One of my fav middle school Phys Ed units is based around jump rope. To summarise the unit really briefly: students are taught some basic skills and safety pointers, then put into pairs and challenged to create a routine to music incorporating a set list of skills. Students ‘peer teach’ themselves the set list of skills by viewing task cards and watching videos, then research ‘other’ skills (ie advanced jump rope skills or ways to ‘link’ skills together) to include in their routine. They hand in a video of their final performance. The task description for the Jump Rope Unit is shown below.
I think I really enjoy and see value in the Cooperative Learning Model because I value taking more of a facilitator role in the classroom. For me, being a facilitator means moving away from a ‘teacher knows all’ or ‘do as I say’ kind of approach, and moving towards helping students find their own answers or discover their own solutions. A simple example I can think of is when students ask a question I try to facilitate learning through guided questioning, rather than giving them the answer. I say guided questioning because I want them to find a suitable and safe solution – sometimes that might mean allowing them to try something I know may not work because its not unsafe (but only if I know I have time to then facilitate a debrief with them so they ‘learn from mistakes’), other times that means guiding them towards a safe solution.
In Outdoor Ed it might sound like: “Where should I pitch my tent?” “Where should you pitch your tent?” “Um…… there?” “Could do. Will it fit there?” “I think so” “Anything else worrying you about pitching it there?” *looks around* “Maybe that ants nest/bee hive/loose branch/burrow etc etc etc”
In Phys Ed it might sound like: “How do I get the ball to go straight when I kick it?” “Good question. What have you tried? Can you see someone kicking the ball straight? Would you feel comfortable asking them how they kick it straight? (Or) Can you see something they’re doing that your not?”
Facilitating a Cooperative Learning Model is not always easy and has often been described as both difficult and time-consuming . Its not just ‘putting people in groups and asking them to work together’ . Teachers are required to plan for and implement a number of critical elements or non-negotiables and often its these elements that teachers find difficult as it changes their ‘usual’ role as the provider of knowledge .
After doing a bit of reading on the Cooperative Learning Model, I reflected upon the Jump Rope unit. Even though it does meet some criteria of the Cooperative Learning Model, it could definitely be improved.
THE COOPERATIVE LEARNING MODEL
- A student-centred pedagogical model that involves the deliberate and long-term facilitation of group work with a focus on giving students responsibility for their own and their groups learning .
- When using this model:
- Success is dependant on the social interactions, both verbal non-verbal, of all group members allowing them to work together 
- The teachers role becomes more facilitatory (Some teachers find this difficult because this means refraining from telling students what to do or how to do things but rather giving them time, resources and support to discover ‘things’ for themselves) 
- There are a range of critical elements or non-negotiables to be used with this approach :
- Positive Interdependence – students are linked to their peers in such a way that they cannot succeed without their peers also succeeding
- Individual Accountability – students are assessed on their contribution to group work and/or their performance
- Promotive Face-to-face interaction – students have positive interactions with members of their group, they encourage one another and demonstrate good interpersonal skills
- Interpersonal and small-group skills – the development of behaviours that allow for free and easy communication between peers.
- Group Processing – open dialogue or group discussions that relate to learning and lesson content that can occur at anytime in a lesson (ie. teachable moments), and, at lessons end (ie. debrief).
- To achieve these critical elements or non-negotiables, the role of teachers must involve :
- Making pre-instructional decisions; set objectives and criteria for success, set group size, choose method of assigning students to groups, decide group member roles, room arrangement, resource/material arrangement
- Explaining the instructional task and cooperative structure: Explain assignment, criteria for success, how individuals will be held accountable and expected social behaviours.
- Monitoring students’ learning and intervening to provide assistance in completing the task successfully or using interpersonal and group skills effectively (This monitoring can help create accountability).
- Assessing students’ learning and helping students process how well their groups functioned by way of facilitated debrief.
- Invaluable IDEAS and ADVICE for teachers implementing the Cooperative Learning Model:
- This article written by Vicky Goodyear provides top tips on how to use Cooperative Learning and how to plan for the use of the non-negotiables of the model
- This presentation given by Dr Ashley Casey provides insight into his experiences implementing a Cooperative Learning Model. It includes his own reflections and some thoughts/feedback from his students.
- This article written by@ImSporticus focuses on how he implemented two of the models ‘non-negotiables’ – learning teams and group processing.
EXAMPLES OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING UNITS IN PHYSICAL EDUCATION
- Year 9 Athletics unit by @ImSporticus involved students choosing (in their learning teams) one jump, one throw and one track event. They were given 13 lessons to improve their performance in these chosen events.
- Hiding behind the camera by Vicky Goodyear was a female only basketball unit that involved students working in heterogenous team, being given a ‘play’ to learn and use within a game (ie. quick press from a rebound) and then creating 5 minute movie on their learning and opinions.
- Gymnastics Jigsaw by PEPRN used a jigsaw classroom model to teach three sequences on the floor, box or bench and then experts taught their group.
- Mini Olympics and Dance Unit by LovePhyed also used the jigsaw classroom model
BRAINSTORMING HOW TO IMPROVE THE JUMP ROPE UNIT:
With all of this ‘new’ knowledge and understanding I thought I’d brainstorm how our Jump Rope Unit could be improved. As I’m currently on parental leave, I wont actually get a chance to implement any of this until I return to work. So for now, its more of self-reflection and brainstorm exercise for me.
Design the unit around a Jigsaw Classroom Model
- Work in groups of four instead of two
- Follow more of a set structure in terms of what is ‘completed’ each lesson (previously was pretty much like “get to work on your routines”)
- Lesson zero: Practice Jigsaw classroom model with an ‘no-rope-aerobics’ routine (mimic some of the jump rope moves but don’t actually use a rope).
- Students into groups of four.
- Each person in group learns one ‘no rope aerobic’ skill
- They then take this skill back to teach their group >> suggest using what I call a ‘diamond’ formation (The student ‘leading the skill’ is at the top of the diamond facing OUT and all other students are facing them. As the next student leads the next skill, all students turn to face them. Its a ‘follow the leader’ type method – students face a new leader/diamond point with each new skill)
- Whole class perform entire routine to music together to end lesson
- Debrief social skills observed/required for successful performance
- Lesson 1: Explain unit (assessment, marking rubric, put students into groups); Teach some simple jump rope skills (ie. single jump, rope swings, helicopter); Challenge student fitness (ie. 2 x 5min blocks of jumping rope); Set fun challenge task for groups with ‘long rope’
- Lesson 2-3: Expert groups get together and learn their allocated skills
- Lesson 4-5: Groups reform and peer-teach each other skills
- Lesson 7-10: Groups work on creating their routines from skills learnt
In each lesson ensure:
- Brief: Highlight lesson focus (ie. ‘task checklist’); discuss ‘social skills’ (ie. from key lessons learnt last lesson, or, examples of ‘social skills’ expected to use); and, remind about criteria for success (marking rubric). Depending on the age and ability of the class, you could hand this over to the students to do. Perhaps rotate this role around each week.
- Teachable moments: These are times you might bring a group, or the whole class together for quick discussion to progress learning. For example if similar question being asked by numerous students you can bring whole class together to come up with the answer; If you observe positive social skills you can highlight and celebrate these; If you observe negative social skills you can discuss ‘better ways’
- Debrief: Bring closure to each lesson. Reflect upon group work and/or social skills observed/demonstrated; Recap teachable moments; Discuss plan for improvements and goals for next lesson. Depending on the age and ability of the class, you could hand this over to the students to do. You would need to provide some structured debrief questions and method of answering (ie. answer questions on reflection sheets). Perhaps rotate this role around each week.
Potential ways to integrate tech
- Create an overall task workflow for students and groups to follow. (My school is one-to-one iPads and we use iTunesU to deliver our unit content. iTunesU works well as the layout is a checklist. Example iTunesU workflow shown below in Figure 1).
- Use Jump It, Rope Works as means for the ‘expert groups’ to learn skills or,
- Create Powerpoint Presentation with inserted skill GIFs as means for the ‘expert groups’ to learn skills. Example jump rope GIF below. (You can Turn a YouTube video into a GIF or film someone performing skill then turn into GIF with Loop It app)
- Easy Portfolio to collect evidence of students/group work (My school uses the SEQTA suite so I often observe from a distance whilst typing notes in the ‘comments’ section of the Marksbook)
- Group processing task in Google Forms (allows teacher to see group reflections which helps keep groups accountable). Use Autocrat to merge student responses from Google Form into a document that is then emailed to them as PDF (allows students to keep copy for their files, and refer back to past responses).
 Dyson, B. & Casey, A. (2014). Cooperative Learning in Physical Education: A research-based approach. London: Routledge. via http://www.peprn.com
 Grenier, M. & Yeaton, P. (In Press). Cooperative learning as an inclusive pedagogical practice in physical . education. In B. Dyson & A. Casey. ed. Cooperative Learning in Physical Education. London: Routledge.