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Five Levels of Cooperative Learning
Activities for Adult Learners
This level is the highest level of cooperative learning and requires a
time commitment from those involved. It will be less effective in a
classroom situation where you never know who is going to attend on what
- National Issues Forums materials: One activity would be to work with
the National Issues Forums materials (1982-96). This requires group
members to consider an important social problem and to weigh the
advantages and disadvantages of several solutions. It should also include
the group members doing additional research to be sure that other
solutions aren't more viable than those listed in the program materials.
- Literature circles: Another cooperative learning activity that
requires a commitment over several sessions is a literature study group
for the reading of a novel such as Steinbeck' s Of Mice and Men or
The Pearl. Students read and discuss, using questions that invite
dialogue rather than those that require specific right/wrong answers. As
students share their perceptions and understandings, they learn so much
more than they could learn by simply reading the book independently. In
Harvey Daniel's text (1994), teachers will find a wide variety of roles
discussed that group members of a literature circle can take, e.g., the
Discussion Director, the Word Wizard, the Literary Luminary, etc.
- Theme studies: Another activity is the thematic study. The teacher
and students decide on a topic of study or issue of importance. The
various group members read different relevant materials, including
informational texts, newspapers, stories and novels, etc. Some materials
may be read by the group as a whole. This type of project usually
involves a variety of small group activities to demonstrate learning.
Thematic studies may take as little as 15 minutes of class time each day
over the course of several weeks or may be more in depth. An important
concept that underlies the thematic study is the interrelatedness of
learning. It is easier to learn a lot about one topic than a little about
a variety of topics. Initial learning provides the prior knowledge for
additional learning. Subject matter content and literature material are
tied together; participants are involved in both oracy and literacy as
they listen, speak, read, write, and think.