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Cooperative Learning In The Classroom: Strategies For Success

Updated on March 13, 2014
Cooperative learning can be as simple as brainstorming a list of writing topics or as complex as a science fair project.
Cooperative learning can be as simple as brainstorming a list of writing topics or as complex as a science fair project.

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is an instructional method based on past research of the theory that people who work together to achieve shared goals are more successful in achievement of goals(Alport Watson Shaw and Mead).The theory was established before the onset of World War One. Philosophers and Psychologists John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Morton Deutsh further developed the theory helping to establish it in the educational setting. Later David and Roger Johnson actively promoted the theory from 1974 to 1994. It has proven to be a popular and successful instructional method.

With the cooperative learning method the teacher's role becomes that of facilitator rather than just instructor. Learning occurs naturally as students interact among themselves. Students work together to create a common project or assignment by sharing opinions, knowledge and skills.The success of each individual in the group is reliant upon the success of the whole group as a unit.

What Are The Positives Of Cooperative Learning?

Research shows several positive outcomes when using cooperative learning. Studies show retention of learned material increases. Students will have greater recall of skills and facts covered in the activities.

The method has been shown to increase social skills that help students prepare for good citizenship and successful living in society.It is thought that cooperative learning can set the stage for students to experience greater success in the world of work. Most jobs and professions require employees to cooperate and work together toward a common goal.

Finally, cooperative learning encourages respect among students for one another when working in groups of varying abilities and ethnic groups. Acceptance and respect for diversity will be important all through life.

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Cooperative Learning in the Classroom: Putting it into Practice
Cooperative Learning in the Classroom: Putting it into Practice

This guide provides a step-by-step approach for implementing cooperative learning, covers the key factors that make this method work, and provides guidelines for measuring the program's effectiveness.


Implementing Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning can be implemented in lessons in any subject and in grade levels from kindergarten to college. It can be as simple as a group brainstorming a list of writing or research topics or as complex as a project for a science exhibit.

Grouping learning disabled or other special needs students with non-disabled peers is a valid and useful accommodation. It can become a part of the student's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 plan. It can be a useful way to accommodate students with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Work can be "chunked" for students to complete. A long set of math problems can be a daunting task for the ADHD student. Divided and shared between four students the task becomes more manageable for them.

Although good research exists proving the advantages of cooperative learning educators may be finding themselves reluctant to use the method. Some claim that students socialize too much and often get off-task. They favor more direct instruction. While it is true that many students benefit more from direct instruction cooperative learning may be well worth giving a second chance. A few strategies could help in making it successful.

The teacher will need to monitor and decide when and how to make adjustments. Do the students needed to be rearranged within the groups? Is the activity either too easy or too hard? Begin with these questions. Keep in mind that motivation is a key underlying factor for learning to occur. Teachers may need to find ways to motivate students. This could be accomplished by allowing them to choose from a list of activities.

Kagan Cooperative Learning
Kagan Cooperative Learning

This new book presents today's most successful cooperative learning methods.


Strategies For Success With Cooperative Learning

1. Begin with less complex tasks when first implementing cooperative learning.Pair lower ability students with higher ability.

2 Establish a set of rules within the other class rules. Make sure students understand the procedures and take a few minutes to go over them directly. Have the rules posted. Implement the same consequences for not following them as with the other class rules.

3 Keep groups small, no more than 4 to 6 students. Doing so will ensure that each member of the group will have to participate and be accountable for the finished product. Use a rubric for grading and always give grades.

4. Assigning a certain role for each member of the group will give guidance and direction making each student feel important. If they tend to argue over roles then have them to draw numbers.

Roles to consider:

Leader- checks each member for understanding. reports problems in understanding or materials to the teacher

Recorder- records responses.

Reporter- reports findings to share with the rest of the class. reports problems in behavior to the teacher.

Monitor- can keep time for timed assignments. Reminds others to stay on task.

5. Switch members of cooperative groups occasionally keeping in mind who does or does not work together well. Also switch roles occasionally.

6 Assign each student one fourth of a lesson to study. Then have them take turns "teaching" their part of the lesson to the other students. Have a list of ways to share to choose from.

Ideas for sharing:

compose a song, poem or rap

draw an illustration

write a summary

give an oral report

write true/false questions for the other students to answer.

7. Students enjoy hands-on activities. Let them work together to create projects such as making a Frosty the Soap Man.Each student can be responsible for one part of creating the whole project. The leader can be responsible in making sure that each part is completed for putting the project together.

By using pre-planning and strategies students will reap the benefits associated with cooperative learning. It can then go hand in hand with teamwork, and "four heads are better than one."


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    • Marge4653 profile image

      Marge4653 5 years ago

      that was amazing thanks for that :)

    • Farmer Brown profile image

      Farmer Brown 5 years ago

      I loved seeing this hub! I practice cooperative learning with 200 students at once. It is rewarding to see shared "ah-ha" moments. Thank you for laying out the aspects to cooperative learning...affirms that I might be doing something right! Voted up and useful.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks Marge! FB, that's awesome!Thanks for stopping by!

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      We do some coop learning in my class...unfortunately my students are at so many different levels and disabilities that it makes it very difficult...

      Great hub!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I understand. Peer tutoring might suit your situation better.

    • teachertalking1 profile image

      teachertalking1 5 years ago

      I love cooperative learning and use it often. I especially love it during my GLAD units as well as math. We just completed a probability unit which my 3rd graders usually have a difficult time with. However, this year I decided to try more hands-on approach with cooperative learning groups. I feel they ended up with a much better grasp of the concept because they were given the time to work together and explore! You hub encourages me to continue using cooperative learning groups!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I a so glad to hear that you are encouraged to keep using cooperative learning, and glad for your third graders to have such a good teacher!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for sharing these tips -- many teachers are emphasizing this style more and more, as opposed to the competitive style that was in vogue when I was younger. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks!This style was in vogue when I was younger, sort of. Free choice type learning. More self directed. Things come and go!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      As one teacher to another, thank you for the work you do. It is sometimes a thankless job but in your heart you know the great work you are doing and those of us who have walked in your footsteps admire you.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks Billybuc! I have learned a lot as a teacher, as I am sure you have as well. It is a long walk, and thankless until the end!

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