Cooperative Thinking Strategies

Standards-based reforms in many states are emphasizing the idea that students should learn higher order thinking skills and teamwork; however, teachers are often not prepared to teach these skills. Furthermore, research has shown that students with disabilities who have been included in general education classes are often ridiculed or ignored during cooperative learning activities, the very activities teachers often use to teach teamwork. To provide educators with instructional options to meet these standards, research studies were conducted to develop and validate methods for teaching students in inclusive general education classrooms to use Cooperative Thinking Strategies successfully. The Cooperative Thinking Strategies are a group of strategies students can use to think and work productively together. Before learning these strategies, students first learn specific social skills to help them be positive, productive members of a team. Then they learn Cooperative Thinking Strategies to organize and effectively complete different types of academic activities. These instructional programs provide ways to accommodate a diversity of learners in inclusive classrooms and enable students to learn complex higher-order thinking skills that they can use to work together harmoniously with others in school, leisure, family, community, and work settings.

The SCORE Skills: Social Skills for Cooperative Groups

(Vernon, Schumaker, & Deshler, 1996)

The SCORE Skills program describes the procedures for teaching a set of social skills that are fundamental to effective cooperative groups and to building a learning community. As the first manual in the Cooperative Thinking Strategies Series, this program is designed to help teachers acquaint their students with the concept of “social skills,” as well as to provide instruction in five important skills that are prerequisites to the more complex cooperative thinking strategies presented in the remained of the series. The five social skills are: Share Ideas, Compliment Others, Offer Help or Encouragement, Recommend Changes Nicely, and Exercise Self-Control. The first letters of the names of the skills spell the acronym “SCORE,” that is used throughout the Cooperative Thinking Strategies program to help students remember and use the SCORE Skills. The skills provide the foundation for students to work together in the classroom as co-workers or teammates in a pleasant, cooperative, and effective manner while building a successful learning community. The skills are easy to use and are not limited to interactions in groups. Instead, they are skills that, with practice, can be used to establish and maintain good relationships with others in most everyday situations. A professional development multimedia CD for teachers is also available as a supplement to the SCORE Skills program.

The THINK Strategy: Solving Complex Problems as a Team

(Vernon, Deshler, & Schumaker, 1999)

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Students use the THINK Strategy as they work together in a team to systematically solve problems in different content areas (e.g., science, literature, history). As part of the instruction in the THINK Strategy, students practice the SCORE Skills and learn how to analyze and identify a problem, examine what’s been done in the past, brainstorm new solutions, discuss advantages and disadvantages of new solutions, choose the best solution (or combination of solutions), devise a plan to implement the chosen solution, and process how the group worked together. Several problem situations are included to be used as the basis for initial practice of the steps of the strategy. Once students master the strategy, teachers are encouraged to create problem situations that are especially relevant to their students. A professional development multimedia CD for teachers is also available as a supplement to the THINK Strategy program.

The LEARN Strategy

(Vernon, Schumaker, & Deshler, 1999)

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The LEARN Strategy enables students to work in teams to study and learn information together. As they apply the strategy, students practice the SCORE Skills and group the key information into a pattern (such as a list), develop a mnemonic device to remember the information, study and learn the information with team members by using coaching/learner skills, and process how the team worked together. Each step of the strategy promotes creative cooperation; that is, students think together to generate ideas to help them learn. Individual ideas become available to the group to manipulate, test, and use to maximize and enhance the performance of all members of the group in remembering critical information. A professional development multimedia CD for teachers is also available as a supplement to the LEARN Strategy program.

The BUILD Strategy

(Vernon, Schumaker, & Deshler, 1999)

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Students use the BUILD Strategy as they work together to resolve a controversial issue (such as whether a law banning cigarettes in the United States should be passed) using a process similar to debate. As students use each steps of the strategy, they practice the SCORE Skills and examine an issue and define the opposing side, gather information about both sides of the issue, understand the consequences of potential decisions, identify possible compromises, review the facts, make a decision, conduct a team vote, and process how the team worked together. As they examine the perspective related to each side of the controversy, they develop, clarify, and expand the advantages and disadvantages of the sides and brainstorm whether or not a compromise to the issue is feasible. They have the opportunity to categorize and organize information from different perspectives, conceptually reorganize and evaluate rationales for the positions to enhance their understanding of each position, and reassess their original views. A professional development multimedia CD for teachers is also available as a supplement to the BUILD Strategy program.