The Essential Elements of Cooperative Learning in the Classroom. ERIC Digest. I have been a big fan of cooperative (active) learning ever since I sat through my first workshop with cooperative learning guru Karl Smith 8 years ago. I have tried many cooperative learning elements in my classes teaching students library skills with great success. (And a few failures too...) The blogged site of the day has a good overview of cooperative learning.
From the site:
"Over the past decade, cooperative learning has emerged as the leading new approach to classroom instruction. One important reason for its advocacy is that numerous research studies in K-12 classrooms, in very diverse school settings and across a wide range of content areas, have revealed that students completing cooperative learning group tasks tend to have higher academic test scores, higher self-esteem, greater numbers of positive social skills, fewer stereotypes of individuals of other races or ethnic groups, and greater comprehension of the content and skills they are studying (Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec 1993; Slavin 1991; Stahl and VanSickle 1992). Furthermore, the perspective of students working as "academic loners" in classrooms is very different from that of students working cooperatively and collaboratively in and as "cooperative learning academic teams" (see the chapter by Stahl in Stahl and VanSickle 1992)."
"Even with its increasing popularity, a large majority of the group tasks that teachers use, even teachers who claim to be using "cooperative learning," continue to be cooperative group tasks-not cooperative learning group tasks. For instance, nearly all "jigsaw" activities are not cooperative learning jigsaw activities. Merely because students work in small groups does not mean that they are cooperating to ensure their own learning and the learning of all others in their group (Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec 1993). This emphasis on academic learning success for each individual and all members of the group is one feature that separates cooperative learning groups from other group tasks (Slavin 1990)." Full article at http://www.ericdigests.org/1995-1/elements.htm.