Universal School of Knowledge
These are just some of the ideas of what a Basic Knowledge 101
School of Thought
would look like when it
becomes a Physical School, and not just a VR
school, or an Online
School with Professional
Tutoring, or an Artificial Intelligent Avatar
that runs on your computer or smartphone, or an Outdoor
This is to help
students understand how to
schedule and organize their learning experience over a
12 year period, or 20,000 hours of learning
This will also allow students see their education as a
whole. See what choices they will have, and when and
where their options will be in their learning tree. They
can also plan and predict where their education will
take them so they can plan what
is best for them, and what
are best for the world.
The starting point will depend on a students age and
their level of knowledge and skills.
Learning the right things at the right time
learning easier. Learning things in the right
help understand the knowledge. So if you skip parts, or
jump ahead, or cheat,
you may minimize your ability to
use this knowledge to its full potential.
This is just a first draft
, so it will be modified and
expanded as time goes on. 9/2015
school, teachers find out what the student needs, and then
provides these needs to the student.
A student will walk into his or her school and either say I'm
good, I'm doing a regular schedule today. see you after school,
or they will say I'm not doing a regular scheduled school day,
I'm working on some personalized needs
This is not saying that education should be unstructured, we need an
education timeline and structure
, but we also
need to be Spontaneous and
and create a one to one teaching and learning experience for every
student, one that is customized personally for each persons needs.
To make every student a self directed learner who is not
dependent on classrooms or schools to learn what is needed.
Foster the responsibilities and the skills of learning, so that
every student fully understands what learning is, and is not.
Make sure that every
Student has Access to the Worlds Most Valuable Knowledge and
Information. And then teach every student how to use knowledge
and information Effectively and Efficiently as possible. And then make sure
that every student knows all the
different ways there are to
and has all the
necessary tools and
that are needed for learning. And then get out of
the way, because our students have a life to live, and they also
have a lot of problems to solve that they have inherited from an
ignorant society. We owe this to our children, we owe this to
ourselves, we owe this to our students, and we owe this to the
hundreds of millions of future generations
Every Student should be given the
ability to know anything that one chooses to know and can be
known, and the capacity to know everything that there is to
know. This is not to say that students will spend every
day of their life learning, it is saying that learning will
happen more often because each student will understand what
is, and, how to recognize learning moments when
they happen. Students lives will be balanced and rich with
experiences, but they will also be intelligent, because they
will be learning the right things at the right time, and have
access of the most valuable reading material that this world has
to offer. Each student will understand
, and how
To Know Everything, To Become Intelligent, To Solve Every
Problem, To Live Well, To Love.
Everything There Is To Know About Everything There Is
Will Humans ever be able to know everything in the Universe
The only time that you can accurately understand something is
when you have the necessary knowledge and information that's
in order to understand it
. There are things that you
cannot see or understand unless you are trained to see and have
learned how to see what you could not see before. To you,
something's do not exist until you have the necessary knowledge
and information that's needed in order to realize the existence
Example: Let's say you were drinking water from a fountain, but
the water is polluted, so you got sick. But what you did not
know is that there was another water fountain down the road that
had clean water. So if you were informed and knew about the
clean water fountain, you could have drank water from that clean
fountain instead of drinking dirty water that made you sick. And
one more thing, lets say you had no idea that the water that you
were drinking was the cause of your sickness? So until you learn
that the water is the cause of your sickness, you will continue
to be sick.
That's how most everything in life works. Learning is your
power. Never underestimate the importance of learning. But you
must learn the right things at the right time.
First you have to know, then you can understand, then you can be
aware it, then you can figure out how to be in control of the
input and output, or the cause and effect.
So what do you need to know?
What would be the perfect education?
What would be the most valuable knowledge and information that a
person could have?
What would be the most valuable skills that a person could have?
What is valuable
Valuable is something that has been calculated and measured as
being the most important for life, prosperity and happiness.
What would be the most important questions that everyone should
have the answers to?
What is happiness?
What is sadness?
What does success mean?
What is confidence?
What is love?
What is fear?
and so on...
As we teach each student how to improve their life and improve
their world, we will also teach students how to read, how to write, how to use math, how to use
science, how to communicate, teach them problem
solving, and also teach them how to be an engineer, all at the
same time. So as each student learns how to improve their world,
they will also learn valuable skills and knowledge at the same
Creating Associations and Connecting Knowledge with
things you do in Life everyday.
Counting the Things that Matter
is a way of displaying a list of
events in chronological order, sometimes described as a project artifact.
It is typically a graphic design showing a long bar labeled with dates
alongside itself and usually events labeled on points where they would
Timeline would show the 5 Core Subjects
needed at each step,
which would vary depending on the abilities of each student. Would not be
limited by age or grade, mostly just ability.
This school is not about memorizing boring details, this is
about effective learning, and maximizing the students time at
so that every student receives the best education possible. And
that every student is more intelligent then the previous
and that each student will grow up to be free thinkers and not a
robot to be manipulated by other peoples ignorance. I don't know
about you, but I'm looking forward to intelligent people solving
all our problems, the future is going to be freaking awesome!
is only used as a guide
to help you measure the level of intelligence that you have
acquired at a particular moment in time. Testing is also used as
a guide to help you plan your education needs.
, just levels of intelligence.
ideas about Testing
No one will ever say that I have to pass this test
. Instead each
student will be saying, "My examinations are going well, but I
still need to learn more". There will be no falling behind, just
behind on schedule, which is based on the average time it takes
for a student to acquire a particular level of intelligence. You
will get there, and when you do, the rest is up to you. Learn as
much as you can, but remember, your school will always be here
for you, you are a member of this school for life. There will be
no bogus graduations or lame commencement speeches, there will
be only levels of intelligence that you have obtained, and
earned. And since this school is always progressing and
improving, then coming back to school from time to time will
definitely be a benefit to you.
Every kid who leaves school each day should be saying, "I'm so
freaking glad that I went to school today
", every student should
be saying that every day, if not, then the school they are
. I went to that school, and it sucked.
There is nothing more exhilarating then learning, so if you
don't feel good when learning, then your teacher is not teaching
right, or not teaching the subject correctly for your particular
style of learning. Going to school should be an incredible
opportunity. Everyday that you have a chance to go to school
should be thought of as a chance to learn something important.
You should be saying, "I have to go to school today because I
have to figure out this problem that I'm having in my life", or,
"I got to go to school today because I have some important
questions that need answering." Every kid coming to school
should feel like they are coming home, like they are coming to a
place of sanctuary. A place of enlightenment. This is what every
school should be, if not, then the school is ineffective.
Students will be more intelligent then
Reason 1: Students will be learning more then their parents.
Reason 2: Most parents have stopped learning, so parents will
not be up to date on what is known.
So every student will be responsible for teaching others, making
sure that everyone is aware of valuable knowledge and
information and all the benefits that come from knowing.
Every teacher in the school will be constantly updated on what classes
each student has attended
, when they attended the class, and if they were
Every month each student will be evaluated so they can clearly understand their
progress. So if any student needs extra help or needs to catch
up in a certain area of knowledge then they will given a chance
to do so in each class or be given a private tutor to help them
achieve their goals. So there should always be more then one
teacher in each class.
School of Thought
A school of thought (or intellectual tradition) is a collection
or group of people who share common characteristics of opinion
or outlook of a philosophy, discipline, belief, social movement,
economics, cultural movement, or art movement.
Schools are often characterized by their currency, and thus
classified into "new" and "old" schools. There is a convention,
in political and philosophical fields of thought, to have
"modern", and "classical" schools of thought.
Hundred Schools of Thought
Update definition of School of Thought:
A School of Thought is a school who's main purpose is to disseminate the
most valuable knowledge and information that the world has to offer.
Knowledge that has been created collectively up to the present moment. The
goal of Knowledge is to foster Intelligence and create unlimited potential
in every student.
In science and philosophy
, a paradigm is a
distinct set of
, including theories,
, postulates, and standards for what constitutes
legitimate contributions to a field.
A fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions, a
scientific revolution. A fundamental change in the basic concepts and
experimental practices of a scientific discipline.
A student doesn't need to know everything
, they just need to
know where everything is, in case they need it.
Constructivism (psychological school
) refers to many schools of
thought that, though extraordinarily different in their techniques
(applied in fields such as education and psychotherapy), are all connected
by a common critique of previous standard approaches, and by shared
assumptions about the active constructive nature of human knowledge. In
particular, the critique is aimed at the "associationist
postulate of empiricism, "by which the mind is conceived as a passive
system that gathers its contents from its environment and, through the act
of knowing, produces a copy of the order of reality."
5 Classes - 1 hour Each
With 10 minutes of Questions - 5 Minutes of Relaxation - 15 minutes
between each Class - Flextime
Learning - Teaching
Feedback At the end of each class
will be 10 minutes of questions from students. All questions will posted
until all questions are answered. Questions will appear on the Blackboard
or other media platforms that can display public organized knowledge
(websites, information stations, library and so on) Then if needed,
questions and answers will be indexed and categorized in the proper
locations in the Public Knowledge Database. Flexibility
will always be considered depending on the students needs
The last 5 minutes of every class will be for processing, meditating, stretching, tai chi,
or other forms of quite refection and thinking.
All classes will be video taped for future reference, and to improve teaching
methods, and to allow students who miss class to review what they have missed.
15 minutes between each Class
. (Socialize, Study, Eat,
Drink, Stretch, Make Phone Calls, Seek Counseling and so on)
Food will be available throughout the entire school day.
The cafeteria will also double as a nutrition class and food awareness zone.
Students and Teachers will learn where their food comes from as well as all the
ingredients and nutritional values.
Students and Teachers can also monitor their Weight, Height, Blood Pressure and
(Urinalysis and Blood Work can be done at the Nurses Office when needed)
(Time Flexibility and
8:00 - 9:00 AM |
9:15 - 10:15 | 10:30 - 11:30 AM
1.5 Hours for Lunch: Eat and
Drink - Meditation - Yoga - Walk -
Study - Processing
1:00 PM - 2:00
| 2:15 - 3:15 PM
End of the Day
Healthy Snack - Research
- Activities -
Meditation - Awareness - Counseling -
Tutoring - Calendar - Planning
This is what School will be...
What ever you feel like learning today,
we will help you learn. As long as you keep in mind that there
is valuable knowledge and information that you need to learn.
Knowledge that will give you more abilities, more control, more
power, more freedom, more potential, more possibilities, and
also increase your chances significantly of having a more
prosperous and fulfilling life. So what ever you feel like
learning, you should be able to incorporate valuable knowledge
lessons into that particular learning experience that you chose.
So if you wanted to climb a mountain, you should use climbing a
mountain is a great opportunity to learn. You could learn a lot
about the environment, and also learn a lot about the physical
and mental capabilities of the human body and the human mind.
Schools will work on real problems that
are plaguing the world. Students will learn what knowledge,
information and skills are needed to solve these problems. So
incentive and reasons to learn will always be present.
The first 16 years of your life is the best time to learn,
especially if you learn the right things at the right time,
because that knowledge will benefit you forever. But if your
education starts out slow or late, or if your education was
never adequate to begin with, then you will need to repair old
knowledge as well as learn new knowledge, so learning will take
longer, and learning will be a little more difficult, but
learning will still be totally worth it and incredibly
rewarding, because you will be able to relieve yourself of
ignorance that was doing you more harm then good. And this
realization will inspire you to keep learning. And
continually happen to you, as long as you keep learning the
right things at the right time.
The constructs of language helps us acquire knowledge and store
knowledge more efficiently and more effectively, And that is a
proven fact. Take away language, or reduce language abilities,
you will reduce learning, and you will reduce awareness, and you
will reduce understanding. And that is one of the main reasons
why so many schools are so ineffective, because literacy and
comprehension abilities are extremely inadequate.
When students are learning how to read, they should be reading
about the most valuable knowledge and information that is
currently available, and also be learning about why certain
knowledge and information is valuable, so that every student
will eventually have the ability to learn on their own, and be
able to seek out valuable knowledge and information in all its
Flex Time - Sleeping Schedules
No Strict or Stubborn Schedules,
everyone needs Flexibility
You just can't have these strict and stubborn scheduled
Dictations, that thing schools call a
Coming to class should never be a requirement. The only
requirement there should be is that a person learns. Students
should not be forced to learn at a particular time or place, or
forced to learn by dictation, or forced to learn by scheduled
testing. Ask the student what they wish to learn? What's
important to them? As long as they understand knowledge and
skill requirements, and understand the benefits of those
requirements, students should be given the freedom and the
resources to learn what ever they need to learn. You should
never limit the ways that a student can learn. Putting
requirements on learning restricts learning.
"You don't want to force people to learn
something when they are not ready to learn, or force people to
learn something that they don't need to learn at a particular time in
their studies." "We don't want people to be totally
subjected to schedules, we sometimes have to change schedules to
meet the particular needs of each person."
Routines are necessary, but not always.
You don't need to force students to show up to school in order
to learn, students should have the
option to learn at home, or in other groups in other places.
The school in just a
Headquarters. So you can just check in with your nearest
BK101 Headquarters to let us know how you're doing. If we don't
hear from you, we may call you or have one of your friends check
in with you to make sure that everything is going fine. We might
one day even pay you to go come to school, you can call it an
investment in your future, or just think of it as just one of
incentives for coming to school.
"You don't want people to learn things that they can't handle
emotionally or intellectually. And you don't want people to
learn things that they don't fully understand, because then they
will not learn effectively, and they will also waste time and
energy. So the
important, just like the sequence of a
developing human, there is a logical order to development.
Team Sports are great, but you should also have a sport that
you can practice all own your own. Then you can test your
abilities anytime, and you don't have to wait for others.
learning a sport? It's one of the most important skills a
person can have.
You can compete with others, or you can compete with yourself.
Student says "I want to learn this?" Teacher then explains what
things are needed first to accomplish their goal, and then
provides the needed knowledge, information and courses for the
student, so that they can reach their desired goal. Just as long
as the goal is a benefit to them and to others, and not a
distraction, or an incorrect path to take, if so they must do it
on their own time.
Everyone should be free to explore, and they should be given the
best knowledge and information that is available that would help
them on their journey of exploration.
School should start early and end late to accommodate students
schedules. Students who sleep late, go home late. Students who
start early, go home early. But the most important thing is to
teach students about the importance of
Sleep Habits, and the importance of
Time Management, the benefits of having a
Schedule, the importance of
and the importance of
Prioritizing. You do not want to encourage staying up late,
or getting up late, but you don't want to restrict sleeping
habits, or punish different sleeping habits either. We must
teach students about good sleeping habits and the benefits of
having a regular schedules, as well as, know how to survive if
sleeping schedules change. Enforcing earlier bedtimes is totally
ridiculous. It's better to teach students how to maximize their
waking hours, and how not to waste too much time when they're
Time Discipline (PDF)
School Start Times for Middle School and High School Students —
United States, 2011–12 School Year (Research by CDC)
Respecting other Peoples Time
is the characteristic of being able to complete a required task
or fulfill an obligation before or at a previously designated
time. "Punctual" is often used synonymously with "on time". It
is a common misconception that punctual can also, when talking
about grammar, mean "to be accurate". According to each culture,
there is often an understanding about what is considered an
acceptable degree of punctuality. Usually, a small amount of
lateness is acceptable; this is commonly about ten or fifteen
minutes in Western cultures, but this is not the case in such
instances as doctor's appointments or school lessons. In
some cultures, such as Japanese society, and settings, such as
military ones, expectations may be much stricter. Some cultures
have an unspoken understanding that actual deadlines are
different from stated deadlines, for example with Africa time.
For example, it may be understood in a particular culture that
people will turn up an hour later than advertised. In this case,
since everyone understands that a 9 pm party will actually start
at around 10 pm, no-one is inconvenienced when everyone arrives
at 10 pm. In cultures which value punctuality, being late is
seen as disrespectful of others' time and may be considered
insulting. In such cases, punctuality may be enforced by social
penalties, for example by excluding low-status latecomers from
meetings entirely. Such considerations can lead on to
considering the value of punctuality in econometrics and to
considering the effects of
non-punctuality on others in
Value of Time (wiki)
Staying on Time Tips
Have everything ready the night before.
Keep your essentials near the door.
Create a staging area near the door.
Anticipate delays before they happen.
Commit yourself to being 15 minutes early for everything.
Overestimate the time it'll take to get there.
Don't hit the snooze button.
Re-examine how long your daily tasks really take.
Time yourself a few days in a row to see how long it actual.
ttakes you to perform certain tasks.
Wikihow: Be Punctual
Simultaneous Subject Teaching
Classroom of the future will be like
from Star Trek and the
Loading Program from the Matrix. If you don't have four empty walls then you
can have three totally white walls to project images on and play sound from,
with the windows of the room at your back. Total submersion into a subject,
interactive and adjustable, making learning an incredible and enjoyable journey. The
room would also have a digital display that would show temperature, oxygen
level, humidity and other environmental factors to guarantee that the student
has a comfortable learning environment.
You can also do this using big learning
info-graphs that cover the walls. They can even design and print their own
posters as they learn more about the subject and how the information in each
subject should be presented so that understanding is maximized.
In the field of
user interfaces, an exocentric environment refers to a
virtual reality or some
other immersive environment which completely encompasses the user, e.g. by
placing the viewer in a room made up entirely of rear
projection screens. Systems which
merely display a virtual reality directly to the user (e.g. using a
head-mounted display) do not qualify. They are endocentric
Immersion (virtual reality) is a perception of being physically present in a
non-physical world. The perception is created by surrounding the user of
the VR system in images, sound or other stimuli that provide an engrossing
Scientific Modeling is a scientific activity, the aim of which is to make a
particular part or feature of the world easier to understand, define,
quantify, visualize, or simulate by referencing it to existing and usually
commonly accepted knowledge. It requires selecting and identifying
relevant aspects of a situation in the real world and then using
different types of models for
different aims, such as conceptual models to better understand,
operational models to operationalize, mathematical models to quantify, and
graphical models to visualize the subject.
Modelling is an
essential and inseparable part of scientific activity, and many scientific
disciplines have their own ideas about specific types of modelling.
Simultaneous Subject Teaching
Immersion Poster Samples
Building Blocks of Life
Dream Education educational posters and interactive
software with over 2,000 innovative and engaging educational
Learning Outside the Classroom -
The Classroom has always been Outside
Not all schools days will be inside in the classroom. One day a
week schools must take classrooms outside and have students and
teachers venture into the community, into businesses, into local
government, and into the environment. Students must see our
problems first hand and talk to the people who are most affected
and understand some of the social issues.
Exercise and physical activities
have many benefits on the
mind and the body, but you still need lots of knowledge in order
to fully utilize all those benefits.
is the single greatest exercise that most people
Playground Zoning increases Physical Activity during Recess
with specific games can improve physical activity, improving a child’s
chance of engaging in the recommended 60 minutes of “play per day.
Use a playground as
a way to teach Science
name a few.
Service Learning and Community Engagement
Outdoor Classroom Project
Taking the Classroom Outside Action Plan
Takaharu Tezuka: The Best Kindergarten School you've ever seen
Outside the Classroom
We need to design
Jungle Gyms that teach and
Playgrounds that Educate.
Use big brother and big sister so each
kid has an older person to mentor them during their outdoor
learning adventure. The outdoor experience must be
combined with other skills like math, science, physics,
biology, sociology and so on.
Advanced Outdoor Courses
Survival Books and Info
Foraging Wild Foods
Outdoor Gear Check List and Camping List
Having children learning outside in nature is extremely
important. While they are exploring and discovering you can
teach them about the environment at the same time. You can teach
them about cause and effect, and how things change for a reason.
You can teach them about how some actions cause damage, while
other actions minimize impact. Let them know that almost
everything in their environment can be explained. So there is a
lot to learn, especially about all the benefits of plants,
animals and insects. And there is a lot to learn about all the
dangers of plants, animals and insects. Related subjects are
chemistry, biology, botany, science, physics, math, history, and
so on. You can also teach them about how there are things in our
world that we can not see with our eyes. But the more we learn,
the more we can see, and understand. The outdoors can provide us
with a lifetime of happiness, but only if we respect the land.
And the only way to create respect, is to learn everything that
you can about the earth. Respect comes from knowing , and
knowing comes from learning, and learning comes from exploring.
Whether the exploring is in the from of reading, researching, or
directly studying the environment, there are always
opportunities to learn. Remind children that Life is the
Outdoors. And that the Indoor life is not the same thing.
Children should understand the differences between the outside
world, and the inside world. Both need careful consideration
equally, for they both have benefits, and dangers.
The process of giving careful thought to something. Showing
concern for the rights and feelings of others. Information that
should be kept in mind when making a decision. Kind and
considerate regard for others. A considerate and thoughtful act.
Having intellectual depth. Exhibiting or characterized by
careful thought. Acting with or showing thought and good sense.
Fiddleheads Forest School
Chippewa Nature Center
All Friends Nature School
Outdoor Preschools in greater Seattle
Enriching the Outdoor Play Experience.
have been ignored as venues for learning, although educational
experts have emphasized play as an important aspect in
developmentally appropriate programs. Aside from the physical
and motor development offered by outdoor play, opportunities to
improve social interaction through both social and intellectual
play are also available. Early childhood educators should avail
of the potential diversity and richness offered by
environments that you can learn from,
Play (Social aspects)
Early childhood education (Methods)
Playgrounds (Social aspects)
Author: Hennger, Michael L.
Pub Date: 12/22/1993
Publication: Name: Childhood Education Publisher: Association
for Childhood Education International Audience: Academic;
Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Family
and marriage Copyright: COPYRIGHT 1993 Association for Childhood
Education International ISSN: 0009-4056
Issue: Date: Winter, 1993 Source Volume: v70 Source Issue: n2
Teachers, administrators and others generally consider
playgrounds and the activities that occur there less important
than indoor spaces in the lives of young children. This view is
reflected in textbooks used to prepare teachers for early
childhood education (e.g., Brewer, 1992; Feeney, Christensen &
Moravcik, 1991; Lay-Dopyera & Dopyera, 1990; Seefeldt & Barbour,
1990). In a quick review of these texts, the author found an
average of 21 pages describing the indoor play setting and its
preparation and only a little under 5 pages discussing the
outdoor play site. Similarly, although the National Association
for the Education of Young Children emphasizes play as an
essential ingredient in developmentally appropriate programs, it
gives few specifics for providing such experiences outdoors (Bredekamp,
From their inception, playgrounds and outdoor play experiences
have been viewed primarily as an opportunity to develop physical
skills through vigorous exercise and play (Frost & Wortham,
1988). Despite this long-held attitude, educators are becoming
more aware that outdoor play can be much more valuable than
Clearly, outdoor play can stimulate physical-motor development
(Myers, 1985; Pellegrini, 1991). In addition, however,
playgrounds are a positive setting for enhancing social
interaction (Kraft, 1989; Pellegrini & Perlmutter, 1988).
Further evidence indicates that well-equipped playgrounds can
stimulate a variety of play types, including dramatic play (Henniger,
Outdoor play can be as effective as indoor play in facilitating
young children's development. Frost & Wortham (1988) suggest
"The outdoor play environment should enhance every aspect of
child development--motor, cognitive, social, emotional--and
their correlates--creativity, problem-solving, and just plain
With a little effort, playgrounds can move from their current
rather sterile status (Frost, Bowers & Wortham, 1990) to more
stimulating, creative spaces for young children. Most
playgrounds would benefit by more variety in available materials
and spaces. Movable toys and equipment can make playgrounds into
spaces where children can have a greater effect on their
environment. In addition, concerned adults need to ensure that
children have numerous opportunities for dramatic play outdoors.
need to be safe environments where children are free to explore
without fear of injury from materials or equipment.
The play experiences of young children are often categorized
either according to the level of intellectual functioning or in
relationship to their social complexity. Smilansky (1968)
defined four major types of cognitive or intellectual play
(functional, construction, dramatic, games with rules) and
Parten (1932) suggested four additional social play categories
(solitary, parallel, associative, cooperative).
To help facilitate these important play types in the indoor
setting, early educators have consistently provided children
with a large variety of quality play materials and toys (e.g.,
blocks, manipulatives, art materials, housekeeping items,
dramatic play materials, musical instruments and objects from
the natural environment). Teachers spend considerable planning
time organizing these materials into interesting and inviting
centers and ensuring that new choices are available to children
on a regular basis.
Options for the playground are much more limited (Frost, Bowers
& Wortham, 1990). Although swings, slides, climbers, tricycles
and a sandbox are common, this equipment is not sufficient to
stimulate a broad spectrum of quality outdoor play. Spaces for
children to engage in solitary play (e.g., a cluster of plants
with a small opening for the child), toys and props for dramatic
play (see Jelks & Dukes, 1985) and materials for construction
play (e.g., outdoor blocks, wooden boards and boxes, small cable
spools, gardening space and tools, old tires) are needed to
enrich the variety and complexity of the playground. Concerned
teachers should periodically reorganize the playground to
provide new and exciting choices for young children.
Esbensen (1987) suggested that teachers consider the outdoor
setting to be an extension of the classroom, with the same
potential for enhancing development. He defined seven play zones
that should exist on every playground: transition,
manipulative/creative, projective/fantasy, focal/social,
social/dramatic, physical and natural element. Esbensen
recommended the addition of a playhouse containing a table and
chair set, housekeeping toys and equipment, and other
home-related accessories to stimulate more social/dramatic play
outdoors. With additional planning and preparation, teachers can
create these zones and ensure that the children participate in a
variety of play types.
Movable Toys and Equipment
An essential element of learning in the early childhood years is
the opportunity to affect the environment. Children learn a
great deal by manipulating the materials and equipment in their
world (Kamii & DeVries, 1978). Play helps children actively make
sense of their environment (Piaget, 1951). Through active play,
children are learning, exploring and creating. Wassermann (1992)
called this the generative function of play.
Nearly all of the indoor play materials can be manipulated by
children. Puzzles, blocks, art materials, musical instruments
and dramatic play props are among the many materials commonly
found indoors. On the playground, however, this diversity is
rare. Frost, Bowers and Wortham (1990) recently conducted a
survey of American preschool playgrounds and found that
tricycles were most often available, with an average of about
three per playground. Loose tires, sand, wagons, barrels and
loose boards (building material, stacking blocks) were
available, in descending order, ranging from about two tires per
playground to about one barrel or board to every three
Children who play outdoors therefore
have very few movable equipment options.
Adding more movable toys and equipment is not a difficult task.
Children do not need expensive or hard-to-find items. In fact,
common and inexpensive materials generally suffice. A good
example of a creative playground space made with inexpensive
materials is the Adventure Playground designed for older
children (see Louv, 1978; Michaelis, 1979; Pedersen, 1985). The
Adventure Playground, which originated in Denmark in the 1940s
(Pedersen, 1985), consists of a rich variety of building
materials such as scrap lumber, bricks, tires, rope and sand.
With the assistance of a trained play leader, children spend
countless hours building, using and tearing down their play
structures, and then beginning the process all over again (Louv,
Similar materials and tools can easily be added to the preschool
playground to enhance young children's opportunities to
manipulate and construct in the outdoor environment. The number
of tires, barrels and loose boards found on some playgrounds
(Frost, Bowers & Wortham, 1990) can be increased and child-sized
cable spools, outdoor blocks, gardening tools and small wooden
or plastic boxes can be added.
To protect this equipment from weather and vandalism, a storage
method is needed. Either a storage shed or part of an existing
play structure (such as underneath a slide/fort structure) must
be designated to house movable materials when not in use. If the
storage area is readily accessible to children, with low shelves
and baskets or boxes for loose parts, they can assume
responsibility for taking out and returning this equipment.
Providing More Opportunities for Dramatic Play
Literature addressing the issue of play (e.g., Erikson, 1977;
Piaget, 1951; Singer & Singer, 1990; Smilansky, 1968) clearly
indicates that dramatic or imaginative play is of central
importance in the young child's development. Dramatic play is
key to success in later formal education. The young child who
can readily manipulate symbols in dramatic play is much more
likely to accept and effectively use the arbitrary symbol
systems of mathematics and written language (Dyson, 1990; Nourot
& Van Hoorn, 1991; Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990).
Early educators recognize the importance of this play type and
provide materials and space indoors for housekeeping, dramatic
play and blocks. These centers, when stocked with quality play
materials, stimulate a rich assortment of creative dramatic play
that frequently spreads into other areas of the classroom. This
variety of opportunities for indoor dramatic play helps meet the
needs and interests of the greatest number of children. When new
materials are rotated in and out of the classroom centers on a
regular basis, these interests are maintained over time.
Although dramatic play opportunities do exist outdoors, they are
limited and often created spontaneously by the children
themselves with the few available materials. Monroe (1985) found
that over half of all child care centers studied had no specific
equipment for outdoor dramatic play. Frost, Bowers and Wortham
(1990) found dramatic play equipment on fewer than one-third of
all preschool playgrounds surveyed.
Dramatic play equipment for use outdoors can be readily
purchased or scrounged. Also, some materials that are typically
found in indoor dramatic play centers can be taken outdoors. For
example, a camp can be set up outside with tent, fire pit,
sleeping bags, cookstove and cooking utensils. Placed in a box
or similar storage container, related props can be taken outside
and returned indoors with relative ease (see Jelks & Dukes,
A steering wheel from a car or truck can be mounted in a wooden
box and placed on the playground to stimulate a variety of
dramatic play activities. The same wheel, nestled inside an old
boat, can encourage nautical themes. When placed in front of a
line of wooden boxes, the steering wheel can become the engine
car of a train. A playhouse or fort-like structure can be
purchased or constructed by parents and community members and
used by children in other creative play themes. Early educators
can use their imagination to develop a long list of similar
materials that stimulate good dramatic play outdoors.
Exciting outdoor play spaces also need to be safe environments
for young children. Unfortunately, teachers and administrators
are frequently unaware of the many unnecessary hazards that
playgrounds contain. Although safety issues have been identified
for nearly 20 years, statistics indicate that a growing number
of children continue to be treated in hospital emergency rooms
for injuries incurred on the playground (Wallach, 1990).
The most significant problem on playgrounds today is the
hardpacked surfaces under and around equipment (Tinsworth &
Kramer, 1989). Falling from playground structures onto a hard
surface, such as asphalt or packed earth, can cause serious
injury. Concerned adults must replace these surfaces with more
appropriate materials (such as 12 inches of sand or pea gravel)
to reduce this unnecessary hazard (Thompson, 1991).
Other problems associated with playgrounds for young children
include: equipment spacing, improper equipment installation,
irregular maintenance and inadequate briefing of children on
playground use (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1991).
Each of these issues must be addressed so that playgrounds can
be low-risk places for children to experiment in and explore.
Children deserve the same diversity and richness in their
outdoor play environments as they have indoors. Esbensen (1987)
and Frost and Wortham (1988) offer many suggestions for those
interested in gaining further insights into this topic. By
carefully analyzing the playground setting and determining what
is missing, concerned adults can provide a greater variety of
play materials and more opportunities to manipulate materials
and nurture dramatic play. Then, by spending more time planning
for and implementing a more complete playground curriculum,
teachers and administrators can help children take full
advantage of this marvelous, but frequently underdeveloped, part
of a complete early childhood program.
Bredekamp, S. (Ed.). (1987). Developmentally appropriate
practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth
through age 8. Washington, DC: National Association for the
Education of Young Children.
Brewer, J. (1992). Introduction to early childhood education.
Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Dyson, A. (1990). Symbol makers, symbol weavers: How children
link play, pictures, and print. Young Children, 45(2), 50-57.
Erikson, E. (1977). Toys and reason. New York: Norton.
Esbensen, S. (1987). An outdoor classroom. Ypsilanti, MI:
Feeney, S., Christensen, D., & Moravcik, E. (1991). Who am I in
the lives of children? New York: Merrill.
Frost, J. L., Bowers, L., & Wortham, S. (1990). The state of
American preschool playgrounds. Journal of Physical Education,
Recreation and Dance, 61(8), 18-23.
Frost, J. L., & Wortham, S. (1988). The evolution of American
playgrounds. Young Children, 43(5), 19-28.
Henniger, M. L. (1985). Preschool children's play behaviors in
an indoor and outdoor environment. In J. L. Frost & S. Sunderlin
(Eds.), When children play (pp. 145-149). Wheaton, MD:
Association for Childhood Education International.
Jelks, P. A., & Dukes, L. (1985). Promising props for outdoor
play. Day Care and Early Education, 13(1), 18-20.
Kamii, C., & DeVries, R. (1978). Physical knowledge in preschool
education. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Kraft, R. E. (1989). Children at play. Behavior of children at
recess. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance,
Lay-Dopyera, M., and Dopyera, J. (1990). Becoming a teacher of
young children. New York: McGraw Hill.
Louv, R. (1978). Loose on the playground. Human Behavior, 7(5),
Michaelis, B. (1979). Adventure playgrounds: A healthy
affirmation of the rights of the child. Journal of Physical
Education and Recreation, 50(8), 55-58.
Monroe, M. (1985). An evaluation of day care playgrounds in
Texas. In J. L. Frost & S. Sunderlin (Eds.), When children play
(pp. 193-199). Wheaton, MD: Association for Childhood Education
Myers, G. D. (1985). Motor behavior of kindergartners during
physical education and free play. In J. L. Frost & S. Sunderlin
(Eds.), When children play (pp. 151-155). Wheaton, MD:
Association for Childhood Education International.
Nourot, P. M., & Van Hoorn, J. (1991). Symbolic play in
preschool and primary settings. Young Children, 46(6), 40-50.
Parten, M. (1932). Social participation among preschool
children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 27,
Pedersen, J. (1985). The adventure playgrounds of Denmark. In J.
L. Frost & S. Sunderlin (Eds.), When children play (pp.
201-207). Wheaton, MD: Association for Childhood Education
Pellegrini, A. (1991). Outdoor recess: Is it really necessary?
Principal, 71(40), 23.
Pellegrini, A., & Perlmutter, J. (1988). Rough-and-tumble play
on the elementary school playground. Young Children, 43(2),
Piaget, J. (1951). Play, dreams, and imitation in childhood. New
York: W. W. Norton.
Seefeldt, C., & Barbour, N. (1990). Early childhood education:
An introduction (2nd ed.). New York: Merrill.
Singer, D., & Singer, J. (1990). The house of make-believe: Play
and the developing imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Smilansky, S. (1968). The effect of sociodramatic play on
disadvantaged preschool children. New York: Wiley.
Smilansky, S., & Shefatya, L. (1990). Facilitating play: A
medium for promoting cognitive, socio-emotional and academic
development in young children. Gaithersburg, MD: Psychosocial
and Educational Publications.
Tinsworth, D. K., & Kramer, J. T. (1989). Playground
equipment-related injuries involving falls to the surface.
Washington, DC: U.S. Product Safety Commission.
Thompson, D. (1991). Safe playground surfaces: What should be
used under playground equipment? Journal of Physical Education,
Recreation, and Dance, November-December, 74-75.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (1991). Handbook for
public playground safety. Washington, DC: Author.
Wallach, F. (1990). Playground safety update. Parks and
Recreation, 25(8), 46-50.
Wassermann, S. (1992). Serious play in the classroom. Childhood
Education, 68(3), 133-139.
Michael L. Henniger is Associate Professor, Department of
Educational Curriculum & Instruction, Woodring College of
Education, Western Washington University, Bellingham.
Gale Copyright: Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All
How Dramatic Play Can Enhance Learning
By Marie E. Cecchini MS
Dramatic play can be defined as a type of play where children
accept and assign roles, and then act them out. It is a time
when they break through the walls of reality, pretend to be
someone or something different from themselves, and dramatize
situations and actions to go along with the roles they have
chosen to play. And while this type of play may be viewed as
frivolous by some, it remains an integral part of the
developmental learning process by allowing children to develop
skills in such areas as abstract thinking, literacy, math, and
social studies, in a timely, natural manner.
The Proper Environment
In many classrooms the dramatic play area has traditionally been
centered in “housekeeping”. However, when we actually watch
children play, we see them reinventing scenes that might take
place in other areas of life such as gas stations, building
sites, department stores, classrooms, or libraries. This should
tell us, that in order to derive the full benefit from dramatic
play as it relates to learning, early educators should “set the
stage” throughout the classroom.
Setting the Stage
Any dramatic play area should be inviting. Presentation alone
should inspire creative and imaginative play. This should be an
area where the children can immediately take on a role and begin
pretending. In establishing these areas, you will want to
consider the following.
1. Each area should incorporate a variety of materials that
encourage dramatic play, such as hats, masks, clothes, shoes,
tools, vehicles, etc. You can include both teacher-made and
commercial materials. The types of materials you supply will
depend on the “theme” of the area.
2. Part of your materials list for each area should include
items that stimulate literacy activities, like reading and
writing. Paper, pencils, a chalk board, wipe-off board, address
books, and greeting cards are all examples of materials that
might be used to promote the development of literacy skills.
3. Materials should be developmentally appropriate and allow for
both creativity and flexibility in play. This includes materials
that can be used by all children (unisex) and those that may be
used in more than one way (a table as a table, or with a blanket
over it, as a dog house).
4. The goal of all areas should be to reinforce grade level
appropriate physical, cognitive, and social skills.
Finally, try to change the materials (or props, as they are
sometimes called) on a regular basis. Different materials on
occasion will enhance the area, spark new interest in a much
used area, and allow the children to incorporate new experiences
in their play.
The Dramatic Play Skill Set
There are basically six skills children work with and develop as
they take part in dramatic play experiences.
Role Playing – This is where children mimic behaviors and verbal
expressions of someone or something they are pretending to be.
At first they will imitate one or two actions, but as time
progresses they will be able to expand their roles by creating
several actions relevant to the role they are playing.
Use of Materials
- Props – By incorporating objects into pretend
play, children can extend or elaborate on their play. In the
beginning they will mainly rely on realistic materials. From
there they will move on to material substitution, such as using
a rope to represent a fire hose, and progress to holding in
their hands in such as way to indicate that they are holding an
Pretending - Make-Believe – All dramatic play is make-believe.
Children pretend to be the mother, fireman, driver, etc. by
imitating actions they have witnessed others doing. As the use
of dramatic play increases, they begin to use words to enhance
and describe their re-enactments. Some children may even engage
in fantasy, where the situations they are acting out aren’t
pulled from real-life experiences.
Attention Span - Length of Time – Early ventures into the field of
dramatic play may only last a few minutes, but as the children
grow, develop, and experience more, they will be able to
incorporate additional actions and words, which will lengthen
the time they engage in such activities.
Social Skills - Interaction – Dramatic play promotes the
development of social skills through interaction with others,
peers or adults. As children climb the social skill ladder of
development through play, they will move from pretending at the
same time without any actual interaction, to pretending that
involves several children playing different roles and relating
to each other from the perspective of their assigned roles.
Communication – Dramatic play promotes the use of speaking and
listening skills. When children take part in this type of play,
they practice words they have heard others say, and realize that
they must listen to what other “players” say in order to be able
to respond in an appropriate fashion. It also teaches them to
choose their words wisely so that others will understand exactly
what it is they are trying to communicate.
Dramatic Play and Development
Dramatic play enhances child development in four major areas.
Social - Emotional – When children come together in a dramatic
play experience, they have to agree on a topic (basically what
“show” they will perform), negotiate roles, and cooperate to
bring it all together. And by recreating some of the life
experiences they actually face, they learn how to cope with any
fears and worries that may accompany these experiences. Children
who participate in dramatic play experiences are better able to
show empathy for others because they have “tried out” being that
someone else for a while. They also develop the skills they need
to cooperate with their peers, learn to control their impulses,
and tend to be less aggressive than children who do not engage
in this type of play.
Physical – Dramatic play helps children develop both gross and
fine motor skills – fire fighters climb and parents dress their
babies. And when children put their materials away, they
practice eye-hand coordination and visual discrimination.
Cognitive – When children are involved in make-believe play,
they make use of pictures they have created in their minds to
recreate past experiences, which is a form of abstract thinking.
Setting a table for a meal, counting out change as a cashier,
dialing a telephone, and setting the clock promote the use of
math skills. By adding such things as magazines, road signs,
food boxes and cans, paper and pencils to the materials included
in the area, we help children develop literacy skills. When
children come together in this form of play, they also learn how
to share ideas, and solve problems together.
Language – In order to work together in a dramatic play
situation, children learn to use language to explain what they
are doing. They learn to ask and answer questions and the words
they use fit whatever role they are playing. Personal
vocabularies grow as they begin to use new words appropriately,
and the importance of reading and writing skills in everyday
life becomes apparent by their use of literacy materials that
fill the area.
Dramatic play engages children in both life and learning. Its’
real value lies in the fact that it increases their
understanding of the world they live in, while it works to
develop personal skills that will help them meet with success
throughout their lives.
Marie is the author of five books. She continues to write
articles for parents and teachers.
Dramatic play permits children to fit the reality of the world
into their own interests and knowledge. One of the purest forms
of symbolic thought available to young children, dramatic play
contributes strongly to the intellectual development of children
(Piaget, 1962). Symbolic play is a necessary part of a child's
language development (Edmonds, 1976).
Drama: What It Is and What It
Drama is the portrayal of life as seen from the actor's view. In
early childhood, drama needs no written lines to memorize,
structured behavior patterns to imitate, nor is an audience
needed. Children need only a safe, interesting environment and
freedom to experiment with roles, conflict, and problem solving.
When provided with such an environment, children become
interested in and will attend to the task at hand and develop
their concentration (Way, 1967). Opportunities for dramatic play
that are spontaneous, child-initiated, and open-ended are
important for all young children. Because individual expression
is key, children of all physical and cognitive abilities enjoy
and learn from dramatic play and creative dramatics. In early
childhood, the term dramatic play is most frequently used and
the process is the most important part, not the production.
Dramatic play expands a child's awareness of self in relation to
others and the environment. Drama is not the production of plays
usually done to please adults rather than children (Wagner,
Elements of Drama in the Early Childhood Classroom
Dramatic play includes role-playing, puppetry, and fantasy play.
It does not require interaction with another.
Socio-dramatic play is dramatic play with the additional
component of social interaction with either a peer or teacher (Mayesky,
1988; Smilansky, 1968).
Creative dramatics involves spontaneous, creative play. It is
structured and incorporates the problem solving skills of
planning and evaluation. Children frequently reenact a scene or
a story. Planning and evaluating occurs in creative dramatics
(Chambers, 1970, 1977)
What Is the Collaborative Classroom?
M.B. Tinzmann, B.F. Jones, T.F. Fennimore, J. Bakker, C. Fine,
and J. Pierce NCREL, Oak Brook, 1990
New Learning and Thinking Curricula Require Collaboration
In Guidebook 1, we explored a "new" vision of learning and
suggested four characteristics of successful learners: They are
knowledgeable, self-determined strategic, and empathetic
thinkers. Research indicates
also involves an interaction of the
learner, the materials, the teacher, and the context. Applying
this research, new guidelines in the major content areas stress
thinking. Guidebook 2 describes these new guidelines and
provides four characteristics of "a thinking curriculum" that
cut across content areas. The chief characteristic of a thinking
curriculum is the dual agenda of content and process for all
students. Characteristics that derive from this agenda include
in-depth learning; involving students in real-world, relevant
tasks; engaging students in holistic tasks from kindergarten
through high school; and utilizing students' prior knowledge.
Effective communication and collaboration are essential to
becoming a successful learner. It is primarily through dialogue and
examining different perspectives that students become knowledgeable,
strategic, self-determined, and empathetic. Moreover, involving students
in real-world tasks and linking new information to prior knowledge
requires effective communication and collaboration among teachers,
students, and others. Indeed, it is through dialogue and interaction that
curriculum objectives come alive. Collaborative learning affords students
enormous advantages not available from more traditional instruction
because a group--whether it be the whole class or a learning group within
the class--can accomplish meaningful learning and solve problems better
than any individual can alone.
Classroom Management Tips
This focus on the collective knowledge and thinking of the group
changes the roles of students and teachers and the way they
interact in the classroom. Significantly, a groundswell of
interest exists among practitioners to involve students in
in classrooms at all grade levels.
The purpose of this GuideBook is to elaborate what classroom
collaboration means so that this grass-roots movement can
continue to grow and flourish. We will describe characteristics
of these classrooms and student and teacher roles, summarize
relevant research, address some issues related to changing
instruction, and give examples of a variety of teaching methods
and practices that embody these characteristics. Characteristics
of a Collaborative Classroom
Collaborative classrooms seem to have four general
characteristics. The first two capture changing relationships
between teachers and students. The third characterizes teachers'
new approaches to instruction. The fourth addresses the
composition of a collaborative classroom.
1. Shared knowledge among teachers and students
In traditional classrooms, the dominant metaphor for teaching is
the teacher as information giver; knowledge flows only one way
from teacher to student. In contrast, the metaphor for
collaborative classrooms is shared knowledge. The teacher has
knowledge about content, skills, and instruction, and still
provides that information to students. However, collaborative
teachers also value and build upon the knowledge, personal
experiences, language, strategies, and culture that students
bring to the
Consider a lesson on insect-eating plants, for example. Few
students, and perhaps few teachers, are likely to have direct
knowledge about such plants. Thus, when those students who do
have relevant experiences are given an opportunity to share
them, the whole class is enriched. Moreover, when students see
that their experiences and knowledge are valued, they are
motivated to listen and learn in new ways, and they are more
likely to make important connections between their own learning
and "school" learning. They become empowered. This same
phenomenon occurs when the knowledge parents and other
community members have is valued and used within the school.
Additionally, complex thinking about difficult problems, such as
world hunger, begs for multiple ideas about causes,
implications, and potential solutions. In fact, nearly all of
the new curricular goals are of this nature--for example,
mathematical problem-solving--as are new requirements to teach
topics such as AIDS. They require multiple ways to represent and
solve problems and many perspectives on issues.
2. Shared authority among teachers and students
In collaborative classrooms, teachers share authority with
students in very specific ways. In most traditional classrooms,
the teacher is largely, if not exclusively, responsible for
setting goals, designing learning tasks, and assessing what is
Collaborative teachers differ in that they invite students to
set specific goals within the framework of what is being taught,
provide options for activities and assignments that capture
different student interests and goals, and encourage students to
they learn. Collaborative teachers encourage students' use of
their own knowledge, ensure that students share their knowledge
and their learning strategies, treat each other respectfully,
and focus on high levels of understanding. They help students
diverse opinions, support knowledge claims with evidence, engage
in critical and creative thinking, and participate in open and
Suppose, for example, the students have just read a chapter on
colonial America and are required to prepare a product on the
topic. While a more traditional teacher might ask all students
to write a ten-page essay, the collaborative teacher might ask
students to define the product themselves. Some could plan a
videotape; some could dramatize events in colonial America;
others could investigate original sources that support or do not
support the textbook chapter and draw comparisons among them;
and some could write a ten-page paper. The point here is
twofold: (1) students have opportunities to ask and investigate
questions of personal interest, and (2) they have a voice in the
decision-making process. These opportunities are essential for
both self-regulated learning and motivation.
3. Teachers as mediators
As knowledge and authority are shared among teachers and
students, the role of the teacher increasingly emphasizes
mediated learning. Successful mediation helps students connect
new information to their experiences and to learning in other
students figure out what to do when they are stumped, and helps
them learn how to learn. Above all, the teacher as mediator
adjusts the level of information and support so as to maximize
the ability to take responsibility for learning. This
collaborative classrooms is so important, we devote a whole
section to it below.
4. Heterogeneous groupings of students
The perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds of all students
are important for enriching learning in the classroom. As
learning beyond the classroom increasingly requires
understanding diverse perspectives, it is essential to provide
opportunities to do this in multiple contexts in schools. In
collaborative classrooms where students are engaged in a
thinking curriculum, everyone learns from everyone else, and no
student is deprived of this opportunity for making contributions
and appreciating the contributions of others.
Thus, a critical characteristic of collaborative classrooms is
that students are not segregated according to supposed ability,
achievement, interests, or any other characteristic. Segregation
seriously weakens collaboration and impoverishes the
classroom by depriving all students of opportunities to learn
from and with each other. Students we might label unsuccessful
in a traditional classroom learn from "brighter" students, but,
more importantly, the so-called brighter students have just as
learn from their more average peers. Teachers beginning to teach
collaboratively often express delight when they observe the
insights revealed by their supposedly weaker students.
Thus, shared knowledge and authority, mediated learning, and
heterogeneous groups of students are essential characteristics
of collaborative classrooms. These characteristics, which are
elaborated below, necessitate new roles for teachers and
students that lead to interactions different from those in more
traditional classrooms. Teacher Roles in a Collaborative
Across this nation, teachers are defining their roles in terms
of mediating learning through dialogue and collaboration. While
mediation has been defined in different ways by Reuven
Feuerstein, Lev Vygotsky and others, we define mediation here as
facilitating, modeling, and coaching. Most teachers engage in
these practices from time to time. What is important here is
that these behaviors (1) drive instruction in collaborative
classrooms, and (2) have specific purposes in collaborative
Facilitator Facilitating involves creating rich environments and
activities for linking new information to prior knowledge,
providing opportunities for collaborative work and problem
solving, and offering students a multiplicity of authentic
learning tasks. This
may first involve attention to the physical environment. For
example, teachers move desks so that all students can see each
other, thus establishing a setting that promotes true
discussion. Teacher may also wish to move their desks from the
front of the room to a less prominent space.
Additionally, teachers may structure the resources in the
classroom to provide a diversity of genres and perspectives, to
use and build upon cultural artifacts from the students' homes
and communities, and to organize various learning activities.
collaborative classroom often has a multiplicity of projects or
activity centers using everyday objects for representing
numerical information in meaningful ways and for conducting
experiments that solve real problems. These classrooms also
boast a rich
variety of magazines, journals, newspapers, audiotapes, and
videos which allow students to experience and use diverse media
for communicating ideas. In Video Conference 1, for example,
students were shown investigating science concepts using
everyday materials, such as paper and straw, found in their
Facilitating in collaborative classrooms also involves people.
Inside the classroom, students are organized into heterogeneous
groups with roles such as Team Leader, Encourager, Reteller,
Recorder, and Spokesperson. (See Elizabeth Cohen's work for
further elaboration.) Additionally, collaborative teachers work
to involve parents and community members. Examples are: A
workshop center in New York invites parents to come and
experience the thinking processes involved in conducting
experiments using everyday objects so that they can provide such
learning experiences at home (Video Conference 1); teachers in
Tucson involve parents and the community in academic tasks their
students engage in (Video Conference 3), and rural students in
Colorado perform community services such as producing a local
newspaper (Video Conference 5).
Another way that teachers facilitate collaborative learning is
to establish classrooms with diverse and flexible social
structures that promote the sort of classroom behavior they deem
appropriate for communication and collaboration among students.
structures are rules and standards of behaviors, fulfilling
several functions in group interaction, and influencing group
attitudes. Particular rules depend, of course, on the classroom
context. Thus, teachers often develop them collaboratively with
review or change them as needed. Examples of rules are giving
all members a chance to participate, valuing others' comments,
and arguing against (or for) ideas rather than people. Examples
of group functions are: asking for information, clarifying,
summarizing, encouraging, and relieving tension. To facilitate
high quality group interaction, teachers may need to teach, and
students may need to practice, rules and functions for group
Finally, teachers facilitate collaborative learning by creating
learning tasks that encourage diversity, but which aim at high
standards of performance for all students. These tasks involve
students in high-level thought processes such as decision making
and problem solving that are best accomplished in collaboration.
These tasks enable students to make connections to real-world
objects, events, and situations in their own and an expanded
world, and tap their diverse perspectives and experiences.
Learning tasks foster students' confidence and at the same time,
are appropriately challenging.
Model Modeling has been emphasized by many local and state
guidelines as sharing one's thinking and demonstrating or
explaining something. However, in collaborative classrooms,
modeling serves to share with students not only what one is
thinking about the content to be learned, but also the process
of communication and collaborative learning. Modeling may
involve thinking aloud (sharing thoughts about something) or
demonstrating (showing students how to do something in a
In terms of content, teachers might verbalize the thinking
processes they use to make a prediction about a scientific
experiment, to summarize ideas in a passage, to figure out the
meaning of an unfamiliar word, to represent and solve a problem,
complicated information, and so on. Just as important, they
would also think aloud about their doubts and uncertainties.
This type of metacognitive thinking and thinking aloud when
things do not go smoothly is invaluable in helping students
understand that learning requires effort and is often difficult
With respect to group process, teachers may share their thinking
about the various roles, rules, and relationships in
collaborative classrooms. Consider leadership, for example. A
teacher might model what he or she thinks about such questions
as how to manage the group's time or how to achieve consensus.
Similarly, showing students how to think through tough group
situations and problems of communication is as invaluable as
modeling how to plan an approach to an academic problem,
monitoring its progress, and assessing what was learned.
A major challenge in mediating learning is to determine when it
is appropriate to model by thinking aloud and when it is useful
to model by demonstrating. If a teacher is certain that students
have little experience with, say, a mathematical procedure, then
may be appropriate to demonstrate it before students engage in a
learning task. (This is not to say that the teacher assumes or
states that there is only one way to perform the procedure. It
is also important to allow for individual variations in
on the other hand, the teacher believes students can come up
with the procedure themselves, then he or she might elect to ask
the students to model how they solved the problem; alternatively
the teacher could give students hints or cues. (See below.)
Coach Coaching involves giving hints or cues, providing
feedback, redirecting students' efforts, and helping them use a
strategy. A major principle of coaching is to provide the right
amount of help when students need it--neither too much nor too
little so that
students retain as much responsibility as possible for their own
For example, a collaborative group of junior high students
worked on the economic development of several nations. They
accumulated a lot of information about the countries and decided
that the best way to present it was to compare the countries.
But they were stymied as to how to organize the information so
they could write about it in a paper, the product they chose to
produce. Their teacher hinted that they use a matrix--a graphic
organizer they had learned--to organize their information. When
the group finished the matrix, the teacher gave them feedback.
In so doing, he did not tell them it was right or wrong, but
asked questions that helped them verbalize their reasons for
completing the matrix as they did. The principle the teacher
followed was to coach enough so that students could continue to
learn by drawing on the ideas of other group members. Student
Roles in a Collaborative Classroom
Students also assume new roles in the collaborative classroom.
Their major roles are collaborator and active participator. It
is useful to think how these new roles influence the processes
and activities students conduct before, during, and after
example, before learning, students set goals and plan learning
tasks; during learning, they work together to accomplish tasks
and monitor their progress; and after learning, they assess
their performance and plan for future learning. As mediator, the
helps students fulfill their new roles.
Goal setting Students prepare for learning in many ways.
Especially important is goal setting, a critical process that
helps guide many other before-, during-, and and after-learning
activities. Although teachers still set goals for students, they
often provide students with choices. When students collaborate,
they should talk about their goals. For example, one teacher
asked students to set goals for a unit on garbage. In one group,
a student wanted to find out if garbage is a problem, another
wanted to know what
happens to garbage, a third wanted to know what is being done to
solve the problem of garbage. The fourth member could not think
of a goal, but agreed that the first three were important and
adopted them. These students became more actively involved in
the unit after their discussion about goals, and at the end of
the unit, could better evaluate whether they had attained them.
Designing Learning Tasks and Monitoring While teachers plan
general learning tasks, for example, to produce a product to
illustrate a concept, historical sequence, personal experience,
and so on, students assume much more responsibility in a
collaborative classroom for planning their own learning
activities. Ideally, these plans derive in part from goals
students set for themselves. Thoughtful planning by the teacher
ensures that students can work together to attain their own
goals and capitalize on their own abilities, knowledge, and
strategies within the parameters set by the teacher. Students
are more likely to engage in these tasks with more purpose and
interest than in traditional classrooms.
Self-regulated learning is important in collaborative
classrooms. Students learn to take responsibility for
monitoring, adjusting, self-questioning, and questioning each
other. Such self-regulating activities are critical for students
to learn today, and they are much better learned within a group
that shares responsibility for learning. Monitoring is checking
one's progress toward goals. Adjusting refers to changes
students make, based on monitoring, in what they are doing to
reach their goals. For example, a group of students decided that
the sources of information on the Civil War they selected
initially were not as useful as they had hoped, so they selected
new materials. Another group judged that the paper they had
planned to write would not accomplish what they thought it would
the way they had organized it, so they planned a new paper.
Students can further develop their self-regulating abilities
when each group shares its ideas with other groups and gets
feedback from them. For example, in the first video conference,
elementary students were shown collaborating in small groups to
represent math problems. Working in small groups, the children
determined what was being asked in story problems and thought of
ways to solve the problems. Then each group shared its ideas
with the whole class. Members of the class commented on the
ideas. As students developed problem-solving skills with
feedback from other groups, they learned more about regulating
their own learning which they could use in the future.
Assessment While teachers have assumed the primary
responsibility for assessing students' performance in the past,
collaborative classrooms view assessment much more broadly. That
is, a major goal is to guide students from the earliest school
years to evaluate their own learning. Thus, a new responsibility
is self-assessment, a capability that is fostered as students
assess group work.
Self-assessment is intimately related to ongoing monitoring of
one's progress toward achievement of learning goals. In a
collaborative classroom, assessment means more than just
assigning a grade. It means evaluating whether one has learned
what one intended to learn, the effectiveness of learning
strategies, the quality of products and decisions about which
products reflect one's best work, the usefulness of the
materials used in a task, and whether future learning is needed
and how that learning might be realized.
Collaborative classrooms are natural places in which to learn
self-assessment. And because decisions about materials and group
performance are shared, students feel more free to express
doubts, feelings of success, remaining questions, and
uncertainties than when they are evaluated only by a teacher.
Furthermore, the sense of cooperation (as opposed to
competition) that is fostered in collaborative work makes
assessment less threatening than in a more traditional
assessment situation. Ideally, students learn to evaluate their
own learning from their experiences with group evaluation.
Interactions in a Collaborative Classroom
The critical role of dialogue in collaborative classrooms has
been stressed throughout this Guidebook The collaborative
classroom is alive with two-way communication. A major mode of
communication is dialogue, which in a collaborative classroom is
thinking made public. A major goal for teachers is to maintain
this dialogue among students.
Consider examples of interactions in collaborative groups.
Members discuss their approaches to solving a math problem,
explain their reasoning, and defend their work. Hearing one
student's logic prompts the other students to consider an
interpretation. Students are thus challenged to re-examine their
own reasoning. When three students in a group ask a fourth
student to explain and support her ideas, that is, to make her
thinking public, she frequently examines and develops her
concepts for herself as she talks. When one student has an
insight about how to solve a difficult problem, the others in
the group learn how to use a new thinking strategy sooner than
if they had worked on their own. Thus, students engaged in
interaction often exceed what they can accomplish by working
Collaborative teachers maintain the same sort of high-level talk
and interaction when a whole class engages in discussion. They
avoid recitation, which consists primarily of reviewing,
drilling, and quizzing; i.e., asking questions to which the
answer is known by the teacher and there is only one right
answer. In true discussion, students talk to each other as well
as to the teacher, entertain a variety of points of view, and
grapple with questions that have no right or wrong answers.
Sometimes both students and the teacher change their minds about
an idea. In sum, interactions in whole group discussion mirror
what goes on in small groups.
Still a third way interactions differ in collaborative
classrooms has been suggested above. Teachers, in their new
roles as mediators, spend more time in true interactions with
students. They guide students' search for information and help
them share their own knowledge. They move from group to group,
modeling a learning strategy for one group, engaging in
discussion with another, giving feedback to still another.
Challenges and Conflicts
When teachers and schools move from traditional to collaborative
instruction, several important issues are likely to arise. They
are important concerns for teachers, administrators, and
Classroom Control Collaborative classrooms tend to be noisier
than traditional classrooms. This is a legitimate issue for a
number of people. Some teachers believe that noisy classrooms
indicate lack of discipline or teacher control. In such
argue, students cannot learn.
Earlier in this essay we stressed that collaborative classrooms
do not lack structure. Indeed, structure becomes critical.
Students need opportunities to move about, talk, ask questions,
and so on. Thus, we argue that the noise in a smoothly running
collaborative classroom indicates that active learning is going
on. However, students must be taught the parameters within which
they make their choices. Rules and standards must be stressed
from the beginning, probably before any collaboration is
initiated, and reviewed throughout a school year.
Preparation Time for Collaborative Learning Teachers and
administrators may believe that new lesson plans must be formed
for these classrooms. To a certain extent, they are correct. But
many teachers already have created engaging units and activities
that are easily implemented in a collaborative classroom.
Furthermore, teachers can begin slowly, making changes in one
subject area or
unit within a subject area, probably one they are already very
comfortable teaching, and then add other subjects and units.
Teachers can also share their plans with each other. Indeed, if
we expect students to collaborate, we should encourage teachers
to do the same! Principals and curriculum specialists can also
collaborate with teachers to plan effective segments of
instruction. Moreover, there is a tradeoff between the extra
planning time needed and benefits such as less time correcting
lessons, increased student motivation, and fewer attendance and
Individual Differences Among Students We have touched on this
concern in the section on heterogeneous grouping. Nevertheless,
many people will still doubt that individual differences can be
better addressed in collaborative classrooms than in traditional
classrooms with homogeneous grouping.
A major question people have concerns the advantage
collaboration affords gifted or high-achieving students. There
are two tough issues here. First, many teachers do not believe
that low-achieving students have much to contribute to the
learning situation; in
effect, that they have no prior experiences or knowledge of
value. Second, teachers worry that high-achieving students will
be held back.
In response to the first issue, many collaborative teachers have
expressed surprise when seemingly less-able students had
insights and ideas that went way beyond what teachers expected.
Further, if each student contributes something, the pool of
collective knowledge will indeed be rich. In answer to the
second concern, data suggest that high-achieving students gain
much from their exposure to diverse experiences and also from
peer tutoring (e.g., Johnson and Johnson, 1989). Also, students
who may be high achieving in one area may need help in other
Teachers and others also wonder whether shy students can fully
participate in a classroom that depends so much on dialogue. We
suggest that these students might feel more comfortable talking
in small groups that share responsibility for learning.
Furthermore, interaction between learners can happen in ways
other than oral dialogue, for example, writing and art.
A related concern is that many schools are structured
homogeneously so that an individual teacher cannot form
heterogeneous groups without involving changes in the entire
school. A whole class of "low" readers are taught by one
teacher, "average" by another. High school tracks are even more
systematically entrenched. Clearly, these practices are not
conducive to collaborative learning and require system-wide
restructuring. Individual teachers or groups of teachers can
initiate dialogue on the problem, however.
Individual Responsibility for Learning This concern is a
difficult one to solve unless major changes in other areas of
schooling are also undertaken. Students are used to being graded
for individual work; parents expect to know how their students
fare in school.
School staff and state departments depend on traditional
assessments. In collaborative classrooms, it is often difficult
to assign individual grades. Some teachers give group grades,
but many students and parents are uncomfortable with these.
Ideally, assessment practices should be changed so that they are
consistent with collaboration, with a new view of learning and
with a thinking curriculum. Video Conference 4 addresses recent
research and practice on assessment. In the meantime,
effective ways have been developed whereby individual students
can be evaluated in collaborative classrooms. For example, David
Johnson and Roger Johnson, as well as Robert Slavin, advise
making individuals responsible for subtasks in group work and
determining both group and individual grades.
Conflict of Values Susan Florio-Ruane has observed that many
teachers do not feel comfortable allowing students to initiate
dialogue, determine topics, or explore perspectives other than
the teacher's. This reluctance conflicts with the way effective
caregivers teach their children in the home. Florio-Ruane and
others, such as Annemarie Palincsar, have found that teachers
often have difficulty helping students construct meaning,
especially linking the new information to the prior knowledge
and culture of the
students. In part this is because many teachers believe that
their role is to transmit knowledge; in part it is because they
are held accountable for teaching discrete skills. In one
poignant example, a student teacher's concern for grammar and
prevented her from seeing the sophistication and meaning in what
the child was actually communicating in a book report.
The reluctance people feel when asked to make major changes in
the way they do things is clearly the most serious issue of
those discussed here. Hardly a person exists who eagerly gives
up familiar ways of behaving to attempt something that is
unknown and is likely to have many challenges of implementation.
This problem requires leadership, support, and time to address.
Staff development needs to address teachers' concerns. We urge
that educators first examine their assumptions about learning
and then consider new curriculum guidelines. There is an
relationship among one's definition of learning, one's view of
the content and scope of curricula, and instructional practices.
Examining one's assumptions honestly and forthrightly, in a
supportive group, often spurs educators to change. The
already-convinced must allow time for the less-convinced to
reflect and grapple with implications for the views expressed in
this Guidebook They must also accept the possibility that some
educators may not change. We are urging that students be treated
with such respect; we must urge the same respect for adults.
What Is the Research Base for Collaborative Learning? Vygotskian
, a developmental theorist and researcher who worked in
the 1920s and early '30s, has influenced some of the current
research of collaboration among students and teachers and on the
role of cultural learning and schooling. His principal premise
is that human beings are products not only of biology, but also
of their human cultures. Intellectual functioning is the product
of our social history, and language is the key mode by which we
learn our cultures and through which we organize our verbal
thinking and regulate our actions. Children learn such higher
functioning from interacting with the adults and other children
Inner Speech Children learn when they engage in activities and
dialogue with others, usually adults or more capable peers.
Children gradually internalize this dialogue so that it becomes
inner speech, the means by which they direct their own behavior
and thinking. For example, as adults use language such as, "That
piece does not fit there; let's try it someplace else," children
may initially just imitate this strategy. However, they
gradually use it to regulate their own behavior in a variety of
Eventually, this dialogue becomes internalized as inner speech.
There seems to be a general sequence in the development of
speech for oneself. When alone, very young children tend to talk
about what they have done after they complete an activity.
Later, they talk as they work. Finally, they talk to themselves
before they engage in an activity. Speech now has assumed a
planning function. Later they internalize this speech. Inner
speech--conversations we carry on with ourselves begins as a
social dialogue with other people and is a major mode of
learning, planning, and self-regulation.
Various experiments demonstrate this self-regulating function of
inner speech. Vygotsky reasoned that when people are asked to
solve difficult problems or to perform difficult tasks, inner
speech will go external, that is, take its more primitive form.
words, people frequently talk to themselves when they face a
problem. This externalization of inner speech is often observed
in children. When they engage in familiar, simple activities,
they usually do so without talk, but faced with difficult tasks,
they may whisper or talk out loud to themselves. Adults do this,
too. When they are faced with perplexing or unfamiliar tasks
such as figuring out how to work a VCR--they often talk
themselves through such tasks.
Vygotsky noted that children interacting toward a common goal
tend to regulate each other's actions. Other researchers (e.g.,
Forman & Cazden, 1986) have observed that when students work
together on complex tasks, they assist each other in much the
same way adults assist children. In such tasks, dialogue
consists of mutual regulation. Together, they can solve
difficult problems they cannot solve working independently.
Scaffolding and Development Effective caregivers engage in
regulating dialogue with children almost naturally. A key
phenomenon of such interactions is that caregivers maintain the
dialogue just above the level where children can perform
activities independently. As children learn, adults change the
nature of their dialogue so that they continue to support the
child but also give the child increasing responsibility for the
task (for example, the adult might say, "Now see if you can find
the next piece of the
puzzle yourself."). Jerome Bruner and his colleagues called this
scaffolding. It takes place within a child's zone of proximal
development, a level or range in which a child can perform a
task with help. (Piaget refers to this as "teachable moments"
when adults stretch a child's capacity, but stay within what
they are capable of understanding.)
The zone of proximal development, scaffolding, and dialogue are
especially useful concepts or frameworks for school learning.
Vygotsky observed that effective teachers plan and carry out
learning activities within children's zones of proximal
through dialogue and scaffolding. Florio-Ruane drew five maxims
from studies of caregiver-child interactions that illustrate
these points and should characterize school instruction.
1. Assume the child (learner) is competent
2. Know the child
3. Share an interest in the task at hand with the child
4. Follow the child's
5. Capitalize on uncertainty
Very few teachers have the luxury of teaching children on a
one-to-one basis. Fortunately, we now know that tutoring is not,
in fact, the only--or even the best--way for students to learn
in most situations. Dialogue, scaffolding, and working in one's
zone of proximal development can be accomplished in
collaborative classrooms, and are being accomplished in many
Connecting school learning to everyday life
provides us with a framework for thinking about an important
function of teaching and the multicultural perspective. His
research suggests that school learning enables students to
connect their "everyday concepts" to "scientific concepts." In
other words, schools help students draw generalizations and
construct meaning from their own experiences, knowledge, and
strategies. Knowledge learned in the community and knowledge
gained from school are both valuable. Neither can be ignored if
students are to engage in meaningful learning.
Effective teachers help students make these connections by
scaffolding and dialogue. In fact, these are the essence of
mediating. Teachers plan learning activities at points where
students are challenged. Teachers plan activities and
experiments that build on the language of students' everyday
lives through familiar examples and behaviors, analogies and
metaphors, and the use of commonly found materials. Teachers
demonstrate, do parts of the task students cannot do, work
collaboratively with students where they need help, and release
responsibility to students when they can perform the task
A number of researchers in recent years have demonstrated the
high degree of learning possible when students can collaborate
in learning tasks and when they use their own knowledge as a
foundation for school learning. While there are many that we
could cite, we have chosen three different perspectives here:
Luis Moll's work on teachers' use of successful cultural
patterns in Mexican-American families; Annemarie Palincsar's and
Anne Brown's work on scaffolding, dialogue, and reciprocal
teaching; and research on cooperative learning. Later we provide
additional research in content area examples.
Luis Moll Moll, an educator, and his colleagues in anthropology,
Carlos Velez-lbanez and James Greenberg, have studied
Mexican-American families who have survived successfully in
spite of debilitating circumstances such as poverty and
discrimination. Particular constellations of cultural
patterns--strategies if you will-- that value learning and the
transmission of knowledge to children distinguish these
families. Moll et al. argue that schools can draw on the social
and cognitive contributions that parents can make to their
children's academic learning.
Moll and his colleagues discovered that Mexican-American
households are clustered according to kinship ties and exchange
relationships. These clusters of households develop rich funds
of knowledge that provide information about practices and
resources useful in ensuring the well-being of the households.
Each household in the cluster is a place where expertise in a
particular domain can be accessed and used; examples of domains
include repair of vehicles and appliances, plumbing, knowledge
of education, herbal medicine, and first aid. Together, the
households form a cluster for the exchange of information and
resources. Often, everyone seems to congregate at one core
Families create settings in which children carry out the tasks
and chores in the multiple domains of clustered households. The
children's activities have important intellectual consequences.
They observe, question, and assist adults as various tasks are
done. For example, the son may indicate interest in fixing a car
by asking questions. The father takes his cue from the child and
then decides whether or not the child is capable of doing a
task; if not, he may suggest a task that the child can
accomplish. Even though the son's help may be minimal, such as
helping to put in screws or checking the oil, his participation
in the whole task is encouraged as an essential part of
learning. He is allowed to attempt tasks and to experiment
without fear of punishment if he fails. In such families,
learning and questioning are in the hands of the child.
With time children develop expertise as well. They have many
opportunities in the cluster of households to apply what they
have learned to tasks of their own design. For example, the son
may have a workplace where there are many "junk" engines that he
can manipulate and with which he can experiment. He may use what
he has learned in observing and assisting his father to rebuild
a small engine for a "go-cart" he is constructing.
Moll and his colleagues are exploring ways of using the
community to enrich children's academic development. To
accomplish this, teachers have developed an after-school
laboratory. One teacher created a module on constructing houses
which is a theme of great interest to the students in this
teacher's classroom and also one of the most prominent funds of
knowledge found in the students' households. The students
started by locating information on building or construction in
the library. As a result of their research, they built a model
house or other structure as homework and wrote reports
describing their research and explaining their construction. To
extend this activity, the teacher invited parents and other
community members who were experts to share information on
specific aspects of construction. For example, one parent
described his use of construction tools and how he measured the
area and perimeter of his work site. Thus, the teacher was
mobilizing the funds of knowledge in the community to achieve
the instructional goals that she and her students had negotiated
The students then took the module one step further. They wanted
to consider how they could combine these individual structures
to form a community. This task required both application of
their earlier learnings and considerable research. Students went
out to do research, wrote summaries of their findings, and
shared the results orally with others in the class. Thus,
students fulfilled their own interests and designed the learning
task, while the teacher facilitated and mediated the learning
process and fulfilled her
curricular goal of teaching language arts.
Palincsar and Brown Palincsar and Brown have applied Vygotsky's
theories about dialogue and scaffolding to classroom
instruction. They reasoned that if the natural dialogue that
occurs outside of school between a child and adult is so
powerful for promoting learning, it ought to promote learning in
school as well. In particular, they were interested in the
planning and self-regulation such dialogue might foster in
learners as well as the insights teachers might gain about their
students' thinking processes as they engage in learning tasks.
In addition, dialogue among students might be especially
encouraging collaborative problem solving.
Palincsar and Brown noted that, in contrast to effective
adult-child interactions outside of school, classroom talk does
not always encourage students to develop self-regulation. Thus,
a goal of their research was to find ways to make dialogue a
major mode of
interaction between teachers and students to encourage
Their classroom research revealed increased
classrooms where, subsequent to training, dialogue became a
natural activity. Within a joint dialogue, teachers modeled
thinking strategies effectively, apparently in part because
felt free to express uncertainty, ask questions, and share their
knowledge without fear of criticism. The students gave the
teachers clues, so to speak, as to the kind of learning they
were ready for. For example, one student interrupted her teacher
did not understand something the teacher was reading. The
teacher took this opportunity to model a clarifying strategy.
(It also would have been appropriate to have asked other
students to model the process.) In a number of classrooms,
students freely discussed what they knew about topics, thus
revealing persistent misconceptions. Such revelations do not
always happen in more traditional classrooms. Furthermore,
teachers helped students change their misconceptions through
One particular application was in reading comprehension for
students identified as poor readers. The researchers proposed
that poor readers have had impoverished experiences with reading
for meaning in school and concluded that they might learn
comprehension strategies through dialogue. To encourage joint
responsibility for dialogue, they asked students to take
increasing responsibility for leading discussion, i.e., to act
as the teacher. This turn-taking is called reciprocal teaching.
The four comprehension strategies that are stressed are:
predicting, question generating, summarizing, and clarifying.
The "teacher" leads dialogue about the text. Predicting
activates students' prior knowledge about the text and helps
them make connections between new information and what they
already know, and gives them a purpose for reading. Students
also learn to generate questions themselves rather than
responding only to teacher questions. Students collaborate to
accomplish summarizing, which encourages them to integrate what
they have learned. Clarifying promotes comprehension monitoring.
Students share their uncertainties about unfamiliar vocabulary,
confusing text passages, and difficult concepts.
Reciprocal teaching has been successful, but only when teachers
believe the underlying assumption that collaboration among
teachers and students to construct meaning, solve problems, and
so forth, leads to higher quality learning. Believing this is
beginning. Engaging in true dialogue requires practice for both
teachers and students. However, the principles of collaborative
dialogue and scaffolding for purposes of self-regulated learning
ought to be effective across many content areas. What may
of course, are the critical specific strategies for different
subject areas. For example, defining problems seems critical in
mathematics; judging the reliability of resources appears
important in social studies; and seeking empirical evidence is
essential in science. In fact, Palincsar is currently
investigating problem solving in science.
Cooperative Learning Cooperation, a form of collaboration, is
"working together to accomplish shared goals" (Johnson &
Johnson, 1989, p. 2). Whereas collaboration happens in both
small and large groups, cooperation refers primarily to small
groups of students working together. Many teachers and whole
schools are adopting cooperation as the primary structure for
Research strongly supports the advantages of cooperative
learning over competition and individualized learning in a wide
array of learning tasks. Compared to competitive or individual
work, cooperation leads to higher group and individual
achievement, higher-quality reasoning strategies, more frequent
transfer of these from the group to individual members, more
metacognition, and more new ideas and solutions to problems. In
addition, students working in cooperative groups tend to be more
intellectually curious, caring of others, and psychologically
healthy. That is not to say that competition and individual work
should not be valued and encouraged, however. For example,
competition is appropriate when there can be only one winner, as
in a sports event, and individualistic effort is appropriate
when the goal is personally beneficial and has no influence on
the goals of others.
Unfortunately, simply putting students in groups and letting
them go is not enough to attain the outcomes listed above.
Indeed, many teachers and schools have failed to implement
cooperation because they have not understood that cooperative
skills must be learned and practiced, especially since students
are used to working on their own in competition for grades. At
least three conditions must prevail, according to Johnson and
Johnson, if cooperation is to work. First, students must see
themselves as positively interdependent so that they take a
personal responsibility for working to achieve group goals.
Second, students must engage in considerable face-to-face
interaction in which they help each other, share resources, give
constructive feedback to each other, challenge other members'
reasoning and ideas, keep an open mind, act in a trustworthy
manner, and promote a feeling of safety to reduce anxiety of all
members. Heterogeneous groups of students usually accomplish
this second condition better than do homogeneous groups.
The third condition, effective group process skills, is
necessary for the first two to prevail. In fact, group skills
are never "mastered." Students continually need to reflect on
their interactions and evaluate their cooperative work. For
example, students need to learn skills both for accomplishing
tasks, such as summarizing and consensus taking, and for
maintaining group cohesiveness, such as ensuring that everyone
has a chance to speak and compromising.
Some people, such as Slavin, have developed specific cooperative
learning methods that emphasize individual responsibility for
group members. While groups still work to achieve common goals,
each member fulfills a particular role or accomplishes an
individual task. Teachers can then assess both group and
Difficult as it may be to implement cooperative learning, those
who have are enthusiastic. (See the example from Joliet West
High School in the next section.) They see improved learning,
more effective social skills, and higher self-esteem for most of
their students. In addition, they recognize that our changing
world demands more and more cooperation among individuals,
communities, and nations, and that they are indeed preparing
students for this world. What Are Other Examples of
Collaborative Instruction? The Kamehameha Early Education
Some teachers in Hawaiian classrooms, in cooperation with
researchers such as Katherine Au, have developed a way to teach
elementary reading, Experience-Text-Relationship (ETR), that
focuses on comprehension and draws on the strengths of the
Hawaiian culture. The basic element of the ETR method is
discussion of a text and topics related to the text, especially
students' own experiences.
Teachers conduct discussion of stories in three phases. First,
they guide students to activate what they know that will help
them understand what they read, make predictions, and set
purposes. This is the Experience phase. Next, they read the
story with the
students, stopping at appropriate points to discuss the story,
determine whether their predictions were confirmed, and so on.
This is the Text phase. After they have finished the story,
teachers guide students to relate ideas from a text to their own
This is the Relationship phase. Teachers facilitate
comprehension, model processes, and may coach students as they
engage in reading and comprehension activities.
Hawaiians engage in "talk story" as a favored way to narrate
stories. While some cultures expect only one person to relate a
story, Hawaiians cooperate by taking turns relating small parts
of a story. Encouraging such strategies in reading lessons
promotes collaboration among students and the teacher and
involves, indirectly, the community as well. (Cooperation among
family and group members is also important in other aspects of
the culture.) As a result, the ETR method not only attends to
students' experiences related to the content of a text, but also
honors communication strategies students have learned in their
Content Area Reading Harold Herber developed a set of teaching
strategies for content area reading for older students,
particularly high school students, in which teachers show
students how to comprehend text through simulation (modeling and
rather than asking recitation questions that merely assess
whether students have understood a text.
In addition, use of small, heterogeneous, collaborative groups
in content area reading increases students' involvement in
learning. They are more willing to take risks and to learn new
strategies and ideas from their peers. Teachers who use Herber's
report that all students seem to benefit from collaborative
work. They find that it is critical, however, to teach students
how to work in groups.
Process Writing The process writing approach we describe here
was developed in a rural school in New Hampshire under the
direction of Donald Graves. It has been incorporated in many
elementary school classrooms but is just as appropriate for
Process writing teachers who use Graves' approach make certain
assumptions about students and the writing process. One is that
students have worthwhile ideas to communicate in writing.
Another is that when students select their own topics they will
learn more about writing than if teachers always assign topics.
A third is that writing should be read by real audiences, that
is, that writing is constructing meaning by a community of
writers and readers.
Both teachers and students engage in writing as a craft.
Teachers' main functions are to facilitate, model, and coach.
Students dialogue with other students in conferences and as part
of an audience. The mode of interaction is collaboration among
students and the teacher.
Teachers fulfill their mediating roles in many ways. They
facilitate by providing time to write every day and by setting
standards with the students for conferencing, sharing, and being
an audience. They model by writing along with the students and
thinking aloud about how to solve problems writers encounter
such as selecting topics and making revisions. Coaching often
takes place in teacher-student conferences, and student-student
conferences mirror the teacher-student conference. Conferences
are conceptualized as dialogues between an editor and an author.
The "editor" might point out places where the author's writing
works especially well, or might point out a confusing passage
that the author could revise. Graves provides many practical
guidelines for, and examples of, successful conferencing.
Many important interactions are promoted in process writing.
Students work on their own, but also share their writing with
other students and the teacher. When a student decides to share
his or her work with the whole class, he or she is treated as a
real author. Questions that other students ask the student
author would be the same ones they might ask a "real" author;
for example, "Where did you get your idea for that story?" When
students feel a piece is finished, they publish it and place it
on the classroom shelves alongside books by their peers and
Finding Mathematical Patterns Mathematics is full of
opportunities for students to collaborate on tasks that require
complex thinking. Well-designed problems require interpretation,
allow for multiple solution strategies, and have solutions that
debated, extended, and generalized to other contexts. Thomas
Good and his colleagues at the University of Missouri-Columbia
have identified exemplary practices in small-group mathematics
As an illustration, they summarize a lesson developed by a
third-grade teacher. She began the lesson by asking the whole
class all the different ways of writing 3 as a sum (for example,
1 + 1 + 1, 2 + 1, 3 + 0). She wrote the responses on the board
and noted the number of possibilities. She then asked students
to work in pairs to identify all the ways to make sums of 4. The
teacher encouraged the students to confer and pool solutions to
determine whether they had found all possible solutions. Next
she asked small groups of students to consider the number 5.
Before the groups started, she asked them to predict how many
solutions there would be. With enthusiasm and excitement, the
groups competed to find the greatest number of solutions, and
much task-related conversation ensued. The teacher then led a
follow-up discussion, asking each group to describe the system
it had used to generate possible solutions. The class then
decided which system they thought was best.
The teacher then helped students look for patterns in the
numbers of solutions for 3, 4, and 5. Next, she asked them to
use their "best" system to generate all possible patterns for
the number 6. Again, she asked if a pattern was apparent and if
they could use it to predict solutions for the number 7. Several
suggestions were made, but no conclusions agreed on. She ended
by encouraging students to think more about this problem.
Application in Mathematics. As part of the University of Chicago
School Mathematics Project, a complete mathematics curriculum
has been developed for average students in grades 7-12.
Development of this curriculum, which began in 1983, is under
the direction of Zalman Usiskin and Sharon Senk, and has
involved school personnel at every stage of planning, writing,
and testing. The curriculum aims to prepare students for an age
in which mathematics has an integral role in contemporary
issues, communication, and commerce, as well as its traditional
role in science, engineering, and technology. Curricular content
focuses on using mathematics to solve real-world problems.
For example, instead of being asked to find a solution to an
abstract "problem" such as 400 divided by 11.3, students might
be asked, "Suppose a car goes 400 miles between gas fill-ups and
it takes 11.3 gallons to fill up the tank. What has been the
mileage per gallon?" In classes where this question is asked and
the answer (about 35.4 miles per gallon) is found, there are
natural questions such as: "Why is this number important?" "Is
this possible - do cars get this much mileage? If so, what cars
do?" "What is a good gas mileage these days?" "How much less gas
would be used on a 10,000-mile trip by a car averaging 35 miles
per gallon than a car averaging 25 miles per gallon? How much
less would it cost?"
This emphasis on using mathematics to solve real-world problems
forces the curriculum to make use of technology. The use of
technology--in this case, a calculator - enables the teacher and
students to be more efficient in using math to solve problems,
freeing up the time formerly spent in calculation for solving
additional problems relevant to students' lives. In the School
Mathematics Project, scientific calculators are required in all
courses because they are available to almost anyone who uses
mathematics in the world outside of school. Computer work is
recommended in all courses and is required in one advanced
course because the content--functions and statistics is not
covered adequately today unless one has automatic graphic and
data handling capabilities.
In these ways, instruction is changed not because of an a priori
decision to use collaborative groups or cooperative learning but
because the content and technology lend themselves to discussion
and teamwork. Students are usually not satisfied merely with a
right/wrong answer to an interesting problem; they wish to
discuss it, they want to share their methods of solution, and
they want to know whether others thought the same way. One of
the salient findings from the testing of this curriculum is that
students no longer ask, "How does this topic apply to the real
world?" or "Why am I studying this?"
In the algebra curriculum, Usiskin and Senk have included only
those "word problems" that show the importance of mathematics in
today's world. The curriculum developers point out the pitfalls
of problems such as the following, often found in algebra texts:
"Reversing the two digits in the cost of an item, a salesperson
overcharges a customer by 27 cents. If the sum of the digits was
15, what was the original cost of the item?" Such problems
violate two principles of application of mathematics. First,
they are reverse given-find, in that one has to know the answer
before one can make up the question. In the real world, one
would never solve a problem for which one already as solution.
Second, such problems are easier to solve with arithmetic than
algebra. Usiskin, Senk, and the teachers they work with believe
it is because of these two weaknesses that such "word problems"
are viewed with such antipathy that many students ask why they
are studying the subject. Mathematics, Usiskin, points out, has
been invented to do things more easily, not to make things more
The School Mathematics Project teaches algebraic concepts using
real-world problems. For example, linear equations are taught
with a wide variety of constant increase or constant decrease
problems, such as, "The population of the province of Quebec in
Canada was 6,398,000 in 1980. If the population is increasing by
40,000 people per year, find an equation relating the population
to the year." An example of a linear combination problem is: "If
you eat a quarter-pounder which has 80 calories per ounce, how
many 111-calorie French fries can you eat if you don't want your
lunch to exceed 500 calories?" An example involving data that
needs a line graph is: "Given the latitudes and mean April
temperatures of some cities in the northern hemisphere, find an
equation approximately relating latitude and temperature. Graph
this equation. Explain why the point for Mexico City falls far
from the line." Similar problems are used to teach other
concepts in algebra and other courses. The goal of the
curriculum developers is to show that it is important not only
to have skills, to see the relationships among mathematical
ideas, and to represent these ideas concretely or pictorially,
but also to see why mathematics is so important in so many ways
in today's world.
Joliet West High School, Joliet, IL Joliet is a community of
approximately 100,000 people diverse in terms of racial
background and income level. Whites, blacks, and Hispanics
reside in Joliet. It is home to families living in poverty as
well as families living in
affluence. In the mid-'80s, Joliet West High school had a high
failure rate (37 percent of the freshmen class failed one or
more classes) and a high rate of referrals for discipline
problems. Determined to equip students with knowledge and skills
both in school and out, the high school instituted a cooperative
learning program exemplifying collaborative instruction.
Basic to Joliet West High School's program are the TEAM
(Together Each Accomplishes More) Seminars in which all freshmen
participate daily. Seminars provide students with opportunities
to experience small-group, cooperative learning. While learning
problem-solving and decision-making skills, students, grouped
heterogeneously with regard to race, economic level, and
ability, begin to appreciate diverse cultures, attitudes, and
abilities. TEAM also involves the community: Local hospital
staff talk with freshmen about stress management and drug abuse
prevention; other community members introduce students to career
Aware that collaboration promotes learning in many settings,
Joliet West High School trains many of its content-area teachers
to make their classrooms communities of collaboration. In
English, history, foreign language, and industrial technology,
example, students collaborate in small groups or as an entire
classroom; they share prior knowledge, set learning goals,
monitor their progress, and share responsibility for results.
Heterogeneous grouping may team students from various
socioeconomic groups and students with varying experiential
backgrounds. Gifted students and former Special Education
students may collaborate. Classrooms are open communities where
all ideas are welcome; students challenge each other and share
positive criticism. Teachers offer positive reinforcement and
communicate successes to parents.
Collaborative techniques extend to discipline. Student groups,
trained in mediation and arbitration, counsel students who are
habitually tardy or disruptive.
Joliet's success is evident not only in academic performance,
but also in student attitudes, motivation, and self-esteem.
Since the program's inception three years ago, the number of
students earning grades in the A to C level has increased by 20
and there has been a significant reduction in the number of
failures among the academically at-risk group. Teacher comments
illustrate other types of gains: "I use it in auto technology.
Students change oil in triads: one picks up the tools, one puts
away, while one actually does the job. All watch and are
responsible that the job is done properly." "I find that there
seem to be fewer disciplinary referrals on the freshman level."
"In freshman seminar my students are forming their own groups to
major tests. They quiz each other. They enjoy working together
so much, they have even made up their own games and asked me to
be part of their group."
Student comments may be the most insightful: "I really like
sharing answers. I never shared answers before." "I really like
working in groups because you can bring your grade up." "While
working in groups there are no arguments. If you disagree with
someone you find a way to solve the problem." "I learned not to
argue and always help out and share ideas that you think of and
do not start fights." "Working with groups is fun because you
get to share your facts with someone else."
Beaupre Elementary School, Aurora, IL This school's student
population is approximately 44 percent Hispanic, 46 percent
black, 9 percent white, and 1 percent Asian. Most students are
members of low-income families. Just a few years ago, many
Aurora citizens had few expectations of Beaupre students. The
community regarded many students as little more than
troublemakers. School personnel were frustrated with their
students' lack of learning success, particularly in reading.
All that has changed. The program that made all the difference
is called Reading, Reading, Everywhere. Far more than a reading
program, it demonstrates how collaboration within the classroom,
the school, and the community can produce successful learners.
Rather than continuing to rely on homogeneous grouping and
entirely on basal readers, Beaupre adopted a whole-language
approach and collaborative learning. The curriculum provides
students with opportunities to read many types of literature by
authors from various cultural backgrounds, opportunities to
visit the public library, and diverse writing experiences. An
instructional technique known as K-W-L was introduced in
Teachers activate students' prior knowledge by asking them what
they already KNOW; then students (collaborating as a classroom
unit or within small groups) set goals specifying what they WANT
to learn; and, after reading, students discuss what they have
LEARNED. Students apply higher-order thinking strategies which
help them construct meaning from what they read and help them
monitor progress toward their goals.
At Beaupre, students often work in cooperative group~ in which
each student has a specific responsibility--to complete a
product such as a story map. Fifth- and sixth-grade teachers
have seen how effectively peer influence regulates behavior when
group members must cooperate to complete a science experiment or
other type of assignment.
Beaupre has gained respect in the community by utilizing the
talents of community members to further stimulate learning.
Among the numerous collaborative efforts are: visits to senior
centers where youngsters and senior citizens read to each other;
visits to early education centers where Beaupre students share
their knowledge with the toddlers; a homework lab operated by
teenagers and seniors from a local church; and an Urban League
tutoring program operated by parents and high school students. A
program exemplifying collaboration as well as a whole-language
approach is the school's Read Aloud program. Students in each
classroom write to community members inviting them to be the
"community reader" for the day. Community members of various
ethnic groups and occupations have accepted invitations and
serve as role models for the students.
In addition to heightened involvement and respect from parents
and the community at large, Beaupre has observed improvement in
students' reading habits and abilities: after-school reading was
up 20 percent; the number of students holding library cards
increased by 28 percent; newspaper readership by students
increased significantly. On state reading comprehension and
vocabulary assessments, the school rose from last in the school
district to first in the county; the percent of students in the
bottom quartile on standardized tests for grade 1-6 decreased
from 80 percent to 22 percent; and overall reading scores of
at-risk students tutored through the Urban League Project
increased 34 percent. In fact, 5 of 15 students moved out of the
Redwood Falls High School, Redwood Falls, MN Redwood Falls, a
community of 5,000 people, is rapidly changing. What was once a
very stable community is now characterized by instability: Many
farmers found it necessary to leave the area, others remained
and took low income jobs, and a number of new people are moving
into the area. The range of income levels is wider now than when
agriculture was the main enterprise.
These changes have created a lack of cohesiveness and feelings
of insecurity in the community. High school students,
especially, fear for their future and wonder if they will find
jobs. The town's limited manufacturing enterprises, retail
remaining farms cannot provide employment for all the town's
youth. Most will probably seek jobs in small cities nearby.
To address these problems, in the late 1980s the school system
applied to the American Forum in the late 1980s and was awarded
a five-year Education 2000 grant. Education 2000 funds enable
communities to restructure schools so that students are prepared
for a changing society. To accomplish this aim, the entire
Redwood Falls community collaborated to set goals and develop a
These efforts have led to many positive changes. People began
regarding the schools as the center of intellectual life for the
community at large. Early childhood, family education, and
university level adult education courses are among those
available to everyone in the community.
Curriculum and instruction have also changed. Instruction is
much more collaborative, and curriculum focuses more on higher
order thinking skills needed for success in school and in life.
Teachers tap students' prior knowledge and help students "learn
how to learn," through collaborative problem solving and
decision making. When students need information, they ask an
"expert" classmate or contact a community expert. Students
develop their own tools to "test" how well they have learned.
The curriculum has also become more interdisciplinary and builds
on the multicultural resources in the community (Native
Americans, Swedes, and Norwegians).
In Larry Gavin's high school English class, for example,
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When students write narrative, they consult Dakota Indian
students who are skillful in writing narrative because in their
culture, nothing is an "event" until someone tells a story about
it. When studying about conflicts on the Great Plains in the
1800s between Native American and white groups, students heard
representatives of both groups present their point of view.
Gavin, the drama teacher, and the music teacher collaborated to
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Learning Mediated Through Dialogue. This videotape was developed
and copyrighted by NCREL (1990).
Incorporating Community Knowledge in Schools. This videotape was
developed and copyrighted by NCREL (1990).
Applications in Mathematics. This videotape was developed and
copyrighted by NCREL (1990).