Training on learning disabilities

for parents and teachers.

New strategies and methodologies

and ICT contribution.


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These are general methodologies that favor all pupils learning, but it´s necessary (not only good) for children with learning difficulties.

The inclusive methodologies all teachers need to develop in their classrooms are:

  1. Multiple intelligences.
  2. Learning based on projects.
  3. Learning based on problems solving.
  4. E-learning
  5. Cooperative learning, among others.

Multiple intelligences (from "The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide," by Carla Lane)

Howard Gardner of Harvard has identified seven distinct intelligences. This theory has emerged from recent cognitive research and "documents the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways," according to Gardner (1991). According to this theory, "we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences - the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains."

Gardner says that these differences "challenge an educational system that assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning. Indeed, as currently constituted, our educational system is heavily biased toward linguistic modes of instruction and assessment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, toward logical-quantitative modes as well." Gardner argues that "a contrasting set of assumptions is more likely to be educationally effective. Students learn in ways that are identifiably distinctive. The broad spectrum of students - and perhaps the society as a whole - would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a numbers of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means." The learning styles are as follows:

Visual-Spatial - think in terms of physical space, as do architects and sailors. Very aware of their environments. They like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream. They can be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery. Tools include models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modeling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, texts with pictures/charts/graphs.

Bodily-kinesthetic - use the body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. Keen sense of body awareness. They like movement, making things, touching. They communicate well through body language and be taught through physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, role playing. Tools include equipment and real objects.

Musical - show sensitivity to rhythm and sound. They love music, but they are also sensitive to sounds in their environments. They may study better with music in the background. They can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics, speaking rhythmically, tapping out time. Tools include musical instruments, music, radio, stereo, CD-ROM, multimedia.

Interpersonal - understanding, interacting with others. These students learn through interaction. They have many friends, empathy for others, street smarts. They can be taught through group activities, seminars, dialogues. Tools include the telephone, audio conferencing, time and attention from the instructor, video conferencing, writing, computer conferencing, E-mail.

Intrapersonal - understanding one's own interests, goals. These learners tend to shy away from others. They're in tune with their inner feelings; they have wisdom, intuition and motivation, as well as a strong will, confidence and opinions. They can be taught through independent study and introspection. Tools include books, creative materials, diaries, privacy and time. They are the most independent of the learners.

Linguistic - using words effectively. These learners have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words. They like reading, playing word games, making up poetry or stories. They can be taught by encouraging them to say and see words, read books together. Tools include computers, games, multimedia, books, tape recorders, and lecture.

Logical -Mathematical - reasoning, calculating. Think conceptually, abstractly and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships. They like to experiment, solve puzzles, ask cosmic questions. They can be taught through logic games, investigations, mysteries. They need to learn and form concepts before they can deal with details.

At first, it may seem impossible to teach to all learning styles. However, as we move into using a mix of media or multimedia, it becomes easier. As we understand learning styles, it becomes apparent why multimedia appeals to learners and why a mix of media is more effective. It satisfies the many types of learning preferences that one person may embody or that a class embodies. A review of the literature shows that a variety of decisions must be made when choosing media that is appropriate to learning style.

Visuals: Visual media help students acquire concrete concepts, such as object identification, spatial relationship, or motor skills where words alone are inefficient.

Printed words: There is disagreement about audio's superiority to print for affective objectives; several models do not recommend verbal sound if it is not part of the task to be learned.

Sound: A distinction is drawn between verbal sound and non-verbal sound such as music. Sound media are necessary to present a stimulus for recall or sound recognition. Audio narration is recommended for poor readers.

Motion: Models force decisions among still, limited movement, and full movement visuals. Motion is used to depict human performance so that learners can copy the movement. Several models assert that motion may be unnecessary and provides decision aid questions based upon objectives. Visual media which portray motion are best to show psychomotor or cognitive domain expectations by showing the skill as a model against which students can measure their performance.

Color: Decisions on color display are required if an object's color is relevant to what is being learned.

Realia: Realia are tangible, real objects which are not models and are useful to teach motor and cognitive skills involving unfamiliar objects. Realia are appropriate for use with individuals or groups and may be situation based. Realia may be used to present information realistically but it may be equally important that the presentation corresponds with the way learner's represent information internally.

Instructional Setting: Design should cover whether the materials are to be used in a home or instructional setting and consider the size what is to be learned. Print instruction should be delivered in an individualized mode which allows the learner to set the learning pace. The ability to provide corrective feedback for individual learners is important but any medium can provide corrective feedback by stating the correct answer to allow comparison of the two answers.

Learner Characteristics: Most models consider learner characteristics as media may be differentially effective for different learners. Although research has had limited success in identifying the media most suitable for types of learners several models are based on this method.

Reading ability: Pictures facilitate learning for poor readers who benefit more from speaking than from writing because they understand spoken words; self-directed good readers can control the pace; and print allows easier review.

Categories of Learning Outcomes: Categories ranged from three to eleven and most include some or all of Gagne's (1977) learning categories; intellectual skills, verbal information, motor skills, attitudes, and cognitive strategies. Several models suggest a procedure which categorizes learning outcomes, plans instructional events to teach objectives, identifies the type of stimuli to present events, and media capable of presenting the stimuli.

Events of Instruction: The external events which support internal learning processes are called events of instruction. The events of instruction are planned before selecting the media to present it.

Performance: Many models discuss eliciting performance where the student practices the task which sets the stage for reinforcement. Several models indicate that the elicited performance should be categorized by type; overt, covert, motor, verbal, constructed, and select. Media should be selected which is best able to elicit these responses and the response frequency. One model advocates a behavioral approach so that media is chosen to elicit responses for practice. To provide feedback about the student's response, an interactive medium might be chosen, but any medium can provide feedback. Learner characteristics such as error proneness and anxiety should influence media selection.

Testing which traditionally is accomplished through print, may be handled by electronic media. Media are better able to assess learners' visual skills than are print media and can be used to assess learner performance in realistic situations.

How to Teach or Learn Anything 8 Different Ways (T. Amstrong)

One of the most remarkable features of the theory of multiple intelligences is how it provides eight different potential pathways to learning. If a teacher is having difficulty reaching a student in the more traditional linguistic or logical ways of instruction, the theory of multiple intelligences suggests several other ways in which the material might be presented to facilitate effective learning. Whether you are a kindergarten teacher, a graduate school instructor, or an adult learner seeking better ways of pursuing self-study on any subject of interest, the same basic guidelines apply. Whatever you are teaching or learning, see how you might connect it with

  • words (linguisticintelligence)
  • numbers or logic (logical-mathematical intelligence)
  • pictures (spatialintelligence)
  • music (musical intelligence)
  • self-reflection (intrapersonal intelligence)
  • a physical experience (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence)
  • a social experience (interpersonal intelligence), and/or
  • an experience in the natural world. (naturalistintelligence)

For example, if you’re teaching or learning about the law of supply and demand in economics, you might read about it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical), examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial), observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human world of commerce (interpersonal); examine the law in terms of your own body [e.g. when you supply your body with lots of food, the hunger demand goes down; when there's very little supply, your stomach's demand for food goes way up and you get hungry] (bodily-kinesthetic and intrapersonal); and/or write a song (or find an existing song) that demonstrates the law (perhaps Dylan's "Too Much of Nothing?").

You don’t have to teach or learn something in all eight ways, just see what the possibilities are, and then decide which particular pathways interest you the most, or seem to be the most effective teaching or learning tools. The theory of multiple intelligences is so intriguing because it expands our horizon of available teaching/learning tools beyond the conventional linguistic and logical methods used in most schools (e.g. lecture, textbooks, writing assignments, formulas, etc.). To get started, put the topic of whatever you’re interested in teaching or learning about in the center of a blank sheet of paper, and draw eight straight lines or "spokes" radiating out from this topic. Label each line with a different intelligence. Then start brainstorming ideas for teaching or learning that topic and write down ideas next to each intelligence (this is a spatial-linguistic approach of brainstorming; you might want to do this in other ways as well, using a tape-recorder, having a group brainstorming session, etc.). Havefun!


  • Armstrong, Thomas. Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom 3rd ed. Alexandria, VA: AssociationforSupervision and CurriculumDevelopment, 2009.
  • Armstrong, Thomas. 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences. New York: Plume, 1999.
  • Armstrong, Thomas. In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child's Multiple Intelligences, New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 2000.
  • Armstrong, Thomas. You’re Smarter Than You Think: A Kid’s Guide to Multiple Intelligences. Minneapolis, MN: FreeSpirit, 2014.
  • Armstrong, Thomas. The Multiple Intelligences of Reading and Writing: Making the Words Come Alive. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and CurriculumDevelopment, 2003.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Multiple Intelligences CD-ROM, and Multiple Intelligences Video Series; 1250 N. Pitt St., Alexandria, VA 22314-1453 (800-933-2723).
  • Gardner, Howard. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic,1983
  • Gardner, Howard. Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic, 1993.
  • Gardner, Howard. Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic, 2000.
  • National Professional Resources, 25 South Regent St., Port Chester, NY 10573, 914-937-8879. Producer of several videos on MI including, Howard Gardner, "How Are Kids Smart?" Jo Gusman, "MI and the Second Language Learner", and Thomas Armstrong, Multiple Intelligences: Discovering the Giftedness in All".
  • New City School, Celebrating Multiple Intelligences ( 5209 Waterman Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108).
  • Skylight Publications, 200 E. Wood St., Suite 250, Palatine, IL 60067 (div. Simon and Schuster). Publisher of many MI materials.
  • Zephyr Press, PO Box 66006, Tucson, AZ 85728 (602-322-5090). Publisher of many MI materials.


Learning based on projects (Buck Institute for Education (BIE)

What is Project Based Learning (PBL)?

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. In Gold Standard PBL, Essential Project Design Elements include:

Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills - The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and self-management.

Challenging Problem or Question - The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.

Sustained Inquiry - Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.

Authenticity - The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.

Student Voice & Choice - Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.

Reflection - Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.

Critique & Revision - Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.

Public Product - Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the classroom.

Why Project Based Learning (PBL)?

Project Based Learning’s time has come. The experience of thousands of teachers across all grade levels and subject areas, backed by research, confirms that PBL is an effective and enjoyable way to learn - and develop deeper learning competencies required for success in college, career, and civic life. Why are so many educators across the United States and around the world interested in this teaching method? The answer is a combination of timeless reasons and recent developments.

  • PBL makes school more engaging for students. Today’s students, more than ever, often find school to be boring and meaningless. In PBL, students are active, not passive; a project engages their hearts and minds, and provides real-world relevance for learning.
  • PBL improves learning. After completing a project, students understand content more deeply, remember what they learn and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply what they know and can do to new situations.
  • PBL builds success skills for college, career, and life. In the 21st century workplace and in college, success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In a project, students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, build their confidence, solve problems, work in teams, communicate ideas, and manage themselves more effectively.
  • PBL helps address standards. The Common Core and other present-day standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, and the development of success skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, communication in a variety of media, and speaking and presentation skills. PBL isaneffectiveway to meetthesegoals.
  • PBL provides opportunities for students to use technology. Students are familiar with and enjoy using a variety of tech tools that are a perfect fit with PBL. With technology, teachers and students can not only find resources and information and create products, but also collaborate more effectively, and connect with experts, partners, and audiences around the world.
  • PBL makes teaching more enjoyable and rewarding. Projects allow teachers to work more closely with active, engaged students doing high-quality, meaningful work, and in many cases to rediscover the joy of learning alongside their students.
  • PBL connects students and schools with communities and the real world. Projects provide students with empowering opportunities to make a difference, by solving real problems and addressing real issues. Students learn how to interact with adults and organizations, are exposed to workplaces and adult jobs, and can develop career interests. Parents and communitymembers can be involved in projects.


What Every Good Project Needs (John Larmerand John R. Mergendoller, at the Buck Institute for Education)

A project is meaningful if it fulfills two criteria. First, students must perceive the work as personally meaningful, as a task that matters and that they want to do well. Second, a meaningful project fulfills an educational purpose. Well-designed and well-implemented project-based learning is meaningful in both ways.

As educators with the Buck Institute for Education, we provide professional development to help schools set up a sustained program of in-depth project-based learning throughout a district, network, or state. In our work with teachers, we have identified seven essential elements of meaningful projects. Let's look at each element by considering what the fictional Ms. McIntyre could have done to create a meaningful project instead of handing out prepared packets.

1. A Need to Know

Imagine that on the first day of the infectious disease unit, Ms. McIntyre showed a video depicting a beautiful beach, which ended with a shot of a sign reading, "Beach Closed: Contaminated Water." Suppose watching this video led to a lively (and sometimes disgusting) discussion in which students shared their experiences with suspicious water quality, discussed times when beaches had been closed and why, and talked about how much pollution bothered them. The teacher could then introduce the project by telling students that they would be learning more about ocean pollution and proposing actions to combat it.

* * *

Teachers can powerfully activate students' need to know content by launching a project with an "entry event" that engages interest and initiates questioning. An entry event can be almost anything: a video, a lively discussion, a guest speaker, a field trip, or a piece of mock correspondence that sets up a scenario. In contrast, announcing a project by distributing a packet of papers is likely to turn students off; it looks like a prelude to busywork.

Many students find schoolwork meaningless because they don't perceive a need to know what they're being taught. They are unmotivated by a teacher's suggestion that they should learn something because they'll need it later in life, for the next course, or simply because "it's going to be on the test." With a compelling student project, the reason for learning relevant material becomes clear: I need to know this to meet the challenge I've accepted.

2. A Driving Question

After the discussion about beach pollution, Ms. McIntyre led students in brainstorming possible solutions, such as enacting laws, designing better waste-treatment systems, and raising public awareness about the need to reduce contaminants. Students created a driving question to focus their efforts, focusing on a specific local area: How can we reduce the number of days Foster's Beach is closed because of poor water quality?

* * *

A good driving question captures the heart of the project in clear, compelling language, which gives students a sense of purpose and challenge. The question should be provocative, open-ended, complex, and linked to the core of what you want students to learn. It could be abstract (When is war justified?); concrete (Is our water safe to drink?); or focused on solving a problem (How can we improve this website so that more young people will use it?).

A project without a driving question is like an essay without a thesis. Without a thesis statement, a reader might be able to pick out the main point a writer is trying to make; but with a thesis statement, the main point is unmistakable. Without a driving question, students may not understand why they are undertaking a project. They know that the series of assigned activities has some connection with a time period, a place, or a concept. But if you asked, "What is the point of all these activities?" they might only be able to offer, "Because we're making a poster."

3. Student Voice and Choice

Once her students' interest was piqued by a challenging question, Ms. McIntyre explained the requirements for the "Don't Close the Beach" project, which included an individually written paper, an oral presentation of students' work accompanied by media technology, and a product of students' choice created by teams. Students chose to develop media kits, public service announcements, web pages, brochures, and letters to government and industry officials, among other products.

* * *

This element of project-based learning is key. In terms of making a project feel meaningful to students, the more voice and choice, the better. However, teachers should design projects with the extent of student choice that fits their own style and students.

On the limited-choice end of the scale, learners can select what topic to study within a general driving question or choose how to design, create, and present products. As a middle ground, teachers might provide a limited menu of options for creative products to prevent students from becoming overwhelmed by choices. On the "the more, the better" end of the scale, students can decide what products they will create, what resources they will use, and how they will structure their time. Students could even choose a project's topic and driving question.

4. 21st Century Skills

Once Ms. McIntyre's students had decided on actions that would help them respond to their driving question, they got to work. Collaboration was central to the project. Students formed teams of three or four and began planning what tasks they would do and how they would work together.

As they worked, each team regularly paused to review how well they were collaborating and communicating, using rubrics they had developed with the teacher's guidance. To boost collaboration skills, Ms. McIntyre used role-playing and team-building activities. She showed students how to use time and task organizers. They practiced oral presentation skills and learned to produce videos and podcasts. In writing journals, students reflected on their thinking and problem-solving processes, which they knew they would need to explain in their oral presentation.

* * *

A project should give students opportunities to build such 21st century skills as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and the use of technology, which will serve them well in the workplace and life. This exposure to authentic skills meets the second criterion for meaningful work—an important purpose. A teacher in a project-based learning environment explicitly teaches and assesses these skills and provides frequent opportunities for students to assess themselves.

5. Inquiry and Innovation

After their discussion about encounters with pollution, in addition to choosing a driving question, Ms. McIntyre's students as a whole class generated a list of more detailed questions about diseases, bacteria and their effects, and sources of water contamination. Questions included, What diseases can you get from water? Do you have to drink it to get sick? and Where do bacteria come from? The teams fine-tuned their questions and discussed how to find answers from the teacher, books, articles, websites, experts, and visits to Foster's Beach.

As these learners found answers, they raised and investigated new questions. Students synthesized the information they gathered and used it both to inform their individually written papers on the driving question and to help create their team's product related to that question.

* * *

Students find project work more meaningful if they conduct real inquiry, which does not mean finding information in books or websites and pasting it onto a poster. In real inquiry, students follow a trail that begins with their own questions, leads to a search for resources and the discovery of answers, and often ultimately leads to generating new questions, testing ideas, and drawing their own conclusions. With real inquiry comes innovation—a new answer to a driving question, a new product, or an individually generated solution to a problem. The teacher does not ask students to simply reproduce teacher- or textbook-provided information in a pretty format.

To guide students in real inquiry, refer students to the list of questions they generated after the entry event. Coach them to add to this list as they discover new insights. The classroom culture should value questioning, hypothesizing, and openness to new ideas and perspectives.

6. Feedback and Revision

As they developed their ideas and products, student teams critiqued one another's work, referring to rubrics and exemplars. Ms. McIntyre checked research notes, reviewed rough drafts and plans, and met with teams to monitor their progress.

* * *

Formalizing a process for feedback and revision during a project makes learning meaningful because it emphasizes that creating high-quality products and performances is an important purpose of the endeavor. Students need to learn that most people's first attempts don't result in high quality and that revision is a frequent feature of real-world work.

In addition to providing direct feedback, the teacher should coach students in using rubrics or other sets of criteria to critique one another's work. Teachers can arrange for experts or adult mentors to provide feedback, which is especially meaningful to students because of the source.

7. A Publicly Presented Product

In Ms. McIntyre's class, teams presented their analyses of water contamination issues and proposals for addressing the problem at an exhibition night. The invited audience included parents, peers, and representatives of community, business, and government organizations. Students answered questions and reflected on how they completed the project, next steps they might take, and what they gained in terms of knowledge and skills—and pride.

* * *

Schoolwork is more meaningful when it's not done only for the teacher or the test. When students present their work to a real audience, they care more about its quality. Once again, it's "the more, the better" when it comes to authenticity. Students might replicate the kinds of tasks done by professionals—but even better, they might create real products that people outside school use.

The Rest of the Story

The hypothetical project described here was inspired by a real project, "Media Saves the Beach," carried out by students at High Tech High in San Diego, California. In this real-life project, students worked alongside established local groups to advocate cleaner seashores. Several government agencies eventually came through with funding for water monitoring at local beaches.

In truth, one of the products students created was a poster. What made that poster different from the meaning-lite one Ms. McIntyre assigned? The High Tech High students chose to do their poster because it was an effective way to communicate their message at Exhibition Night—and the team stood nearby to explain it. To create the poster, students engaged in an extended process of inquiry, critique, and revision. They learned important things in the process. In short, even a poster can be meaning-heavy if it's part of a project embodying the seven essential elements of project-based learning.

Authors' note: Individual and some place names in this article are pseudonyms.

See more resources (videos, blogs, books… at


Problems solving learning (The San Francisco State University)

As an MBA, you will have to be an accomplished problem-solver of organizational design and change situations. You will also have to be a self-directed learner your entire professional life, as knowledge in the field of management will change, and you will continuously be meeting new and unexpected challenges.

The consideration of these factors such as these dictates the wisdom of a problem-based, student-centered, self-directed program that will allow you, the student, in collaboration with your group and instructor, to design an experience tailor-made to your individual needs.

What Is Problem-Based Learning (PBL)?

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem. It is a format that simultaneously develops both problem solving strategies and disciplinary knowledge bases and skills by placing students in the active role of problem-solvers confronted with an ill-structured situation that simulates the kind of problems they are likely to face as future managers in complex organizations.

Problem-based learning is student-centered. PBL makes a fundamental shift--from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning. The process is aimed at using the power of authentic problem solving to engage students and enhance their learning and motivation. There are several unique aspects that define the PBL approach:

  • Learning takes place within the contexts of authentic tasks, issues, and problems--that are aligned with real-world concerns.
  • In a PBL course, students and the instructor become colearners, coplanners, coproducers, and coevaluators as they design, implement, and continually refine their curricula.
  • The PBL approach is grounded in solid academic research on learning and on the best practices that promote it. This approach stimulates students to take responsibility for their own learning, since there are few lectures, no structured sequence of assigned readings, and so on.
  • PBL is unique in that it fosters collaboration among students, stresses the development of problem solving skills within the context of professional practice, promotes effective reasoning and self-directed learning, and is aimed at increasing motivation for life-long learning.

Problem-based learning begins with the introduction of an ill-structured problem on which all learning is centered. The problem is one that MBA students are likely to face as future professionals. Expertise is developed by engaging in progressive problem solving. Thus, problems drive the organization and dynamics of the course. MBA students, individually and collectively, assume major responsibility for their own learning and instruction. Most of the learning occurs in small groups rather than in lectures. As teacher, my role changes from "sage on stage" to a "guide by the side." My role is more like that of a facilitator and coach of student learning, acting at times as a resource person, rather than as knowledge-holder and disseminator. Similarly, your role, as a student, is more active, as you are engaged as a problem-solver, decision-maker, and meaning-maker, rather than being merely a passive listener and note-taker.

Where Did PBL Come From and Who Else is Using It?

PBL originated from a curriculum reform by medical faculty at Case Western Reserve University in the late 1950s. Innovative medical and health science programs continued to evolve the practice of PBL, particularly the specific small group learning and tutorial process that was developed by medical faculty at McMaster University in Canada. These innovative and forward-looking medical school programs considered the intensive pattern of basic science lectures followed by an equally exhausting clinical teaching program to be an ineffective and dehumanizing way to prepare future physicians. Given the explosion of medical information and new technology, as well as the rapidly changing demands of future medical practice, a new mode and strategy of learning was developed that would better prepare students for professional practice. PBL has spread to over 50 medical schools, and has diffused into many other professional fields including law, economics, architecture, mechanical and civil engineering, as well as in K-12 curricula. And the entire MBA program at Ohio University has been designed as an integrated curriculum using the PBL approach.

Why PBL?

Traditional education practices, starting from kindergarten through college, tend to produce students who are often disenchanted and bored with their education. They are faced with a vast amount of information to memorize, much of which seems irrelevant to the world as it exists outside of school. Students often forget much of what they learned, and that which they remember cannot often be applied to the problems and tasks they later face in the business world. Traditional classrooms also do not prepare students to work with others in collaborative team situations. The result: students tend to view MBA education as simply a "right of passage," a necessary "union card," and an imposed set of hurdles with little relevance to the real world. Education is reduced to acquiring a diploma (merely another commodity to be purchased in the marketplace), and the final grade becomes the overriding concern (rather than learning).

Research in educational psychology has found that traditional educational approaches (e.g., lectures) do not lead to a high rate of knowledge retention. Despite intense efforts on the part of both students and teachers, most material learned through lectures is soon forgotten, and natural problem solving abilities may actually be impaired. In fact, studies have shown that in 90 days students forget 90% of everything they have been told (Smilovitz, 1996). Motivation in such traditional classroom environments is also usually low.

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of PBL is that students genuinely enjoy the process of learning. PBL is a challenging program which makes the study of organization design and change intriguing for students because they are motivated to learn by a need to understand and solve real managerial problems. The relevance of information learned is readily apparent; students become aware of a need for knowledge as they work to resolve the problems.

How Does PBL Work?

A PBL course is designed into a series of real-world, hands-on, PBL investigations. You will be working in small groups/teams with other students on problems that you are likely to encounter as a professional manager. You will begin a PBL investigation by being presented with an ill-structured organizational problem or scenario. Such a presentation may be in the form of a written statement, a video clip of a real manager at a company, or a guest speaker. Every PBL team will appoint a chairperson/leader and sometimes a recorder/secretary. Your PBL team will be guided in the use of a reiterative problem-solving process. Your team will applyy this problem solving process to find, analyze, and solve the presenting problem. Some PBL investigations may culminate in a student-created project/product, exhibitions, or other artifacts that address the driving questions. In some cases, the PBL investigation will culminate in an oral performance with managers from the business community in attendance.

As you work with each problem you can:

  1. Develop your diagnostic reasoning and analytical problem-solving skills.
  2. Determine what knowledge you need to acquire to understand the problem, and others like it.
  3. Discover the best resources for acquiring that information.
  4. Carry out your own personalized study using a wide range of resources.
  5. Apply the information you have learned back to the problem.
  6. Integrate this newly acquired knowledge with your existing understanding.

In short, you will be learning in a highly relevant and exciting manner to problem-solve and to develop self-directed study skills that build toward the skills and knowledge that you will need as a practicing manager.

The problem-solving process can be summarized according to three broad and reiterative phases.

Phase 1. First, your group will gather information and list it under a heading entitled: "What do we already know?" In this phase, you will entertain the problem in light of the knowledge that you already have from your own experience. Your group will discuss the current situation surrounding the problem as it has been presented. This analysis requires discussion and agreement on the working definitions of the problems, and sorting out which issues and aspects of the situation are worthy of further investigation. This initial analysis should yield a problem statement that serves as a starting point for the investigation, and it may be revised as assumptions are questioned and new information comes to light.

Phase 2. Next, you will engage with the problem by also identifying under a second heading, "What do we need to know (to solve this problem)?" Here you will list questions or learning issues that must be answered to address missing knowledge, or to shed light on the problem. It is in this phase that your group will be analyzing the problem into components, discussing implications, entertaining possible explanations or solutions, and developing working hypotheses. This activity is like a "brainstorming" phase with evaluation suspended while explanations or solutions are written on a flipchart or chalkboard. Your group will need to formulate learning goals, outlining what further information is needed, and how this information can best be obtained.

Phase 3. The above list should inform your group in what to do in order to solve the problem. In this phase your group will discuss, evaluate, and organize hypotheses and tentative hypotheses. Your group will make a "What should we do?" list that formulates keeps track of such issues as what resources to consult, people to interview, articles to read, and what specific actions team members need to perform. It is in this phase that your group will identify and allocate learning tasks, develop study plans to discover needed information. You will be gathering information from the classroom, resource readings, texts, library sources, videos, and from external experts on the subject. As new information is acquired, your group will need to meet to analyze and evaluate it for its reliability and usefulness in applying it to the problem.

In short, you will be spending a great deal of time discussing the problem, generating hypotheses, identifying relevant facts, searching for information, and defining their own learning issues. Unlike traditional and standard classes, learning objectives are not stated up front. Rather, you and members of your group will be responsible for generating your own learning issues or objectives based on your group's analysis of the problem.

All during this process, as a student, you will be actively defining and constructing potential solutions. As an instructor, my role is primarily to model, guide, coach--to support you and your team through the learning and assessment process.

The majority of class time will be devoted to working in self-directed, PBL small group tutorials. A portion of class time will be allocated to "Resource Sessions," which may include simulations, case studies, and brief discussions to further explore concepts and issues which arise out of the PBL projects.

Transitioning to a PBL Classroom Environment

Students who are new to a PBL classroom environment may find it initially unsettling. This is because you are being asked to take responsibility for your own learning, to work on ill-structured problems where there isn't a pre-established "right answer," and where you are expected to structure your own approach to acquiring and using information to solve problems. In many respects, this environment mimics the "real-world." In business settings, there are no standardized objective tests, lectures, or routine and well defined assignments. Entering this new type of learning environment requires you a willingness on your part to accept risk and uncertainty, and to become a self-directed learner.

Establishing an Open Climate for PBL

Establishing an open climate is essential for problem-based learning. Every student should feel free to say whatever comes to mind, any ideas or comments, no matter how unsophisticated or inappropriate they might seem, without being put down or criticized. Most students have learned in their prior educational experiences not to speak up or volunteer their thoughts unless they are absolutely sure of the answer. Any show of ignorance was held against them.

Learning can never occur unless you can bring out their ideas and thoughts, and openly admit to confusion, lack of understanding, or ignorance…"I don't know" is a powerful first step to learning. The same is true for myself as the instructor. The instructor doesn't have all the answers or know everything; no one person can be an authority in everything, and no one should be expected to have all the answers. We can ALL learn in this course.

It is your responsibility, as a student, TO SPEAK UP when you are doubtful, unsure, or uncomfortable with comments or ideas made by others in the group. You also must be willing to speak up when you feel that another member of your group is making statements that you feel are incorrect.

Students must also develop the ability to openly and constructively express their opinions about the comments or ideas of others, or about the quality of other students' performance in the group. It is your responsibility to offer opinions in a friendly and constructive manner. Every student must learn to both give and accept constructive criticism.

PBL Assessment Philosophy

To Assess. The Latin origin of this term, assidere, literally means to sit down beside. Another way of thinking of assessment is to use careful judgment based on the kind of close observation that comes from "sitting down beside."

With PBL, assessment is not separate from instruction. Rather, assessment is integral to learning. The focus and purpose of assessment is on learning, on how it is done, and how it can be better, not on normative comparisons. Assessment is a continuous process that drives instruction. Further, assessment does not bring an end to learning; it provides information about how to continue to develop your skills, knowledge and abilities with respect to the course learning objectives. Having said this, it is important for you to think of assessment as an active demonstration of your understanding and ability to apply this understanding.

Words like "tests" and "examinations" have well established connotations of evalutating a student's possession of knowledge. We need a different process, and a new language, to identify how to assess a student's capability for using and applying knowledge. Education of an individual, understood in terms of developing a capbility for using and applying one's knowledge, cannot be adequately assessed by traditional testing. Grading on a curve, which sorts students into groups for administrative purposes, says nothing about how each student is using his or her talents or growing toward their potential.

With PBL, the instructor is no longer the sole yardstick by which your progress will be measured. Rather, my role as instructor is to help students monitor themselves, to monitor your own progress, to establish criteria for learning and quality work, and to help you devise your own goals for improvement. This means that I will not be the only judge of student work; students will learn to evaluate the work of their peers, as well as their own. In addition, your work may also be monitored and evaluated by real-world assessors--managers and executives from companies in the Bay Area.

Students will codevelop with the instructor relevant and meaningful assessments, and play an active role in developing criteria and setting standards of performance for high quality work. Assessments must have meaning for the learner. For assessments to be meaningful, they must have some connection to the real world, difficult enough to be interesting but not totally frustrating, and generative, where a real product, service, or valued information is being evaluated. This concept of assessment-as-learning focuses on what learners achieve--not what teachers provide.

Therefore, in this course, student assessment is a multidimensional process, integral to learning, that involves observing performances of individual learners in action and judging them on the basis of collaboratively determined developmental criteria, with resulting feedback to that learner. Assessments may involve a performance or demonstration, usually for a real audience (i.e., managers from the business community) and useful purpose (e.g., as part of student exhibition or learning conference). Assessment must be seamless and ongoing; it must be part of the PBL process. Students must also learn during assessment; it is not simpy a "grade" that is tacked on at the end of a paper or transcript.

In general, and at minimum, students will be assessed in three broad areas:

  1. Applied Competence. Demonstrate the ability to use organizational design and change management concepts and frameworks to identify and anaylze variables that can influence an organization's overall effectiveness.
  2. Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving and Communicative Competence. Identify problems and/or opportunities in organizational contexts and make specific recommendations, supported by theory, to improve the situation. Accurately and competently using theoretical frameworks from organization design and change literature to interpret and solve business problems, and effectively communicating your analyses to others in a variety of professional contexts. Implementing your problem solving activities with a commitment to quality.
  3. Collaborative and Leadership Competence. Collaborates as a member of a project team, taking the initiative in identifying and solving problems or pursuing opportunities for learning and improvement within your group.

Assessment must also be seen as fair and equitable. In the early part of the semester, a voluntary "student assessment task force" will be formed. This task force will consists of student representatives from each of the three sections of MGMT 842 and will work with the instructor in developing an overall assessment plan for all three sections. After every PBL project, group-based assessments will be conducted. These assessments are to help facilitate reflection on what you learned during the PBL project, and to receive direct feedback from your team members on your performance, contributions, and intellectual achievements.

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“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher will always be the most important.” (Bill Gates)

What is eLearning?

The Department’s eLearning strategy is positioned at the forefront of transforming classroom practice and student learning opportunities. This approach promotes a blended model of learning featuring a balance between virtual and face to face delivery. The proportion of each delivery mode will vary significantly and is critically linked to the role of the teacher in facilitating learning. eLearning is not confined to independent study or remote learning models, it is an important consideration for all schools and teachers. The Smart Classrooms’ strategy for eLearning is comprised of three interrelated and co-dependent components:

  1. Digital Pedagogy
  2. Digital Content (including eCurriculum)
  3. eLearning Spaces These components co-exist to create the conditions for a new generation of digital learners. If one component is missing the approach is unbalanced and less effective. The eLearning strategy is built on the foundation-of the Department’s enabling infrastructure with a clear future focus of creating a ubiquitous environment for learning that connects students’ personal, family, school and real world domains. At this intersection of a student’s world, the goal of individualising outcomes can be achieved.

Why do we need e-learning in primary school classrooms?

There are many people who believe that new technologies have no place in the primary classroom – or at the very least that young learners suffer in some way from early exposure to digital technologies. Newspaper headlines such as - “Ban computers from schools until children reach age 9, says expert”1 or “The culture of clicking online for instant answers risks “infantilising” learning”2 appear weekly. This is a point of view that you may share – in which case this book is probably not for you. Contrast this with other headlines such as “Facebook and Twitter should be used in schools as learning tools, says new report”3 or “Video games are good for children - EU report”4 and you can see that in terms of research at least, the jury is still out. As you will have guessed, we think there are lots of reasons why primary teachers might like to get involved and explore elearning opportunities with this age range - and in many ways this book is as a result of our own enthusiasm.

  • As primary teachers, our job is to equip children with the skills they need to survive in the world they live in – an increasingly digital world. We might be digital users, children and young people are digital residents – they live in an on line world which is as real as the one we were brought up in.
  • A recent survey showed that children in the UK aged 5 to 16, collectively, spend 13 million hours on websites every day! We can either fight this and try and reverse the trend (really?) or use the opportunities it provides for learning and teaching.
  • There are pressures from curriculum bodies, school inspectors and government departments to integrate technology across the primary curriculum in a meaningful way, not simply as a bolt on or separate subject area.
  • It is a way of bridging the home-school divide and bringing together formal and informal learning
  • Because it actually makes your teaching better, your lessons more engaging and can kick-start those creative juices that you thought had dried up. You may feel some resistance to change, but think of it like ripping off a plaster – the sooner you do it, the less painful it will be!

On the other hand, the Organisation for Economic Change and Development (OECD 2005) has identified critical factors that determine a nation’s economic growth, development and success within a globally competitive market. Outlined was the critical role ICT played in entrepreneurship, innovation and the development of social capital. The capacity of students and teachers to use (digital literacy) and apply ICT (pedagogy) will be key for economic growth and stability in the future. Similarly, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) strongly emphasises the relationship between ICT use, education reform, and economic growth. This is based on assumptions that systemic economic growth is the key to poverty reduction and increased prosperity and that ICT are engines for growth and tools for empowerment with profound implications (UNESCO, 2008). While businesses, consumers, students and organisations globally are convinced of the potential and importance of ICT, some educators are still arguing and struggling to accept and adopt learning through, and with, ICT.

Students with proficient digital literacy have broad and complex knowledge and skills. They work digitally to:

  • deepen knowledge and create knowledge through inquiry processes, interacting with communities of people, experts and information
  • build ideas, learning solutions, products and plans through creative processes as well as for expression and reflection
  • communicate, share and work collaboratively in local and global environments
  • learn and work legally, ethically and safely as responsible users and creators
  • develop new thinking, learning and problem solving skills to support their ongoing development.

Characteristics of an effective eLearning teacher

These characteristics should be considered in the context of the National Framework for Professional Standards for Teaching, the Queensland Professional Standards for Teachers, the Professional Standards for Queensland Teachers (Queensland College of Teachers), and the Smart Classrooms Professional Development Framework.

Effective eLearning teachers:

  • demonstrate an ongoing commitment to professional knowledge, professional practice, professional relationships and professional values.
  • have an understanding of the transformative role of ICT for 21st Century curriculum design/interpretation, pedagogy and student learning
  • make conscious decisions about student learning based on an understanding of digital learners
  • are lifelong learners who are willing to take risks, fail and explore areas outside his or her expertise
  • employ a variety of methodologies, current learning theories and practices
  • constantly collaborate with colleagues and practicing professionals in order to consolidate understanding and to share and reflect on their learning, wonderings and discoveries.

Characteristics of an effective eLearning school

These characteristics should be considered in the context of the MCEETYA Learning in an Online World strategy documents and the UNESCO ICT Competency Standards for Teachers

Effective eLearning schools feature:Leadership and vision, including supportive policy

  • shared vision for learning and systematic whole school plans for how to get there
  • enabling policies and adequate resourcing
  • classrooms fostering peer and tutor support that equip students as active citizens of a global village. Workforce capability, including digital pedagogy, digital literacy, culture of learning and innovation
  • commitment to ongoing learning with staff develop digital literacy and digital pedagogy
  • supportive culture for innovation is developed. Learning spaces, including physical spaces, virtual spaces and enabling infrastructure
  • learning not restricted by barriers of time or place
  • seamless access for students across school, personal, family and real world domains
  • classrooms where technologies are used to empower and engage learners to participate in student-centred, project-based learning
  • enabling eLearning environments that provide safe and secure access and flexibility • communities of practice (including local community supportive of students use of technology for learning)
  • enterprise architecture – supported and maintained including technical support. eLearning curriculum, including digital content
  • connectedness to global issues and authentic contexts
  • curriculum, instruction and assessment are clearly aligned and exist to improve student learning opportunities
  • assessment, reporting and evaluation are key components of curriculum design and delivery and are understood by all
  • accessible digital content developed/created by teachers and students for learning and sharing
  • eCurriculum that is built upon enacted curriculum and a clear and supported model of instruction
  • learning integrated as multidisciplinary and accessible for all learners.

E-Learning Tools and their Use in Language Teaching

A diverse range of technological tools that can be used by capable teachers to enhance learning and teaching situations. These tools make learning more interesting, interactive, meaningful and stimulating for the students. These tools are powerful as they are capable of bringing a change and reform traditional forms of learning.

Internet, YouTube, Skype, Twitter, Smart-boards, Blogs and Podcasting are some of the successful tools that have changed the way language is taught.

eLearning activities and Interactions

(by Brother Andrew | Jun 3, 2010 | eLearning, Featured, Instructional Design Resources)

Everyone is always looking for ways to make their eLearning more interactive. There are many ways to do this. Here are just a few:

1. Interactions
There are many times when you have various concepts or “chunks” of information on a page. You could break it into multiple pages or divide it into sections. For example use tabs and dividers so that the user only sees small parts at a time. Here are some tabs and bars.

You could also use some type of simple flash memory cards or drag and drop.

2. Scenarios
If you have a lot of information to share you could package it into a scenario. This is a good way to make it “real”. It also helps the user understand how it relates to them and why they should pay attention. Scenarios don’t need to be complex. They nay just be a simple setup page and a question or two.

Here are some scenario examples:
The company has recently opened 3 new offices and a launched a new website. What products might help this company process customers payments?
“You see a customer at the counter complaining about their cold food. The customer is visibly angry. As a manager what should you do?”

Here is a simple eLearning scenario template.

3. Case Studies
There are times when your scenario needs to be more in-depth. I like to use case studies when a scenario is too simple. A case study would be more intense and could include background information, bios on persons involved, current setup/date/time, multiple phases/steps, twists along the way, and decision points. Case studies take some time to create but can be very engaging.

4. Quizzes
Knowledge checks can keep a learner’s attention. You could even do quizzes before the course content is presented. This might be a good way to help the learner start thinking about the content and to give them a preview of what’s to come. Theses quizzes could be combined to create the final test. Here are some fun quiz templates and eLearning games.

5. Hands-On Demos
Many people learn by actually trying out the system (hands-on approach). Online training is a great way to give learners a way to try out a system without being live. You can recreate a series of steps in a software transaction and package it as a simulation. Learnerscouldhavethreeoptions:

  • Sit back and watch a demonstration of how the software works.
  • Be prompted where to click and how to navigate the software.
  • Be tested to see if they can use the software without any help.

It is basically the Tell them, Show Them, Let Them Do It approach. Simulations are a great way to let learners practice in a safe environment.

6. Learning Games
Is there a way to make your course fun and still educational? There are many types of game ideas from word puzzles, Jeopardy, and Millionaire to more complex, immersive games.

E-Learning Activities for Kids

1. Khan Academy

Focused on subjects like math, science, computer programming, history, art history, and economics, the Khan Academy is a top e-learning resource full of practice exercises, educational games and instructional videos. We love how the Khan Academy develops lessons in partnership with institutions such as NASA, The Museum of Modern Art and The California Academy of Sciences. We also like that it features a parent dashboard so you can see at a glance which subjects your kid is excelling in and discover where they may need extra guidance.

Digital Citizenship: Khan Academy is a 501(3)(c) non-profit that provides all learning opportunities at no cost in an online learning website. Children under the age of 13 must have parental consent to create an account. Sign up as a parent on Khan Academy: Read the Khan Academy’s Terms of Service: Privacy Policy:

2. E-learning for Kids

Another non-profit organization dedicated to helping kids learn, E-learning for Kids offers short, fun classes for kids in Kindergarten through Grade six. They offer more than 200 science lessons ranging from the forces behind volcanoes to weather patterns and cover subjects from math, science, language arts, and computers to English as a second language, health and life skills. We really like how their 300 lesson math program is based on the standards of the International Baccalaureate..

Digital Citizenship: e-learning for kids is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit that offers free online courses in math, science, reading and keyboarding, as well as an online community for parents and educators. Courses are available online or offline by a download link where users can make a CD-ROM for installing courseware. No sign-up is required. Read e-learning for kids’ Privacy Policy:

3. Everyday Mathematics

Another great online program is Everyday Mathematics, which was developed by the University of Chicago’s School Mathematics Project for Pre-K up to Grade Six. Based on the Common Core State Standards, Everyday Mathematics uses real-world examples to help kids practice abstract math concepts.

Digital Citizenship: Everyday Mathematics is a division of McGraw-Hill Education. Everyday Mathematics courses can be purchased individually or as complete classroom sets at Read MHEducation’s Terms of Use and Privacy/Cookie Policy

4. Duolingo for Schools

Language learning is another way for kids to get a lot out of their screen time. At Whitby, students begin learning Spanish before they enter Kindergarten. E-learning through language apps such as Duolingo for Schools, however, can compliment their language immersion. Recognized as a top language app by both Apple and Google, Duolingo uses games to encourage kids to practice speaking and reading foreign languages. It’s a perfect way for students to practice their Spanish, or even tackle a new language.

Digital Citizenship: Duolingo is a free online program and downloadable app that helps children learn new languages. While the main Duolingo site has no parental controls, Duolingo for Schools allows parents to disable social interactions on the website and ban certain vocabulary words. Parents can sign up at Read about Parental Controls on Duolingo: and Duolingo Privacy Policy:

5. Scratch & Scratch Jr

Why should your child learn to code? For one, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for software developers is expected to increase by 17 percent in the next 10 years, much faster than most professions. That’s not the only reason, though: researchers at Tufts University found that children as young as 4.5 years old can learn to program a robot, and that learning to code helped them perform better at cognitive tasks.

At Whitby, we introduce students to the basics of programming as early as kindergarten through toys such as KIBO Robotics. Some of our first and second graders begin using ScratchJr during our cocurricular programming and graduate to Scratch in 3rd grade.

If you’d like to give your child a chance to try programming at home, Scratch and ScratchJr are downloadable apps that teach kids programming concepts. Both apps were designed by MIT to engage children in coding by challenging them to create stories, games and animations.

Digital Citizenship: Scratch and Scratch Jr. is a free program that is available to children and adults of all ages. Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Parents can sign up for Scratch at Read Scratch’s Terms of Service: and Privacy Policy

6. Code Academy

Once your child develops some coding skills, they can learn more at Code Academy, a top free e-learning resource to learn software development. Code Academy is a favorite resource of professional web developers and has projects ranging in difficulty from basic to advanced. Your child can practice coding by opening up a free account, watching training videos and completing a real project.

Digital Citizenship: Codecademy is an education company that offers online learning. Children under the age of 13 must have parental consent to create an account and register. Parents can create a free account for Codecademy: Read Codecademy Terms of Service: and Privacy Policy:

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Smart classroom website:

Hanover Research Council


Cooperative learning

(by David W Johnson and Roger T Johnson, at

Without the cooperation of its members society cannot survive, and the society of man has survived because the cooperativeness of its members made survival possible…. It was not an advantageous individual here and there who did so, but the group. In human societies the individuals who are most likely to survive are those who are best enabled to do so by their group.(Ashley Montagu, 1965)

How students interact with each another is a neglected aspect of instruction. Much training time is devoted to helping teachers arrange appropriate interactions between students and materials (i.e., textbooks, curriculum programs) and some time is spent on how teachers should interact with students, but how students should interact with one another is relatively ignored. It should not be. How teachers structure student-student interaction patterns has a lot to say about how well students learn, how they feel about school and the teacher, how they feel about each other, and how much self-esteem they have.

In the mid-1960s, cooperative learning was relatively unknown and largely ignored by educators. Elementary, secondary, and university teaching was dominated by competitive and individualistic learning. Cultural resistance to cooperative learning was based on social Darwinism, with its premise that students must be taught to survive in a “dog-eat-dog” world, and the myth of “rugged individualism” underlying the use of individualistic learning. While competition dominated educational thought, it was being challenged by individualistic learning largely based on B. F. Skinner’s work on programmed learning and behavioral modification. Educational practices and thought, however, have changed. Cooperative learning is now an accepted and often the preferred instructional procedure at all levels of education. Cooperative learning is presently used in schools and universities in every part of the world, in every subject area, and with every age student. It is difficult to find a text on instructional methods, a teacher’s journal, or instructional materials that do not discuss cooperative learning. Materials on cooperative learning have been translated into dozens of languages. Cooperative learning is now an accepted and highly recommended instructional procedure.

Definition of Cooperative Learning

Students’ learning goals may be structured to promote cooperative, competitive, or individualistic efforts. In every classroom, instructional activities are aimed at accomplishing goals and are conducted under a goal structure. A learning goal is a desired future state of demonstrating competence or mastery in the subject area being studied. The goal structure specifies the ways in which students will interact with each other and the teacher during the instructional session. Each goal structure has its place (Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 1999). In the ideal classroom, all students would learn how to work cooperatively with others, compete for fun and enjoyment, and work autonomously on their own. The teacher decides which goal structure to implement within each lesson. The most important goal structure, and the one that should be used the majority of the time in learning situations, is cooperation.

Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals. Within cooperative situations, individuals seek outcomes that are beneficial to themselves and beneficial to all other group members. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. It may be contrasted with competitive (students work against each other to achieve an academic goal such as a grade of “A” that only one or a few students can attain) andindividualistic (students work by themselves to accomplish learning goals unrelated to those of the other students) learning. In cooperative and individualistic learning, you evaluate student efforts on a criteria-referenced basis while in competitive learning you grade students on a norm-referenced basis. While there are limitations on when and where you may use competitive and individualistic learning appropriately, you may structure any learning task in any subject area with any curriculum cooperatively.

Theorizing on social interdependence began in the early 1900s, when one of the founders of the Gestalt School of Psychology, Kurt Koffka, proposed that groups were dynamic wholes in which the interdependence among members could vary. One of his colleagues, Kurt Lewin refined Koffka’s notions in the 1920s and 1930s while stating that (a) the essence of a group is the interdependence among members (created by common goals) which results in the group being a “dynamic whole” so that a change in the state of any member or subgroup changes the state of any other member or subgroup, and (b) an intrinsic state of tension within group members motivates movement toward the accomplishment of the desired common goals. For interdependence to exist, there must be more than one person or entity involved, and the persons or entities must have impact on each other in that a change in the state of one causes a change in the state of the others. From the work of Lewin’s students and colleagues, such as Ovisankian, Lissner, Mahler, and Lewis, it may be concluded that it is the drive for goal accomplishment that motivates cooperative and competitive behavior.

In the late 1940s, one of Lewin’s graduate students, Morton Deutsch, extended Lewin’s reasoning about social interdependence and formulated a theory of cooperation and competition (Deutsch, 1949, 1962). Deutsch conceptualized three types of social interdependence–positive, negative, and none. Deutsch’s basic premise was that the type of interdependence structured in a situation determines how individuals interact with each other which, in turn, largely determines outcomes. Positive interdependence tends to result in promotive interaction, negative interdependence tends to result in oppositional or contrient interaction, and no interdependence results in an absence of interaction. Depending on whether individuals promote or obstruct each other’s goal accomplishments, there is substitutability, cathexis, and inducibility. The relationships between the type of social interdependence and the interaction pattern it elicits is assumed to be bidirectional. Each may cause the other. Deutsch’s theory has served as a major conceptual structure for this area of inquiry since 1949.

Types Of Cooperative Learning

a-Formal Cooperative Learning

Formal cooperative learning consists of students working together, for one class period to several weeks, to achieve shared learning goals and complete jointly specific tasks and assignments (Johnson, Johnson, &Holubec, 2008). In formal cooperative learning groups the teachers’ role includes (see Figure 4):

1. Making preinstructional decisions. Teachers (a) formulate both academic and social skills objectives, (b) decide on the size of groups, (c) choose a method for assigning students to groups, (d) decide which roles to assign group members, (e) arrange the room, and (f) arrange the materials students need to complete the assignment. In these preinstructional decisions, the social skills objectives specify the interpersonal and small group skills students are to learn. By assigning students roles, role interdependence is established. The way in which materials are distributed can create resource interdependence. The arrangement of the room can create environmental interdependence and provide the teacher with easy access to observe each group, which increases individual accountability and provides data for group processing.

2. Explaining the instructional task and cooperative structure.Teachers (a) explain the academic assignment to students, (b) explain the criteria for success, (c) structure positive interdependence, (d) structure individual accountability, (e) explain the behaviors (i.e., social skills) students are expected to use, and (f) emphasize intergroup cooperation (this eliminates the possibility of competition among students and extends positive goal interdependence to the class as a whole). Teachers may also teach the concepts and strategies required to complete the assignment. By explaining the social skills emphasized in the lesson, teachers operationalize (a) the social skill objectives of the lesson and (b) the interaction patterns (such as oral rehearsal and jointly building conceptual frameworks) teachers wish to create.

3. Monitoring students’ learning and intervening to provide assistance in (a) completing the task successfully or (b) using the targeted interpersonal and group skills effectively.While conducting the lesson, teachers monitor each learning group and intervene when needed to improve taskwork and teamwork. Monitoring the learning groups creates individual accountability; whenever a teacher observes a group, members tend to feel accountable to be constructive members. In addition, teachers collect specific data on promotive interaction, the use of targeted social skills, and the engagement in the desired interaction patterns. This data is used to intervene in groups and to guide group processing.

4. Assessing students’ learning and helping students process how well their groups functioned. Teachers (a) bring closure to the lesson, (b) assess and evaluate the quality and quantity of student achievement, (c) ensure students carefully discuss how effectively they worked together (i.e., process the effectiveness of their learning groups), (d) have students make a plan for improvement, and (e) have students celebrate the hard work of group members. The assessment of student achievement highlights individual and group accountability (i.e., how well each student performed) and indicates whether the group achieved its goals (i.e., focusing on positive goal interdependence). The group celebration is a form of reward interdependence. The feedback received during group processing is aimed at improving the use of social skills and is a form of individual accountability. Discussing the processes the group used to function, furthermore, emphasizes the continuous improvement of promotive interaction and the patterns of interaction need to maximize student learning and retention.

b-Informal Cooperative Learning

Informal cooperative learning consists of having students work together to achieve a joint learning goal in temporary, ad-hoc groups that last from a few minutes to one class period (Johnson, Johnson, &Holubec, 2008). During a lecture, demonstration, or film, informal cooperative learning can be used to focus student attention on the material to be learned, set a mood conducive to learning, help set expectations as to what will be covered in a class session, ensure that students cognitively process and rehearse the material being taught, summarize what was learned and precue the next session, and provide closure to an instructional session. The teacher’s role for using informal cooperative learning to keep students more actively engaged intellectually entails having focused discussions before and after the lesson (i.e., bookends) and interspersing pair discussions throughout the lesson. Two important aspects of using informal cooperative learning groups are to (a) make the task and the instructions explicit and precise and (b) require the groups to produce a specific product (such as a written answer). The procedure is as follows.

1. Introductory Focused Discussion: Teachers assign students to pairs or triads and explain (a) the task of answering the questions in a four to five minute time period and (b) the positive goal interdependence of reaching consensus. The discussion task is aimed at promoting advance organizing of what the students know about the topic to be presented and establishing expectations about what the lecture will cover. Individual accountability is ensured by the small size of the group. A basic interaction pattern of eliciting oral rehearsal, higher-level reasoning, and consensus building is required.

2. Intermittent Focused Discussions: Teachers divide the lecture into 10 to 15 minute segments. This is about the length of time a motivated adult can concentrate on information being presented. After each segment, students are asked to turn to the person next to them and work cooperatively in answering a question (specific enough so that students can answer it in about three minutes) that requires students to cognitively process the material just presented. The procedure is:

  • Each student formulates his or her answer.
  • Students share their answer with their partner.
  • Students listen carefully to their partner’s answer.
  • The pairs create a new answer that is superior to each member’s initial formulation by integrating the two answers, building on each other’s thoughts, and synthesizing.
  • The question may require students to:
    • Summarize the material just presented.
    • Give a reaction to the theory, concepts, or information presented.
    • Predict what is going to be presented next; hypothesize.
    • Solve a problem.
    • Relate material to past learning and integrate it into conceptual frameworks.
    • Resolve conceptual conflict created by presentation.

Teachers should ensure that students are seeking to reach an agreement on the answers to the questions (i.e., ensure positive goal interdependence is established), not just share their ideas with each other. Randomly choose two or three students to give 30 second summaries of their discussions. Such individual accountabilityensures that the pairs take the tasks seriously and check each other to ensure that both are prepared to answer. Periodically, the teacher should structure a discussion of how effectively the pairs are working together (i.e., group processing). Group celebrations add reward interdependence to the pairs.

3. Closure Focused Discussion: Teachers give students an ending discussion task lasting four to five minutes. The task requires students to summarize what they have learned from the lecture and integrate it into existing conceptual frameworks. The task may also point students toward what the homework will cover or what will be presented in the next class session. This provides closure to the lecture.

Informal cooperative learning ensures students are actively involved in understanding what is being presented. It also provides time for teachers to move around the class listening to what students are saying. Listening to student discussions can give instructors direction and insight into how well students understand the concepts and material being as well as increase the individual accountability of participating in the discussions.

Cooperative Base Groups

Cooperative base groups are long-term, heterogeneous cooperative learning groups with stable membership (Johnson, Johnson, &Holubec, 2008). Members’ primary responsibilities are to (a) ensure all members are making good academic progress (i.e., positive goal interdependence) (b) hold each other accountable for striving to learn (i.e., individual accountability), and (c) provide each other with support, encouragement, and assistance in completing assignments (i.e., promotive interaction). In order to ensure the base groups function effectively, periodically teachers should teach needed social skills and have the groups process how effectively they are functioning. Typically, cooperative base groups are heterogeneous in membership (especially in terms of achievement motivation and task orientation), meet regularly (for example, daily or biweekly), and last for the duration of the class (a semester or year) or preferably for several years. The agenda of the base group can include academic support tasks (such as ensuring all members have completed their homework and understand it or editing each other’s essays), personal support tasks (such as getting to know each other and helping each other solve nonacademic problems), routine tasks (such as taking attendance), and assessment tasks (such as checking each other’s understanding of the answers to test questions when the test is first taken individually and then retaken in the base group).

The teacher’s role in using cooperative base groups is to (a) form heterogeneous groups of four (or three), (b) schedule a time when they will regularly meet (such as beginning and end of each class session or the beginning and end of each week), (c) create specific agendas with concrete tasks that provide a routine for base groups to follow when they meet, (d) ensure the five basic elements of effective cooperative groups are implemented, and (e) have students periodically process the effectiveness of their base groups.

The longer a cooperative group exists, the more caring their relationships will tend to be, the greater the social support they will provide for each other, the more committed they will be to each other’s success, and the more influence members will have over each other. Permanent cooperative base groups provide the arena in which caring and committed relationships can be created that provide the social support needed to improve attendance, personalize the educational experience, increase achievement, and improve the quality of school life.

Integrated Use Of All Three Types Of Cooperative Learning

These three types of cooperative learning may be used together (Johnson, Johnson, &Holubec, 2008). A typical class session may begin with a base group meeting, which is followed by a short lecture in which informal cooperative learning is used. The lecture is followed by a formal cooperative learning lesson. Near the end of the class session another short lecture may be delivered with the use of informal cooperative learning. The class ends with a base group meeting.

Basic Elements of Cooperation

Not all groups are cooperative (Johnson & F. Johnson, 2009). Placing people in the same room, seating them together, telling them they are a group, does not mean they will cooperate effectively. To be cooperative, to reach the full potential of the group, five essential elements need to be carefully structured into the situation: positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, promotive interaction, appropriate use of social skills, and group processing (Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 2005). Mastering the basic elements of cooperation allows teachers to:

  1. Take existing lessons, curricula, and courses and structure them cooperatively.
  2. Tailor cooperative learning lessons to unique instructional needs, circumstances, curricula, subject areas, and students.
  3. Diagnose the problems some students may have in working together and intervene to increase the effectiveness of the student learning groups.

The first and most important element is positive interdependence. Teachers must give a clear task and a group goal so students believe they “sink or swim together.” Positive interdependenceexists when group members perceive that they are linked with each other in a way that one cannot succeed unless everyone succeeds. If one fails, all fail. Group members realize, therefore, that each person’s efforts benefit not only him- or herself, but all other group members as well. Positive interdependence creates a commitment to other people’s success as well as one’s own and is the heart of cooperative learning. If there is no positive interdependence, there is no cooperation.

The second essential element of cooperative learning is individual and group accountability. The group must be accountable for achieving its goals. Each member must be accountable for contributing his or her share of the work (which ensures that no one “hitch-hikes” on the work of others). The group has to be clear about its goals and be able to measure (a) its progress in achieving them and (b) the individual efforts of each of its members. Individual accountability exists when the performance of each individual student is assessed and the results are given back to the group and the individual in order to ascertain who needs more assistance, support, and encouragement in completing the assignment. The purpose of cooperative learning groups is to make each member a stronger individual in his or her right. Students learn together so that they can subsequently perform higher as individuals.

The third essential component of cooperative learning is promotive interaction, preferably face-to-face. Promotive interactionoccurs when members share resources and help, support, encourage, and praise each other’s efforts to learn. Cooperative learning groups are both an academic support system (every student has someone who is committed to helping him or her learn) and a personal support system (every student has someone who is committed to him or her as a person). There are important cognitive activities and interpersonal dynamics that can only occur when students promote each other’s learning. This includes orally explaining how to solve problems, discussing the nature of the concepts being learned, teaching one’s knowledge to classmates, and connecting present with past learning. It is through promoting each other’s learning face-to-face that members become personally committed to each other as well as to their mutual goals.

The fourth essential element of cooperative learning is teaching students the required interpersonal and small group skills. In cooperative learning groups students are required to learn academic subject matter (taskwork) and also to learn the interpersonal and small group skills required to function as part of a group (teamwork). Cooperative learning is inherently more complex than competitive or individualistic learning because students have to engage simultaneously in taskwork and teamwork. Group members must know how to provide effective leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict-management, and be motivated to use the prerequisite skills. Teachers have to teach teamwork skills just as purposefully and precisely as teachers do academic skills. Since cooperation and conflict are inherently related, the procedures and skills for managing conflicts constructively are especially important for the long-term success of learning groups. Procedures and strategies for teaching students social skills may be found in Johnson (2009) and Johnson and F. Johnson (2009).

The fifth essential component of cooperative learning is group processing. Group processing exists when group members discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships. Groups need to describe what member actions are helpful and unhelpful and make decisions about what behaviors to continue or change. Continuous improvement of the process of learning results from the careful analysis of how members are working together.

These five elements are essential to all cooperative systems, no matter what their size. When international agreements are made and when international efforts to achieve mutual goals (such as environmental protection) occur, these five elements must be carefully implemented and maintained.

The Validating Research

Amount And Characteristics Of Research

The study of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts is commonly recognized as one of the oldest fields of research in social psychology. In the late 1800’s Triplett in the United States, Turner in England, and Mayer in Germany conducted a series of studies on the factors associated with competitive performance. Since then over 750 studies have been conducted on the relative merits of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts and the conditions under which each is appropriate. This is one of the largest bodies of research within psychology and education.

An extensive literature search was conducted aimed at identifying all the available studies from published and nonpublished sources. Seven-hundred-fifty-four studies contained enough data to compute an effect size (there are many studies from which an effect size could not be computed) (Johnson & Johnson, 1989). The research on social interdependence, furthermore, has an external validity and a generalizability rarely found in the social sciences. The more variations in places, people, and procedures the research can withstand and still yield the same findings, the more externally valid the conclusions. The research has been conducted over twelve decades by many different researchers with markedly different theoretical and practical orientations working in different settings and countries. A wide variety of research tasks, ways of structuring social interdependence, and measures of the dependent variables have been used. Participants in the studies varied from ages three to post-college adults and have come from different economic classes and cultural backgrounds. The studies were conducted with different durations, lasting from one session to 100 sessions or more. Research on social interdependence has been conducted in numerous cultures in North America (with Caucasian, Black-American, Native-American, and Hispanic populations) and countries from North, Central, and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Africa. The research on social interdependence includes both theoretical and demonstration studies conducted in educational, business, and social service organizations. The diversity of these studies gives social interdependence theory wide generalizability and considerable external validity.

Promotive, oppositional, and no interaction have differential effects on the outcomes of the situation (see Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 2005). The research has focused on numerous outcomes, which may be subsumed within the broad and interrelated categories of effort to achieve, quality of relationships, and psychological health (Johnson, 2003; Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 2005) (see Table 1 and Figure 2). Figure 1 shows therelationshipsamongtheoutcomes.