After reading the article on cooperative learning I sat back and thought about how this would work in the class of second graders that I teach. As a paraprofessional, I get the luxury of sometimes just sitting back and watching the class dynamic as though I am an outsider looking in. I LOVE the idea of cooperative learning. I totally agree with the article when it states that this type of learning, does in fact, teach students social skills as well as responsibility and accountability. These are skills that many of today's youth are seriously lacking.
Now, is this type of learning practical? Not all classrooms are going to be successful at this learning approach. In my class particular, I have seen this work for a time and then before we know it feelings are hurt and there is tattling and it falls apart. One of the BIG challenges is how to divide up teams. Clearly, you do not want to have close friends all in the same group, however, if you separate there is always grumbling. I find it best to take this opportunity to pair groups together who typically would not chose each other of they had the option. It is a great way to broaden their horizons, as well as see how different people think.
As a teacher, it is your job to keep them on task. I know this can be very challenging. You constantly have to monitor to see if they are on task. There have been times when this type of learning has worked really well for my classroom and other times that it has not. I really feel that it depends on the group dynamic as well as the project or assignment. My advice would be to learn from your mistakes and take it one day at a time.