While hosting a support group for Western Carolina University faculty on cooperative learning, Maurice Phipps, a parks and recreation management professor now in phased retirement, noticed a lot of faculty were putting students into groups to do projects, but faculty really didn’t understand what cooperative learning was.
After brainstorming with faculty members on what worked and what didn’t work, Phipps discovered two elements of cooperative learning that they were missing were group skills and group processing. Phipps said it’s because most faculty members aren’t trained in those areas.
So he and his wife, Cindy Phipps, a school psychologist in Sylva, wrote a book, “The Group Book: Effective Skills for Cooperative Groups.” The book has been used in WCU parks and recreation management classes for years, but was recently published for others to use, Phipps said.
“My wife and I felt we needed to produce something that professors could use with the students to help that process,” Phipps said. “There are group dynamic books out there, but they’re thick. What they needed was something doable that could help their groups to become functional.”
Phipps’ book is a 65-page workbook that teaches concepts, skills and tactics related to cooperative groups. It also consists of several exercises and worksheets.
The goal is to teach students group skills and how to process the group’s work so it can be highly functional, Phipps said. He added that it is intended to help all professors.
“I’m a big believer that if you are going to put students in groups, you owe it to them to teach them group skills,” Phipps said. “It’s not fair to just put them in groups and abandon them because you’ll get some negative group behavior.
“I think it’s sufficient information that you could integrate into any course. It’s not going to overload them with information.”
The book can be purchased online at mauricephipps.wixsite.com/thegroupbook. For more information, contact Phipps at 828-227-3844.
By Marlon W. Morgan