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Separate cooperative and basic skills education

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Cooperative learning first gained traction as an instructional method in the 1970s and was widely implemented in K-12 classrooms by the 1990s. It is based on the premise that collaborative participation creates an enhanced learning experience. Proponents of this teaching strategy site improved student communication, heightened oral skill development, more advanced learning, and enhanced student responsibility.

Cooperative learning, however, is not without challenges. One of the biggest obstacles to effective cooperative learning is a negative group dynamic. Conflicts between individuals can reduce a group’s ability to work together and problems are magnified when members are too immature to adequately resolve conflicts. To make matters more challenging, personality mismatches can stall learning even when no overt conflicts are present. In addition, assertive students often move into leadership roles even when they are not best suited to direct a project.

Beyond personality issues, cooperative learning can also result in uneven workloads. When this type of learning is working efficiently, students support and inspire one another. Everyone has a similar workload and everyone learns. In many instances, however, more advanced students take over projects rather than spending extra time to help struggling students. In addition, unmotivated students often rely on more conscientious team members to complete required work. The result is not only an uneven workload but also uneven learning that leaves struggling students behind, permits lazy students to slide by, and allows more advanced students to stagnate.

Also, student evaluations for group assignments are challenging. It is often impossible to evaluate group members individually. This can result in all group members receiving the same grade regardless of how much they participated and contributed. In addition to artificially high or low marks, it is difficult to determine gaps in student understanding. This proficiency issue is particularly problematic in subjects like math, science, grammar, and writing where learning is cumulative.

It is not that the skills associated with cooperative learning are not important, but that the academic classroom may not be the best place to teach these skills. Instead of compromising basic learning in science, language arts, math, history, and foreign language we should consider using electives for collaborative activities. In addition, we should give students credit for sports, theater, makerspace (cooperative technical and art gatherings), and other group activities that occur after school hours. This approach would provide kids with an opportunity to build both basic educational and soft skills that are critical for success later in life.

Ready To Be Counted: Why Non-Cognitive Skills Must be Incorporated into Ed Policy, Practice

Real Clear Education – Chris Gabrieli

“The enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act reinvigorates a discussion as old as education itself – what skills do schools need to foster to enable students to succeed in life?…An objective look at the research on the keys to success aligns with the intuition of nearly every teacher, parent and employer: there are interpersonal skills (such as the ability to collaborate well) and intrapersonal skills (such as the conscientiousness and self-control required to work diligently) that are vital complements to academic skills such as math, literacy and science. This is not arguing that academic skills are not crucial as well; non-cognitive skills are both vital complements and contributors to those academic skills.”(more)

China cuts tax to boost innovation

China Daily- XINHUA

“BEIJING — China cuts more than 300 billion yuan ($46.15 billion) of taxes in 2015 to boost mass entrepreneurship and innovation, according to official data.
Among this, tax exemptions and breaks on small enterprises reached 100 billion yuan and tax cuts designed to encourage high technology development totaled 140 billion yuan, according to the State Administration of Taxation.”(more)

Creative new teaching method brings ‘hero moments’ to students in south-west Sydney

NEWS- Nick Dole

“A new teaching method being trialled in New South Wales, which incorporates games and physical theatre, is allowing each student a chance to shine.High school teacher Catherine Myers said she used to dread her Monday morning science class.For the past 10 weeks she has been part of a trial involving a new teaching method, which involves students spending less time reading and writing, and more time on their feet.”They’re doing it through theatre, through games, through play rather than books and writing,” she said.She said there had been a “monumental” improvement in results.”(more)

Beijing promotes low-paid college grads to startup CEOs

REUTERS- PETE SWEENEY

“That attitude finds an echo in high places; recent graduates who start their own businesses are being hailed in state media as a new creative class that will build China’s Silicon Valley.”Creatives show the vitality of entrepreneurship and innovation among the people, and such creativity will serve as a lasting engine of China’s economic growth,” Premier Li Keqiang said in January. “I will stoke the fire of innovation with more wood.””(more)

Tenth Grade Foreign Language Immersion Student makes Perfect Score on SAT Math

Outside the Box – Christy Johnson

Juliann

Amelia Talkington, a Renascence School International tenth grader, obtained a perfect score (800) on the math part of the December 2015 SAT test, the standardized test that is used for admission to U.S. colleges and universities. Amelia is nearly trilingual, having studied math and science in Chinese and language arts in English, Chinese, and Spanish since she was in kindergarten. She is interested in art, engineering, and business and has been a guest researcher at the University of Arizona Plant Science Laboratory and is a marketing intern with an Ecuadorian foundation. In addition, she is a record holding club and high school swimmer who placed third in the 100 yard freestyle at the Florida 2A State High School Swim Meet and received All American consideration. She also plays varsity high school soccer and will be joining an Elite Club National League soccer team in the spring.