The school district was a suburban school district in Maryland. There were five of the schools in the district that participated in this study resulting in 45 classrooms containing 1012 students. The students represented the 2nd through the 6th grades. The student populations of each school ranged from 4% to 15% minority students (mean = 7.3%), and from 2% to 20% disadvantaged students (mean = 10.2%). The schools were all located in predominately working-class neighborhoods. Approximately 9.3% of the five schools' student populations were identified as learning disabled, ranging from 7% to 12% in each school.
Other than analysis on the special education subsample (40 intervention, and 36 comparison students), the authors do not report sample characteristics by condition, however they do report ranges. Schools ranged between 4%-15% (M = 7.3%) minority, 2%-20% (M = 10.2%) free/reduced price lunch, and 7%-12% learning disabled.
The cooperative elementary school intervention had 6 elements: 1) widespread use of cooperative learning in the classroom, 2) mainstreaming learning disabled students, 3) teacher peer coaching, 4) teacher collaboration in instructional planning, 5) teacher and principal collaboration on school planning and decision making, and 6) teacher and principal encouragement of active involvement of parents. By March of the first year, all of the curricular elements were in place. Teachers were trained on using cooperative learning with particular focus on Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition (CIRC) and Team Assisted Individualization-Mathematics (TAI). Both of these methods use heterogeneous learning teams. Teachers were also trained in Jigsaw II, Teams-Games-Tournaments (TGT), and Student Teams Achievement Division (STAD). Teachers were given a explanation of the processes and rationale behind each program as well as a detailed manual on how to use the program. Training began in August with additional training taking place every 2 months. The first training focused on CIRC. Learning disabled students received all instruction in the regular classroom though during reading and/or math the special education teacher would team teach with the regular classroom teacher using CIRC or TAI. Often the classroom teacher provided the initial instruction and then the special education teacher provided follow-up and extension. Only about 60% of classes had implemented mainstreaming in the first year. Teachers were given opportunities to visit other teachers' classes, and provide support and feedback. Once teachers successfully implemented cooperative learning in their classrooms, they served as peer coaches for teachers who were less experienced in cooperative learning. Principals often offered to teach classes for coaches so that they can observe other classrooms.
Teachers were given time for common planning in grade-level meetings. This allowed teachers to collaborate on using strategies, instructional content, and activities to implement the intervention. A building steering committee (made up of the principal, representatives from each grade level, special services, and other faculty members that met twice a month) was also created to develop collaboration between administration and teachers.
Schools encouraged parent involvement by keeping parents informed about the intervention and its aims (including school expectations of parental involvement) through PTA meetings, the school newsletter, and teacher-parent conferences; and encouraging parents to monitor students' educational progress.
Comparison schools continued using their standard methods and curriculum. While group work was used in these classes, it was not used as regularly and was not as structured as what was used in the intervention classrooms. The comparison schools also did not integrate the other elements of the intervention but they did have a school improvement team of administrators and faculty that met two times a semester. In reading, they used a basal series with workbooks, worksheets, and teacher-prepared materials as well as two or three novels. Teachers used ability-based reading groups. In language arts, teachers typically used whole-class instruction and a published language arts series as well as teacher-prepared materials and activities. In mathematics, teachers used a districtwide mathematics text and typically used whole-class instruction with follow-up activities.
Support for implementation
Teachers in the intervention condition were given training, materials, follow-up, and assistance to use the Johns Hopkins cooperative learning models including TAI, CIRC, TGT, Jigsaw II, and STAD. Teachers were given a explanation of the processes and rationale behind each program as well as a detailed manual on how to use the program. After training, researchers observed teachers in their classrooms and gave teachers feedback on implementation. Teacher coaches also gave peers feedback on their implementation.