providing comments on an anonymous feedback sheet. 77% of attendees’ responses were either positive or very positive about the events, which unveiled the vast majority of EAT TAs as a very valuable potential resource who feel they should be appreciated, and who are eager to bring their ideas and skills to bear.

Given that TAs are sometimes “a notoriously difficult bunch,” as one headteacher once confided to me during a lesson observation, 77% positive feedback was a great deal higher than expected.

Leaving TAs to flounder – or, worse, to actively impair teaching and learning – is likely a significant contributing factor to poor outcomes in any school. As TAs consume as much as a quarter of school budgets, including PPG, ensuring their positive impact on attainment is an obligation for responsible leadership.

The following installments of this article will explain how Cooperative Learning cheaply and effectively may be used to operationalise each of the seven EEF recommendations in turn.

For schools considering Cooperative Learning, following this thread is a must, as I am currently dedicating TA training elements into all standard CPD courses at no further cost.

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TA independent learning

From the EEF Guidance Report, p. 19.



Second installment:

Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants with Cooperative Learning #2; “TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource…”

*** is the business end of


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Trusted partners: VNET/Werdelin present a Hands-on Introduction to CL

Working with Viscount Nelson Education Network, I am presenting Introduction to Cooperative Learning on the 14th July.

I am very proud of being accepted as a trusted VNET partner. I am especially happy about VNET’s minimal staff and commitment to independence and empowerment of schools through bespoke programmes that reflect their needs, which express my own take on school improvement.

As a partner, I have therefore agreed on an enhanced pricing model for VNET Schools. We are also offering opportunities to develop bespoke packages across multiple VNET Schools. All part of the benefit of being part of the VNET Network!

VNET – “the artist formerly known as NB2B”
Norfolk County Council’s highly successful Norfolk Better to Best (B2B) programme which delivered tremendous Ofsted outcome improvements across Norfolk over the last three years has recently been taken over by the community interest company Viscount Nelson Education Network CIC (VNET). VNET has been founded to ensure that the community network of schools that was formed through B2B, committed to a self improving approach and being both givers and receivers of support, could continue without funding form the LA.

The VNET approach is to provide tailored school improvement from best of breed partners who are matched to the needs and philosophy of the school. No two schools are the same, and therefore, a system of school improvement where one size fits all fails to deliver the desired results for many.


The workshop

The workshop is our response to a number of requests from Headteachers following previous Tea Party discussions and Special Measures to Top-500 webinars with Andrew Howard on the considerable impact of Cooperative Learning in the area.
While it is well known that the Sutton Trust – EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit rates Cooperative Learning among one of the top investments of Pupil Premium funding, the aim of this Workshop is to give Headteachers who are keen to know more a chance to experience in a practical way.
In the workshop, we demonstrate how a single, simple activity from the programme may be used across all subjects to instantly generate outstanding teaching and learning by:
  • Sharing knowledge, reflections and ideas across class.
  • Activating prior knowledge.
  • Making students aware of their own learning process and knowledge gaps.
  • Retaining or explaining knowledge.
  • Drilling rote learning and procedural skills.
  • Providing formative and summative assessment.
  • Securing written evidence of learning.
  • Subtly guiding focus towards specific learning objective


Closed question, closed gaps

Even your closed questions yield more with Cooperative Learning. Read Cooperative Learning; Closed Questions, Closed Achievement Gaps)


As part of the workshop, Heads will receive handouts to take away – allowing participants to pilot techniques in their own schools with their current lesson objectives and materials. There will also be case study materials about the considerable impact similar programmes have made on other schools.
Booking & Details

Title: An Introduction to Cooperative Learning Hands-on Workshop

Date: 14th July 8:30 am – 10:30 am

Place: Information Suite, VNET offices
South Green Park, Mattishall
NR20 3JY (map)

Booking: To book your place, please email asap. This session is limited to a maximum of 12 Headteachers on a first come first served basis, and is provided as part of VNET Membership.


* * *

For more information on Cooperative Learning, please visit
VNET homepage is found at


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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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All in the (Islamic Awareness) Week’s work

Next week will see a breakdown of each of the these educational events for the benefit of attendees and third parties.

In summary:

Monday 16 March: Healing Fractures II” Educators’ Workshop 

Beyond Birmingham? Through shared insights of seasoned Muslim alternative educators, RE teachers, researchers and representatives from statutory bodies, this full-day ‘knowledge café’ aimed to let Muslim and non-Muslims collaboratively re-discover a possible future role of schools in relation to identity and community. Everybody present but Ofsted and DfE.

Thank for this and a most thought-provoking

and well-organised day.” 

Isabel Farrelly, Equality and Diversity Officer, Norfolk


Where is Sir Michael when you need him?

Tuesday 17 March: Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry full day CPD

on religious literacy, guided enquiry into controversial topics and related issues of SMSC, PSHE, and Citizenship. Attendees: Charlie Hebdo reflections,  lesson plan in pdf and sample materials are found here: Charlie’s Angels or Sympathy for the Devils? 

“I have truly enjoyed this approach and it has reminded me of why I enjoy enquiry based learning. It was great to be challenged at an adult level, not to be talked down to as a child.”

– Cecilia Basnett, Bignold Primary


Wednesday 18 & Thursday 19 March: “Enquiry and Immersion”

Full-Day Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque presents these new trips developed for primary schools.

Best quote:

“I’d give my life’s savings to eat here every day”

– Year 6 Pupil, 18 March, 2015.

Though very different events, all shared a common theme for me. How much does one control as facilitator, and how does one become one with the flow?  Stay tuned on twitter.

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Islam Awareness Week 2015 programme in Norwich

Islam Awareness Week 2015 is from March 17 to 23.  Ihsan Mosque marks the occasion with four events of special interest to educators:



[  download as pdf  ]


Monday 16 March:

Healing Fractures II” Educators’ Workshop is a full-day event, led by Ibrahim Lawson, which aims at inspiring and enlightening relevant professionals in the education sector and local authority through the insights and experience of Muslim alternative educators. It is a full-day version of our highly acclaimed event in 2014. Read more

Tuesday 17 March:

Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry allows RE teachers to use Cooperative Learning to achieve outstanding results in relation to religious literacy, guided enquiry into highly controversial topics and related issues of SMSC, PSHE, and Citizenship. This course has been presented in Norwich in October and to PGCE students at the Institute of Education in November 2014. Read more.

Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 March:

“Enquiry and Immersion” Full-Day Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque aimed at primary. Open  official invitation from Mr Jamal Sealey, Muslim community leader in Norwich, to February’s roll-out. More on this as situation develops – follow on Twitter for updates. Thoughts on the pilot.


MON ladies 2

 Smiling because the boys are all downstairs?

Acle Academy students, Enquiry & Immersion, November 2014

“…the experience of participating in these transferable and scalable enquiry exercises was very effective.

Laura Gabell, RE teacher, Notre Dame High School,

Islam in RE, Norwich CPD, October 23, 2014 


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Pair-Sharing; Ping-Pong with Derek the Nazi

Workshop debriefing: After looking into the overarching lesson aims of the inquiry exercise, here’s the nitty-gritty of the ubiquitous pair work.

Pairing students often comprise one of the stages of more complex group interaction, but also work brilliantly as a simple stand-alone prelude/follow-up to virtually any activity, as exemplified in the previous post featuring Sir Micheal Wilshaw.

This post also serves to deliver on my promise to discuss CL as a means to make complex project-based enquiry such as Mantle of the Expert less daunting to teachers fearing loss of classroom control (see original post Pandora’s Box).

Pair-share in the context of Cooperative Learning

First of all the notion that one is engaging in Cooperative Learning by letting students discuss in pairs is not a given. In my definition of structural CL, “A pre-structured group effort whose success depends on each specific member carrying out specific tasks at specific times,” one person talking at his partner for 3 minutes is not pre-structured, not a group effort and success certainly does not depend on members carrying out specific tasks.

Generally, one student will dominate the conversation and very timid students, regardless of varied partners, are likely to seize the opportunity to  not say anything, for the same reason they never put their hand up in open class. (In spite of  1-to-1 generally being a lot more conducive than 1-to-35).

Also, by micro-managing the interaction between partners, more subtle aims are achieved; various types of listening, questioning and thinking skills are brought to the fore, and one may embed different types of writing tasks, whether note-taking before, during or after the partner’s presentation, which could then be written out as a proper text and finally signed off.

Through-out the workshop, several forms of pair interaction were demonstrated, split into two basic CLIPs*:


If you read the instructions to Michael and Jakob’s class below, Ping-Pong-Pair should have some of the speed and energy of table tennis and is useful when producing ideas, recapping key points, honing skills that produce short answers, bouncing opinions or creating a controlled discussion:

All right, everybody. Turn to your shoulder-partners. Ping-Pong-Pairs, so stay concise and on-point, maximum 4 sentences per turn. Ready? … “Based on your current take on student-centred learning, assume you are the head of Ofsted and bounce some opinions back and forth”. Two minutes, go!

Here, the limit to the amount of sentences in each turn means the ball has to be passed back and forth with a certain degree of speed; this of course depending on the level of the class, the complexity of the material to be discussed, etc.

The simplest way of adding a writing element, is for students to pass a piece of paper back and forth as quickly as possible (which may also be used to create competition between teams). These can be incredibly basic – in Maths, multiplication table of X, “see how far you get in thirty seconds”; even with help from a superior partner, the less capable student still has to write out the 4×5=20, etc. Start every Maths lesson with 2 minutes of ping-pong-pairs. It’s time well spent.

In other subjects, it might be capital cities, names of romantic authors, opening lines to science fiction stories, families of animals, numbers, weekdays, months or special vocabulary in a foreign language,  the periodic table – listening in or picking up the written lists afterwards gives instant insight. Or reflection on own learning; “Ideas to make homework easier? One minute, go!” The pair/share discussed on the Religious Education/Philosophy for Children page is actually a Ping-Pong Pair.

Roleplaying Ping-Pong-Pairs

After watching the “immigrant rant” from American History X, participants did a Ping-Pong-Pair where one partner tries to talk Derek out of attacking the convenience store. This particular exercise entails “Derek” defeating all arguments with a counter-argument, regardless of conventional morals; the destructive “WHY?” in a world without cohesive narrative, chosen because this was one of the main themes of the workshop.

This video clip starts with the answer to the facilitator modelling Derek’s argument “All my friends have lost their jobs because of these Mexican border jumpers working under minimum wage” and giving a reply to the argument. Participants engage like race-horses coming out of the box:


Ping-Pong-Pairing with Derek the Nazi

(question modelling and staging instructions)

Timed Pair

In comparison Timed Pair is more calm, yet in many ways more demanding; the teacher presents a task, and in turns each partner gets an allotted timespan to present whatever it requires of findings, thoughts, opinions, ideas, solutions, before being presented with partners feedback. So going back to Michael’s example, he would have been given a chance to map out all his plans for Ofsted for two minutes, and then gotten two minutes of feedback. So teaching presentation as a ancillary skill forms a natural part class room activities, often several times in even a single lesson.

For the speaking partner, the benefit over Ping-Pong the more coherent and planned presentation, where quick thinking is required to formulate and connect key points within the time frame. For other students, filling out the time might be the challenge – a full two minutes demands more than the usual superficial answer to which many open class comments are restricted.

For the listener, the awareness of his following feedback task intensifies his listening and forces him into an ongoing analysis of the presentation to formulate questions and feedback. Note taking here is a definite option for some. A

As for social skills, attentive listening, constructive criticism (shame on you, Brenda, for making fun of Michael!), patience when partner does not understand point one is convinced are clear, helping to phrase and formulate without being intrusive, eye contact, body language, praising and thanking. All this is discussed in more detail in On the Subject of Social Skills.

Integrating with team and class interaction

Both of the above fit into any cross class and cross team information sharing situation, including open floor situations described in The Dancefloor is made of Lava and the Two-for-Tea visually described in The Teacher is a Ghost.

A generic question would be: “Share all the ideas your team has come up with so far…”



* CLIP: Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern

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Monitoring and real-time feedback in the Cooperative Learning classroom

Workshop debriefing: As I have states in numerous places, the candid verbalization of opinions during the debate gives teachers a unique insight into the knowledge and thought processes of each individual student as thet work through tasks and materials.

Also, a lot of finer points related to personality and social skills are brought to the fore and hitherto unseen strengths and weaknesses are put on display, sometimes surprising students themselves. Whoever uses CL disregards social skills at the peril of his class – BUT whoever applies teacher-centred learning disregards social skills at the peril of society at large. Big words, but I refer the sceptical reader to the previous post On the Subject of Social Skills.

So the hard work on social skills should not be an excuse to back away from CL. As we have seen in a previous post On the Subject of Social Skills, high attainment and social skills go hand in hand.

So here we will focus on the assessment and real-time feedback into the learning process of observations made possible through CL. At  the beginning of the lesson, the teacher’s role is that of “task setter.” As groups work on tasks, the teacher acts as a coach moving from group to group to provide students with on-going feedback and assessment of the group’s progress, but most of all to monitor the learning process.

This observation then may impact the direction of the lesson in progress or the focus or tempo of future lessons as issues are uncovered, ideas are presented and unforeseen difficulties arise.



As a rule of thumb, monitoring should be unobtrusive, as to avoid students becoming self-aware and skewing the observation. This might mean looking towards a group at the other end of the room while listening to the one in front of you. Also setting up the tables forming a semi-circle , sides facing the area of presentation (WB, IWB) not only gives everyone equal standing on the comfort scale (no-one has to crane 180 degrees to see the board) and keeps all students within earshot without a lot of roving around. However, for every class, it is a work-around.  In some situations, simply standing in the middle of the room as soon as students are set on their tasks will be fine.


unobtrusive monitoring

unobtrusive monitoring indeed


To ensure equal dispersal of attention, keep a rota list for each class. Attention during lesson are allocated to 2-3 specific students, sometimes sitting in teams for convenience though this is not always possible. Obviously, the content of the lesson also affects the choice of student to observe.  The key is to keep track. With three student per lesson and four lessons a week, you can churn through a class of twenty every two weeks, enough to keep abreast of developments.

Note also that one may choose CLIPs for individual groups which touch the area of learning you want to observe in specific students. When working on good character description in creative writing, but you want to check if students have made progress on attention and  giving recaps, give them a four minute Recap2Pass, where permission for the next person to speak is only given if a concise recap of what was said is accepted by the previous speaker. Question: “What’s your favourite character description and why is it you favourite?” Prepares the written work, but allows teacher to check specific skills on the go.

Real-time feed-back in class

Obviously, this is where a sound theoretical knowledge of CL comes in, so you know which areas of learning are facilitated by which CLIPs and with which tweaks. For examples of tweaks, check Newsletter #1Let’s say that two groups out of eight are struggling; send Two-for-Tea out to gather information from other teams, bring them back to recap new knowledge.

If there is a wide variety of the level of understanding of the subject matter, and you want to bring the struggling one’s up to speed without slowing the fast ones, let them Stop2Talk (check Newsletter #1 for details) and have them talk to partners across teams to share knowledge as prompted by your (clever) questions. This allows the quicker students to formalise their knowledge by explaining and phrasing it to suit the varying needs of his/her peers. A simple, generic (and clever) question might be: “Ask your partner which areas his group is struggling with at the moment. Find out how you can help.” A more specific one might be: “Explain the relationship of Henry VIII to the Church of England at the time it was founded and at the time of his death” or “What are the main functions of amino acids? Take turns.” Here,  taking notes is always good, as it supports debriefing once they return to their teams.

As for feed-back into following lessons, it no different from how you would respond if you had spotted problems through normal class teaching; the difference is that gathering intel via hands-up responses in class, compared to observing a lively, guided CL discussion, is akin to “looking through a glass, darkly.”

Assessment will be discussed in the following post Monitoring and Assessment. Stay tuned on twitter.





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