Cooperative Learning Impacts Student Success
What happens in the classroom matters; in fact, great teaching is the single most important thing any school district can provide to create better student outcomes. To that end, few school districts in America can rival the sustained commitment to better learning through improved teaching than Maine Township High School District 207. There are many elements that illustrate this commitment:
• Each District 207 teacher has an annual instructional coaching plan, perhaps the only model of its kind in America.
• The district trains, coaches and evaluates its teachers on the use of research and evidence-based high impact strategies that have been proven to improve student learning.
• Our teachers are also instructional coaches and trainers for their peers, which is an essential element of a great adult learning program.
• Each new District 207 teacher is part of our four-year training cohort in which we train and support our educators to be effective teachers. They are learners themselves and are able to practice continued growth as a professional to provide not only the best student outcomes possible, but to also engender a culture of learning that is oriented to growth during the teacher's career.
• Our Adult Learning program mirrors in many ways the learning pathways that we have established for our students. In this way we help sustain a culture of learning amongst our adults that supports the same thing as our students'experience.
Our journey in Cooperative Learning in particular is illustrative of our growth and discovery that led to design changes that have paid dividends for our teachers and students. Arriving in District 207 in 2005 to serve as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, I found the district had begun training staff in Cooperative Learning, which is a set of research-based learning activities that help students learn how to work cooperatively in groups to develop interdependence while also helping each individual learner develop as a responsible member of the group. Research has consistently shown that cooperative group learning creates better outcomes for students.
One of the first things that I did after arriving was to bring in an outside group of learning experts to audit our classrooms to determine how well our teachers were using Cooperative Learning and other high impact strategies. At the time, we had trained approximately 300 teachers in Cooperative Learning, but an instructional audit revealed that virtually none of the teachers were using Cooperative Learning. However, there was a group of practitioners using Cooperative Learning regularly and with fidelity; our teacher leaders who had been trained to train other teachers. That "aha" moment confirmed the old William Glasser learning axiom, "We remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, but 95% of what we teach."
So in 2007 we began adding coaching to our Cooperative Learning training. Right away those teachers in the training supported by coaching were better equipped to implement Cooperative Learning in their classrooms. Today, thanks to our new teacher cohort and our annual instructional coaching support, one is hard pressed to walk into any classroom in District 207 and not see Cooperative Learning groups operating with fidelity. Having students skillfully practiced in the art of Cooperative Learning isn't just an advantage for our students' college readiness - it's one of the most often identified career skills by today's employers.
The culture of learning that exists in District 207 is one of the most important things that sets our district apart. The quality of teaching in our classrooms is on par with the very best happening anywhere in the nation.
You can learn more about the many approaches District 207 utilizes to ensure high quality instruction and student learning by visiting the following link: bit.ly/207teach.