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Cooperative Learning

Page history last edited by Salma Daadoush 10 years, 1 month ago




By: Iman & Salma Daadoush



 What is Cooperative Learning?


Cooperative learning (CL) is an instructional technique that involves small groups of learners who engage together in the learning process to maximize their own learning as well as their peers’. Cooperative learning is based on the Social Theory which was founded by the famous theorist Vygotsky (Ormrod, 2006) [5]. In his theory, he states that students learn from working, interacting, and cooperating together. Thus one of the best ways to implement this theory would be through cooperative learning. “ In simple terms, cooperative learning occurs when a group of students work together towards a shared goal”  (Murdoch & Wilson, 2007, p.4) [4]. Cooperative learning involves collaborative and structured work to finish a given learning task. It has many academic and social benefits. According to Kagan (2009). ”Cooperative learning, when properly implemented, is a powerful instructional approach resulting into a spectrum of positive outcomes"(p. 12.) [3].CL focuses on learners’ needs, styles, and goals. It creates a positive learning environment that is cooperative rather than competitive. It allows for student creativity and innovation. It also enhances students’ self competence and self worth (Douglas Brown, 2007) [1].


From a psychological point of view, Zoltan Dornyei (1997) proposes that there are "two interrelated psychological processes underlying CL, which,...contribute significantly to the outstanding learning potential of the method: (a) the unique group dynamics inherent to the CL process that generate a supportive learning environment characterized by strong cohesiveness among learners, and (b) the motivational basis of CL which underlies student achievement gains" (Dornyei, 1997, p. 483).


Unlike traditional learning, cooperative learning emphasizes the role of an individual as part of a whole team; each member works collaboratively for the success of the other(s). Students take control over their learning, while the role of the teacher changes to that of a facilitator, thus no longer being the only main source of knowledge in the classroom.





Image retrieved from: http://www.kaganonline.com/online_magazine/special_article_4.php




What are the Basic Principles of Cooperative Learning?  


According to (Kagan, 2009), Cooperative Learning depends on four basic principles, they are the PIES; Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Equal Participation, and Simultaneous Interaction.


Positive Interdependence:

  • Individuals cooperate              
  • Positive correlation of outcomes


Individual Accountability

  • Each individual in the group is responsible for part of the performance
  • The performance is done without help.


Equal Participation:

  • Roles
  • Turn-taking
  • Time allocation


Simultaneous Interaction


As for Dornyei (1997), he points out three key components of CL that result in a cooperative learning environment:

1) class time spent in "small groups of between 3 and 6 students"

2) organized learning time "so that group members are motivated to ensure that their peers have also mastered the material or achieved the instructional goals:

3) "evaluating and rewarding the group's achievement in a CL class becomes as important as or more important than evaluating and rewarding individual achievement"


(Source: Dornyei, 1997, p. 483).


   Why/What do teachers need to know about Cooperative Learning?


In an attempt to achieve successful cooperative learning in class, it is necessary that the teacher implements all four basic principles (PIES) for maximum benefit for the students. "When these basic principles are in place, cooperative learning consistently produces academic gains, improves race relations, develops social skills, educates for character, promotes self-esteem, enhances class climate, and fosters leadership and teamwork skills." ( Kagan, 2009, p12.1). According to Kagan, understanding PIES enables educators to create classrooms where students work together, acquire social skills, care about each other, and achieve success


Another benefit of cooperative learning that  teachers should be aware of relates to assessment. Through the use of cooperative activities, students and teachers are constantly provided with direct, and constant feedback. Students are assessed on an ongoing basis using authentic, informal ways that engage students in fun group work, instead of assessing them based on a number of traditional exams and tests. In the process, students also learn from each other through the interaction that takes place, and the feedback they receive from their peers.


Teachers need to implement cooperative learning in class as it provides a solution to four major crises educators in the United States are experiencing (Kagan, 2009). These crises include the academic achievement performance in the US compared to other leading nations, the academic achievement gap among the different races and socio-economic classes, the racial relation crisis that leads to social injustice, and the social skills crisis that are  all "best addressed by frequent use of cooperative learning" (2009).


Johnson and Johnson (1995) bring up "three other conditions necessary for the effectiveness of CL: individual accountability, mastery of social skills, and regular group processing" and suggests "that CL works best when the group rewards for learning are combined with individual accountability in order to ensure that participants perform their share of the work" (as cited in Dornyei, 1997, p. 484).





What does Cooperative Learning "look like" in the classroom?


Cooperative learning involves students in different groups and “structures the interaction to ensure students work together well” ( Kagan, 2009, p.5.1) and to ensure success “ teachers need cooperative instructional strategies to ensure all students participate, are held accountable for their contributions and learning, are maximally engaged, and work together toward shared team goals”.

In a classroom where cooperative learning is implemented, tables and chairs are organized in a way that allows small groups of students  (2-4) to easily see and interact with each other. Students are grouped heterogeneously regardless of their social background or learning ability. Each student in the group is assigned a role and is responsible for completing a specific learning task. The success of one student means that of the whole group. This would not only allow equal learning opportunity for success, but also individual accountability and peer support. It would similarly lead to student motivation and team spirit appreciation.


Cooperative learning is an important component for accommodating diverse learners in a single classroom. Teachers can incorporate cooperative learning activities to provide for students with diverse needs and/or learning approaches. It encourages diverse learners to work collaboratively with others on one academic task. Thus, cooperative learning offers opportunities for multi-level group learning activities. In other words, students with different strengths and skills learn to support one another in the process of learning.


 A variety of techniques and activities are used in cooperative learning to activate students’ prior knowledge on a topic, motivate students to learn new content, and/or review and reinforce given information such as; Round Robin, Rally Robin, Three-Step Interview, Timed Pair Share, Stand up Hand up Pair up, Quiz-Quiz-Trade, Team Jigsaw, Flashcard Game, and Co-op.




In pairs, students alternate generating brief oral responses.

1. List adjectives to describe the character.         
2. List inert elements.
3. Share steps of the experiment.
4. Describe an event from the story.






In pairs, students share with a partner for a predetermined time while the partner listens. Then partners switch roles.

1. What is the key thing that you learned?
2. What is one literary technique you plan to use in your writing and how will you use it?





In teams, students take turns responding orally.

1. What makes a good listener?
2. List objects that float?
3. What clubs or societies are you a member of?
4. What is one of your favorite movies?







Partners take turns, one solving a problem while the other coaches. Then partners switch roles.

1. Useful for any process or procedure with a definite right/wrong.
2. Solve multi-step word problems in math.
3. Change each decimal into a simplified fraction.








Students stand up, put their hand up and quickly find a partner with whom to share or discuss.

This structure is perfect for class building, processing and reviewing information,

energizing the class, forming random pairs or teams, lesson starts or wraps.



Retrieved from : http://www.kaganonline.com/online_magazine/special_article_1.php











1. Brown, D. (2007). Teaching by Principles, an Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Pearson Education,Inc.,53.


2. Dornyei, Z. (1997). Psychological Processes in Cooperative Language Learning: Group Dynamics and Motivation. The Modern Language Journal, 81(4), 482–493.


3. Gillies, R.M. (2007). Cooperative Learning: Integrating Theory and Practice. Tousand Oaks, CA : Sage Publications.


4. Kagan, S. & Kagan, M. (2009). Kagan Cooperative Learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing.


5. Murdoch, K. & Wilson, J. (2007). How to Succeed with Cooperative Learning. Carlton South Vic, Australia: Curriculum Corporation.


6. Ormord, J. E. (2008). Educational Psychology, developing learners. Pearson Education, Inc., 480-488. 




                                                                                                                Further References








Comments (3)

Mona said

at 10:52 pm on Nov 13, 2011

Excellent work! I like the graphics of the cooperative learning games. The information is organized in an interesting way and easy to understand .

BSchmaeh said

at 11:49 am on Nov 23, 2011

Dear Iman & Salma,
I truly enjoyed reviewing your wiki. You have put a lot of work into this and I have to say that I agree with your arguments. Cooperative learning is an important component of classroom practices today. It allows teachers to teach effectively by 1) engaging students in learning they feel is meaningful and interesting, 2) providing students a feeling of success and efficacy, and 3) supporting students in growing and learning starting with where they are now and helping them move along to the next step.
I have added the following part to your wiki under what it looks like in the classroom: "Cooperative learning is an important component for accommodating diverse learners in a single classroom. Teachers can incorporate cooperative learning activities to provide for students with diverse needs and/or learning approaches. It encourages diverse learners to work collaboratively with others on one academic task. Thus, cooperative learning offers opportunities for multilevel group learning activities. This means, students with different strengths and skills learn to support one another in the process of learning."
I think cooperative learning is not only the teamwork of multiple students, but also of students with multiple intelligences. Cooperative learning in the diverse classroom can greatly benefit the students as they are learning from and with one another. When students with diverse skills and/or learning approaches work together, they are likely to benefit from each others' strengths. Some students are very artistic whereas other students are strongly eloquent. When these students work together, they are able to integrate additional skills in their work. Thus, grouping constitutes scaffolding for the learners, dividing academic tasks into more manageable steps.

Great job! Your wiki is very informative and well-organized.

sophia3@... said

at 5:23 pm on Nov 27, 2011

Great work! The information was clearly displayed in such a way that we can practically implement CL in our classrooms. I have corrected some grammatical errors throughout your wiki. I hope you will find my revisions useful.

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