Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 10/10.5.2

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Cooperative Learning and the Social Nature of Learning

By awalk035

Learning Targets[edit]

Students should be able to:

1. Define and identify the components of cooperative learning.


"Group members must work together as a team to accomplish a common goal"(Jigsaw Classroom)

For many years, teachers have placed students into groups to complete tasks and assignments. We all remember that dreaded feeling of having to work with the labeled class slacker or with someone we didn't know. Once the groups were formed, everyone had a role that was connected to produce a final product. Without each other, our small portions would have been meaningless. Whether we realize it or not, our teachers were using cooperative learning to help us flourish academically and socially . Some experts believe that cooperative learning encourages students to learn while fostering a sense of community. When students are put into groups, they often have to work with classmates that they are not familiar with. When teachers form student groups, students have the opportunity to share their skills and knowledge. Cooperative learning has emerged as a widely used teaching practice that is used by many classroom teachers.

What Is Cooperative Learning?[edit]

Cooperative learning is more than putting students into small groups, because it gives students the opportunity to learn from each other. According to the Jigsaw Classroom, "group members must work together as a team to accomplish a common goal"(Jigsaw Classroom). Cooperative learning is much more than group or center time, it is a time for students to share in the learning process. Cooperative learning helps students thrive in social and academic setting. "Unlike typical classroom instruction, during which students tend to have only casual and rather superficial contact, cooperative learning processes have students working together to achieve a common goal. This produces more meaningful interactions between the students and a sense of positive interdependence. As these work groups change over time, the students collaborate with a variety of students in the class, leading to better peer relations in the class and an increase in students' friendships"(Stevens & Slavin). Cooperative learning consists of the following components: face to face promotive interaction, positive interdependence, individual accountability/personal responsibility, interpersonal and collaborative skills, and reflection/group processing of interaction(A Guide to Cooperative Learning).

1. Face to face promotive interaction forces students to talk openly with each other about their topic. "Cooperative teams help students learn to value individual differences and promote more elaborate thinking"(A Guide to Cooperative Learning).

2. Positive interdependence allows students to depend on each other. "Students must feel that they need each other in order to complete the group's task, that is, they sink or swim together"(A Guide to Cooperative Learning).

3. The individual accountability/personal responsibility portion ensures that each member of the group is responsible for their portion of an assignment. "Ways to build in individual accountability include: students take individual quizzes; each student is responsible for a specific portion of a task; each must be able to summarize another's ideas; any student may be called on at random to answer for the team"(A Guide to Cooperative Learning).

4. Interpersonal and collaborative skills are "skills for working together effectively (staying on task, summarizing, recording ideas) as well as group maintenance skills (encouraging each other). Ways to foster skill development include teacher modeling, brainstorming characteristics of "good" skills, direct practice, process observing, and reflection"(A Guide to Cooperative Learning).

5. Reflection/group processing of interaction gives group members time to think about how well they worked together. "Processing means giving students the time and procedures to analyze how well their groups are functioning and how well they are using the necessary collaborative skills. Processing can be individual, team-wide, or at the whole collaborative class level"(A Guide to Cooperative Learning).

What Does Cooperative Learning Look Like?[edit]

Cooperative learning requires participation from both the teacher and student groups. "Cooperative Learning (CL)provides an alternative to competitive or individualistic classroom activities by encouraging collaboration among students in small groups. The use of CL alters the structure of classroom activities and roles: the class organization changes to a multigroup structure, the teacher's role as an information transmitter is reduced, and the student's role shifts toward that of group participant and decision maker"(Emmer & Gewels). Students may participate in three types of cooperative learning groups: formal, informal, and cooperative based.

1. A formal cooperative learning group varies in the amount of time spent on a project. "Groups range in length from one class period to several weeks. The teacher can structure any academic assignment or course requirement for formal cooperative learning"(Johnson, Johnson and Holubec).

2. An informal cooperative learning group does not last as long as a formal cooperative learning group. "The teacher uses them during direct teaching (lectures, demonstrations) to focus student attention on the material to be learned, set a mood conducive to learning, help set expectations about material, what the lesson will cover, ensure that students are cognitively processing the material being taught, and provide closure to an instructional session"(Johnson, Johnson and Holubec).

3. A cooperative based group outlasts the duration of both formal and informal groups. These groups are "long-term (lasting for at least a year), heterogeneous groups with stable membership whose primary purpose is for members to give each other the support, help, encouragement, and assistance each needs to progress academically. Base groups provide students with long-term, committed relationships"(Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec).


More and more teachers should incorporate cooperative learning into their teaching practices. Cooperative learning concepts have proven to work in the classroom. Cooperative learning really allows students to take more from the learning experience. It really allows students of various strengths to accomplish a common goal. Students are able to build friendships and learn from their peers. Cooperative learning prepares students for the future and promotes teamwork.


1. Which of the following is not a cooperative learning group?

A. Perception

B. Formal

C. Informal

D. Cooperative Based

2. Cooperative learning groups

A. dislike each other

B. complete work separately

C. work together to accomplish a goal

D. learn from the teacher only

3. When a student in Ms. Smith's 3rd grade class is held accountable for his task in the project about Jackie Robinson, he is displaying

A. Interpersonal Skills

B. Personal Responsibility

C. Reflection

D. Talk face to face

4. When student groups in Ms. Smith's 3rd grade class discuss how they all worked together during the Jackie Robinson project, they are

A. Interpersonal Skills

B. Positive Interdependence

C. Negative Interdependence

D. Reflection


"A Guide to Cooperative Learning." Welcome to the Electronic Learning Community. Prince George's County Public Schools. 2 Feb 2009 <>.

Aronson, Dr. Elliot. "Overview of the Technique." Jigsaw Classroom. Spring 2008. Social Psychology Network. 2 Feb 2009 <>.

Johnson,D.,Johnson,R. & Holubec,E."Cooperation in the Classroom". Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1998.

Emmer, Edmund T., Mary Claire Gerwels. "Cooperative Learning in Elementary Classrooms: Teaching Practices and Lesson Characteristics." The Elementary School Journal 103 No.1 (2002): 72-90.

Slavin, Robert E., Robert J. Stevens. "The Cooperative Elementary School: Effects on Students' Achievement, Attitudes, and Social Relations." American Educational Research Journal 32 No.2 (1995): 321-351.


1. A

2. C

3. B

4. D

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