Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Learning Biology While Constructing Cooperative Learning Groups: The First 15 Minutes

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Learning Biology While Constructing Cooperative Learning Groups: The First 15 Minutes

Article excerpt

On the first day of class, I want students to experience how the course is structured and what is expected of them. I also want them to learn some biology. So the first thing I do is organize the students into cooperative learning groups of four or five students with whom they will work on in-class and homework activities for the entire semester. Many science educators are proponents of cooperative learning, but struggle to find an equitable and effective way to build the groups. I designed a method to form heterogeneous cooperative learning groups that is impartial and requires learning some biology within the first 15 minutes of class.

After students are seated comfortably with their friends in the classroom location they prefer, and I have distributed a stack of topic schedules and syllabi, I warn them that they are going to have to move. I ask students to turn over the syllabus and look at the words I have written on the back-a different one for each student. In my 20-student General Biology I section (combined lecture and lab) at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, I instruct them to organize themselves into four groups based on what is written on the back of their syllabus. They then move around the room, communicating with the other students until they have determined how to sort themselves. I give no other hints except that they can use their textbooks, coursepacks, and brains. …

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