Thursday, October 6, 2011

Connectivism and Social Learning in Practice

After reading the chapter in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works book I discovered some great examples to use in my science classroom when it comes to grouping, but also found many ways in which, “Cooperative Learning” shares common themes with the social learning theory (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).
Dr. Orey discusses the strategy called “Jigsaw” where students are randomly grouped for a cooperative learning experience (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011).  In the chapter on cooperative learning one of the generalizations states, “Organizing groups based on ability levels should be done sparingly” and with the strategy of jigsaw this helps alleviate the ability grouping each time (Pitler et al., 2007).  Another generalization states, “Cooperative learning groups should be rather small in size,” this is important to the social learning theory because with this theory the students each need to have a say and feel like they are involved with creating the artifact (Pitler et al., 2007). When groups get too big there are more opportunities for students’ voices to get lost and students lose the benefit of working with others. One way in which I use cooperative learning and also tap into the social learning theory is with expert groups in my classroom.  We have four kids in each of our six table groups. I call each of the number ones back separately, all the number twos, all the number threes and finally all the number fours. Each number gets taught by me about a certain subject. In this unit I am doing right now it is ecosystems. My number ones come back and learn about pond ecosystems, number twos about river ecosystems, number threes about the steppe ecosystem and number fours become an expert on the Blue Mountain ecosystem. These students then go back and teach the rest of their group members. Finally, as a class we all come together and I randomly pick students to give me an answer that will fill in the table I have up on the wall. I can call on any student and they get points for a right answer to fill in the table so this makes it so everyone at the table is held accountable. This strategy is very useful because all my students are ELL and they really need that practice to just use the English language. It is also beneficial for the students because they get to interact with each other and they can ask their “expert” if they have questions on the topic.           
In order to really take these expert groups and turn them into a real cooperative learning experience I could create a rubric for the students to grade themselves at the end of the unit. The rubric, like it states in Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, would have to include how the students felt they worked as a team (Pitler et al., 2007). This would rubric would really help keep the students focused on how they were being graded, what was expected of them and how to be a successful member of a team, a very important 21st century skill.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom
instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. I think you have addressed the issue of connectivism and social learning theory in its entirety. You have demonstrated understanding of the theory and how it should be applied in today’s classroom. You have managed to discuss the theory applying today’s teaching practices and material to the theory.
    I agree with you and text that the jigsaw grouping can be very effective for students to demonstrate understanding of content. Peer teaching is also a good way for teachers to evaluate students understanding and for students to demonstrate application of knowledge.

    I am also not in favor of big groups because in some cases talents might be lost in large group setting and depending on student's personality they might not feel inclined to work. When groups are too large students might also be inclined to waste time.
    It is good when we can implement things in out classroom that will help our ELL students become a part of the system with little stress.

  2. I think you have done a great job at giving a real life example of the jigsaw strategy. I think it is great that you are teaching these groups different information and having they relay it back to each other. I am glad that this is working for you. Do you ever have students who do not participate because they just do not want to or will not? How do you handle this with students with IEP's? I teach woodshop and 2 years ago i had a group of students where 3 or the 4 had IEP's. It was very difficult for me to check on each group just because this particular group was in need of assistance all of the time. This is quite a skill building activity and i bet your students really enjoy it!

  3. I do believe that small groups are more effective in social learning. I put my student in pairs and no more that 4 people in a group. I feel the bigger the group the less students learn. It gives more opportunities for off task behavior. I have never done the jigsaw grouping and would like to try it. I have a few questions about time management. How many days does this activity last? I have tried station teaching and once students become in engaged its time to change. Are the other student conducting research and discussing the subject matter with their number members? Overall, I think jigsaw grouping will be excellent for me to get students actively involved in the lesson.
    Alicia R

  4. I agree with you when the groups are too large then students will start to waste time. The smaller the group the more on task students will remain.

  5. To Ben:

    For children with IEPs or in my case I also deal a lot with ELL students I do more scaffolding with them when I am teaching them the information. In this case I would use a lot more pictures to explain the ecosystems to the students. There is also a space under the information that I present to the students where they can jot down notes and draw their own pictures so that they can remember the information better to teach it to their group members.

  6. To Alicia:

    While I have one of the groups pulled back working with me I would have the other students working on a project of some sort. For this unit the students are creating their own food webs with cardstock and yarn to show what animals eat other animals. This activity takes about a week to get through all the groups and then the next couple of days I would play the game where the groups have to fill in the in the information on my big process grid.