Background: This paper will discuss how to use cooperative learning and its benefits in the middle school. Most of the research presented here is in the area of mathematics, although cooperative learning works in any subject. The use of cooperative learning as an instructional strategy is on the rise. Currently, about 62% of middle school teachers use it (Leonard, 2000). I chose cooperative learning as a topic so I can learn to make effective use of it in the classroom, specifically with mathematics, which is my subject area. Cooperative learning is very powerful and can help students to grow in many ways: academically, socially and emotionally (Schniedewind, 2000).

It can personalize the student's learning and teach them to collaborate. It also teaches individual accountability and use of small group skills. Other benefits are improved cognition, time on task, long-term retention and positive relationships between students and teachers (Tomlinson et al. , 1997). Review and Applications: When setting up cooperative learning, group composition is an important factor. Teachers must carefully decide which students will work best together to get the maximum of student interaction.

Mulryan (1995) reported research that showed that switching up the mix of students on a regular basis will foster much higher participation. Webb (1991) found that mixing ability and forming heterogeneous groups will also stimulate interaction. Within heterogeneous groups the teacher can differentiate tasks by complexity, adding options and planning peer tutoring. For example, a teacher can give a reading assignment to a group of four, but have the students able to comprehend more read the most challenging sections. Other students read sections that appropriately challenge them. Students share findings with each other and are told that each person's findings are important to the whole (Schiniedewind, 2000).

This is similar to the Gestalt idea presented in Wolf folk. To make this approach work, the teacher must first have a discussion on differing academic levels so students don't get hung up on who is contributing the most. All contributions matter. Working together in this Gel salt fashion can be even more effective if the students apply it to a real-world activity.

Schiniedewind (2000) did research on 95 middle school math students involved in a hands-on project. They group in fours of varying ability and asked to build a physical structure, 18 to 21. 5 centimeters tall, that would hold the weight of at least one textbook. Each student took on a different task: recorder, reporter, budget analyst, and construction engineer. It was found that by having a real activity to do the students were more motivated to learn and understand the math that was needed to solve the problem. I can see applying a "real-world" problem like this in my own class.

Another study on cooperative learning found that it encourages group interaction when you have assigned roles (Benero, 2000). Each member in Benero's study shared the responsibility with the group for getting the work produced in a math class. Groups took part in evaluating their work both collectively and individually. The results showed that the cooperative learning did generated more interest in math and made it more enjoyable for the teacher and the student. The students improved academically, socially and in their self-esteem.

Having the assigned roles caused the students to have a sense of responsibility toward the team. Benero also found that noise level could be improved in cooperative learning by having an assigned "monitor" job within the group. This student is responsible for making sure the team doesn't get too loud during the activity. I plan to apply this monitor technique within my own class. Teachers should also plan peer tutoring that challenges both the tutor and the tutee. This can be applied by having math students learn new division algorithms by working together; tutors can be challenged to figure why an algorithm works, not just how.

Then the tutor can explain this to the tutee. Both benefit from the process (Schiniedewind, 2000). Schiniedewind (2000) found that options for enrichment can also work well. Students at Onterora Junior-Senior School in Boiceville, New York, were given the option to write a new scene for a historical play about life in the 13 colonies. The students were encouraged to look for insight into a character's motivations, struggles and achievements. After they wrote the scene, the student's could present it.

The interesting thing was that many students chose to do this, including those that were not typically high achievers. This type of enrichment approach could also be applied to mathematics. More on application: I believe that all students can benefit from the social skills taught in cooperative education. These are the skills that the kids will need to work with each other throughout their lives. As an expert teacher and a model, I plan to show my students how to successfully use peer tutoring in mathematics, so they can apply this crossover skill in the real world. I will explain to them, as the research suggests, that when we tutor each other it is important that we criticize only ideas and approaches, but not each other.

This is behavior that can easily be modeled with an example. Peer tutoring can sometimes be more difficult to apply in a subject like math, especially when some students come to the answers quite quickly. One way that I will overcome this is to give the accelerated students a chance to explore a math question and then explain their findings to the class the next day (Schiniedewind, 2000). This will let them practice the difficult skill of explaining a concept, and keep them interested at the same time. All of the skills learned from peer tutoring will help my students for years to come. Bibliography Webb, N.

M. (1991). Small group interaction and learning. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 22 (5), 366-389. Mulryan, C.

M. (1995). Fifth- and sixth-graders' involvement and participation in cooperative small groups in mathematics. The Elementary School Journal, 95 (4), 297- 310.

Tomlinson, C. A. , Moon, T. R. , & Callahan, C.

M. (1997). Use of cooperative learning at the middle level: Insights from a national survey. Research in Middle Level Education Quarterly, 37-55. Schniedewind, Nancy (2000) Differentiating Cooperative Learning.

Educational Leadership, pp. 24-27. Leonard, Jacqueline; McElroy, Keith. (2000) Journal of Research in Childhood Education v. 14 no 2 (Spring/Summer 2000) p. 239-45 Benero, Jacqueline (2000) Motivating Students in Math Using Cooperative Learning.

U. S. ; Illionis; 27 p. Bibliography Webb, N. M. (1991).

Small group interaction and learning. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 22 (5), 366-389. Mulryan, C. M.

(1995). Fifth- and sixth-graders' involvement and participation in cooperative small groups in mathematics. The Elementary School Journal, 95 (4), 297- 310. Tomlinson, C. A. , Moon, T.

R. , & Callahan, C. M. (1997). Use of cooperative learning at the middle level: Insights from a national survey. Research in Middle Level Education Quarterly, 37-55.

Schniedewind, Nancy (2000) Differentiating Cooperative Learning. Educational Leadership, pp. 24-27. Leonard, Jacqueline; McElroy, Keith.

(2000) Journal of Research in Childhood Education v. 14 no 2 (Spring/Summer 2000) p. 239-45 Benero, Jacqueline (2000) Motivating Students in Math Using Cooperative Learning. U. S.

; Illionis; 27 p.