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Cooperative Learning Structures in PE

Part 2

Welcome back to the second straight blog on the pedagogical model: Cooperative Learning. Last week, I explained the meaning of models-based practice and its importance in PE to achieve outcomes from multiple domains. Additionally, Cooperative Learning (CL) was explained while mentioning its 5 key features.


As promised, in this blog (Part 2) I share a variety of Cooperative Learning Structures that PE teachers can use to help students achieve a wide range of learning intentions. If you are like, "what are you talking about?" Take a look at Part 1 here.

What are Cooperative Learning Structures?

They are content-free ways of organizing social interaction. Kagan (1989) developed many Cooperative Learning Structures that can be used repeatedly, in any subject area, for a wide range of grade levels. Structures usually involve a series of steps with a prescribed behaviour at each step. Pulling from a variety of resources (much from Dyson & Casey’s “Cooperative Learning in PE and PA” (2016) book), here are Cooperative Learning Structures that can be used in Physical Education.


Think-Pair-Perform (Grineski, 1996)

This is an appropriate way to help introduce Cooperative Learning Structures due to its simplicity. You might have students think about the learning cues to performing a horizontal jump. Then students pair up with a partner and discuss the learning cues. Lastly, students perform (practice) horizontal jumping together.


Pair-Check-Perform (Grineski, 1996)

The teacher begins by demonstrating the skill to complete in the lesson's task. Students are placed into a group of four and divided into pairs within their group of four. In each pair, one students practices the skill while the other helps the student perform the skill correctly (e.g., feedback while referencing teaching cues, encouragement). Once the student has performed the skill correctly, then students switch roles. Once the pair has both performed the skill correctly, they join back up with their original group of four. In this group of four, each student demonstrates the skill/task and the group members agree if the students has done the skill correctly or not. If a student hasn't done the skill correctly, students in the group help them with accomplishing this feat. Once it is agreed that all group members have performed skill correctly, they move onto next task.


Tip-Tip-Coach (Dyson & Casey, 2016)

This structure has students being a coach and a player. Students partner up and one student assumes the role of "coach", while the other is the "player." The player performs a skill (e.g., serving a volleyball). The player performs the skill and the coach can give one coaching tip (e.g., remember to step forward with the foot opposite of your serving arm). Then player performs again and then the coach can give a second tip. After the third skill attempt (serve) by the player, the coach can give further tips and provide visuals (e.g., task card) to help player complete the skill successfully. Students get a chance to serve both roles: coach and player.


Round Robin (Kagan, 1989)

Students practice, or complete, a task within (or around) their small group. Students might take turns performing a task (e.g., catching a beanbag with their non-dominant hand) or suggesting a learning cue (e.g., brainstorming cues as a whole group and then individually suggesting a cue for how to catch an object with two hands).


Timed Round Robin (Dyson & Casey, 2016)

Often used as a means of reflection (group processing), a timed round robin has students contributing thoughts/ideas for a specific amount of time during a group discussion. Ensures all team members have an opportunity to share their voice, without interruption, in their small groups.


Rally Robin Perform (Kagan, 1994)

Students work with a partner and take turns providing a physical response or skill to a challenge/question. The challenge might be to self-toss and catch a tennis ball in your most creative way. One student shows their partner their catch and the other students poses further questions or challenges; e.g., can you catch the ball with your non-dominant hand? Why do you think this is a creative catch? Students switch roles. The end of the task might have teachers asking students to show their catches to whole class or to other partnerships.


Jigsaw Perform (Aronson, 1978)

Students begin in a group of four. In that group of four (the home group), they are assigned a number: red, blue, green, or yellow. The blue, red, green, and yellow students go off to form a group with students that were assigned the same colour (e.g., blue with blue). Once in the group, they complete a task and become an expert (e.g., performing a skill). Once all the groups feel that each individual in their group is an expert, they return back to the their home group and yellow, red, blue, and green students teach their home group members their expert skill.

For example, students might be doing a unit on dance. The Blue students' task is to create a 16-beat movement that incorporates "Effort" movements - either light or strong. Green expert group is to create a 16-beat composed of only locomotor movements. The Red expert group is to create a 16-beat movement that is only non-locomotor movements. Lastly, the Yellow expert group was to create a 16-beat movement that was either all high or low levels. When students return back to their home group, they put 16 beats x 4 together to create a full dance. You might have students perform this dance as a whole class or just have students perform within their own groups.

Learning Teams (Dyson, 2001)

This cooperative structure is a bit like Sport Education in that everyone in their small group is assigned a role. Students are divided into small groups and roles are assigned to help students complete the task. Roles might be: equipment manager, encourager, recorder, coach, etc. The teacher demonstrates a skill and then students work to complete the skill/task while also committing to their team roles (e.g., encourager). Dyson & Casey (2016) suggest choosing different roles to suit the students, task, and context.


Performer & Coach Earn Rewards (PACER) (Barrett, 2005)

PACER consists of six components:

1) Teams - Students are placed into heterogeneous teams of 3 or 4 students.

2) Teacher workshop - At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher provides the coaches (all students) the demonstrations/cues/explanations of the tasks to complete at the beginning of the lesson. The teacher models how to give effective feedback while referring to the cues needed to complete the skill.

3) Practice time with task cards - This provides students with an opportunity to practice a variety of tasks. The tasks are clearly defined in an organized manner.

4) Peer assessment - If possible, pairs form from the group and each pair works together on the task cards. One student is the coach, while the other is the performer. The performer completes the task on the task card while the “coach” student provides demonstrations, cues, and feedback that were provided by the teacher at the beginning of the lesson (also emphasized on the task cards). Each student gets an opportunity to perform and coach.

5) Teacher assessment - Once the students have performed and coached, the teacher is informed of completion. The teacher then picks one of the tasks and asks each student on the team to perform the skill/task and the teacher observes whether the task is completed correctly or not. If yes, then they move onto the next step. If not, they are provided additional time to coach one another.

6) Team rewards - Once all team members have “passed” the teacher assessment, then they are rewarded with gameplay (Barrett, 2005). For example, the students may have been given three different types of passes to complete - bounce pass, chest pass, and baseball pass; the reward would then be a game that encourages the use of a bounce, chess, and/or baseball pass.

Student Teams Achievement Division (STAD) (Slavin, 1988)

STAD consists of five components:

1) Teams - Students are placed into heterogeneous teams of 3-5 students. Students are required to help their team members learn.

2) Class Preparation - The class, and each group, are presented with a group goal. Teachers can provide learning tasks to help each team achieve the group goal (recommended if using this for the first time) or students can come up with their own learning tasks.

3) Quizzes - Students, within their team, individually complete a “quiz” assigned by the teacher. This could be a skills and/or knowledge test. For example, it might be - how many times can you jump rope in succession?

4) Improvement Scores - The “quiz” is then repeated after practice time has been provided. The task is for students to get the greatest improvement score (e.g., 4 jump ropes to 24; improvement of 20 for one student. Add up all of the improvement scores together to get a total improvement score).

5) Team Recognition - Group might earn a certificate or another type of reward if their group’s collective improvement score meets or exceed a certain criteria.


Numbered Heads Together (Kagan, 1994)

There are four steps to this structure:

1) The teacher has students number off in their heterogeneous groups of 4 (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4).

2) The teacher asks a question.

3) The students “put their heads together” and make sure everyone in the group knows the answer.

4) The teacher calls a number (1, 2, 3, 4) and students with that number can respond (in small group NOT in front of whole class). Students might respond with a thumbs up/down, perform a skill, verbally answer the question, draw picture, etc. If a student is having difficulty coming up with an answer, they can "phone a friend" and ask someone in their group to help with the answer.


Collective Group Score (Orlick, 1981)

Students work together in small groups and create a collective group score for a task. For example, students may be working on a health-related fitness unit. Students are assigned fitness tasks to complete (e.g., jump rope, lunges, sit-ups, burpees, and push-ups). Students complete each fitness task and do as many as possible (with correct form) for a minute. The students write down each of their individual scores. At the end of the lesson, the team adds up their collective group score (all individuals total jump ropes, lunges, etc.). The next lesson, students try to improve on their team's collective group score performing the same fitness tasks. Students help each other by encouraging and providing feedback to support their group member's performance so that their team can improve on their collective score.


Final Thoughts/Questions

Hopefully, these last two blogs can assist you as you implement Cooperative Learning with your students; or, perhaps you want to try a cooperative learning structure that may not fully align with all five elements of the CL model - that's okay too. Good luck and enjoy taking a risk!


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Thanks for reading!

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