Last week I described the self-esteem benefits that surfaced when I presented the Thrively strength assessment results to my students in groups rather than individually. During these conversations another powerful benefit of using Thrively in the classroom emerged—improved group functioning.
When children work together on an academic activity, teachers, of course, want each group to complete the task successfully and produce quality work. The primary goals of cooperative learning, however, have less to do with the final products the kids create and more to do with the development of important habits of character that will serve students well throughout their lives. For example, when members of a group work together, we want the students to treat one another with kindness and respect, be open to the ideas of others, solve disagreements peaceably, maintain their focus without straying off task, and take pride in the final product the group produces. These are extremely valuable life skills.
Thrively helps take cooperative learning to an even higher level. Now, in addition to focusing on important habits of character, students can use the information from the strength assessment results to determine how each member is able to contribute most effectively to the team's efforts. My favorite example of this phenomenon happened when one student noticed that his write-up described him as a strong "big picture" thinker while his partner's mentioned a keen ability to pay attention to detail. In a really cool "aha" moment, the first child said, "Hey, when we start our project, I can try to think of the big ideas, and he can help with the details."
Children who display the habits of character that cooperative learning requires and possess the ability to analyze each group member's strengths to determine how everyone can contribute fully to the team will become our leaders of tomorrow. Bringing this mindset to cooperative learning will empower students to maximize both individual and team potential. Strength-based cooperative learning will also provide children with experiences that more closely resemble the type of work they will do as they progress through school and enter our 21st century economy.