‘What children can do together today, they can do alone tomorrow’
What is Promotive Interaction?
The second basic element of co-operative learning is promotive interaction, preferably face-to-face. A class culture or ethos of encouragement and help is formally established. Students are expected to help each other and to share resources. They explain and teach what they know to class mates. This includes orally explaining how to solve problems, teaching one’s knowledge to others, checking for understanding, discussing concepts and connecting present with past learning. Each of these activities can be structured into group task directions and procedures. Doing so helps ensure that co-operative learning teams become both an academic support system and a personal support system.
Why is it important to build in sufficient time for Promotive Interaction?
The time that students interact face-to-face while they are learning needs to be maximised for three reasons:
A Process that takes time
It takes time to build a culture of cooperation in a classroom. This is particularly true where a culture of competition has existed for a long time. Promotive Interaction is aided by implementing the other four elements – Positive Interdependence, structuring Group Accountability, teaching Teamwork Skills and Group Processing. Rewards, whether symbolic or materialistic, are always group rewards (But never group punishment). Groups remain together until they have experienced success and a sufficient time has elapsed to build team spirit. Building a team spirit as distinct from the ad hoc group work or pair work is a vital part of facilitating promotive interaction.
Setting up the Classroom for Promotive Interaction
1. Agree rules for working in Co-operative Learning Groups
Students need to have an opportunity to discuss rules for working in groups. They can be encouraged to discuss what rules they think are important in order to ensure that the co-operative groups work effectively. This discussion can take place in small groups and then the results collated for the class. When consensus has been reached on 3 / 4 concrete rules, they should be displayed in the classroom at all times or alternatively they can be included in the group folder. Click for some examples (LINK TO EXAMPLES) of group norms / rules. The Goose Story is also used to build a culture of cooperation. When the teacher is introducing a co-operative learning task, reference can be made to the rules for effective team work. Examples could include: contribute ideas, listen to others, show respect for others and encourage everyone to participate.
2. Select a Topic (Subject Specific)
It is a good idea to start with one topic or section of a topic and build slowly as the teacher and the students become more familiar with a new way of working.
3. Teach Social Skills
Placing socially unskilled students in a group and telling them to work co-operatively does not guarantee that they will be able to do. In order to work as part of a group, students need to be taught the social skills that are essential in order to be able to interact effectively with other members of the group. The greater the members’ teamwork skills, the better the quality and quantity of their learning. The teacher must observe the students and make decisions about which skills the students need to be taught and which need to be further developed. Teaching Social Skills
4. Assign Students to Groups
What determines a group’s productivity is not who its members are, but how the members of the group work together. There is no ideal group membership. Instead the teacher will take decisions on which type of group will be appropriate at particular points in time. Two main types of groups include homogeneous groups i.e. groups with same ability and heterogeneous groups i.e. groups which comprise students from a variety of backgrounds with different abilities, interests and experiences.
5. Arrange the Classroom
Students need to be “knee to knee and eye to eye” to explain, discuss and teach each other. Teachers structure students into small, close, working groups; separated from other groups; with everyone able to see the front of the room.
Applying Promotive Interaction in class for the first time
When introducing ‘Promotive Interaction’ in the classroom for the first time, it can be very beneficial to allow students work in pairs. Some examples of possible warm up activities include the following:
Another warm up activity that may be useful is ‘Reading Buddies’. This is where students interview each other on the books they have read/are reading, then report on their partner’s book.
Through discussing topics such as those listed above, students begin to discover things that they have in common and differences that are emerging. Students are beginning to get used to working together and have opportunities to apply and practice a range of social skills. However, there is reduced tension as students were not allocated to larger groups from the outset. When students have become comfortable working in pairs it will then be possible to form co-operative groups of three students.
Encouraging Active Participation by all students in the classroom
When a teacher asks a class who knows the answer and one student is chosen to respond, that student has an opportunity to clarify and extend what he or she knows through explaining. In this situation only one student is involved and active. The rest of the class is passive. A teacher may ensure that all students are active by using a procedure that requires all students to explain their answers simultaneously. When each student has to explain his/her answer and reasoning to a classmate, all students are active and involved. No one is allowed to be passive. There are two basic ways of structuring simultaneous explaining: