|Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with learners of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Each member of a team is responsible not only for their own learning but also for helping teammates to learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. In essence, cooperative learning aims to develop and share common goals; contribute to the understanding of problems; and empower other individuals to speak and contribute.
This form of learning can take place at any time that learners work together, for example when they help each other with assignments or when they work on a structured project in small groups. Having small groups is a key element for implementing cooperative learning because they provide a place where:
A group of individuals discussing a lecture, or learners from different backgrounds working together over the Internet on a shared assignment are also examples of cooperative learning. In particular, mixed-skills groups can be especially helpful to learners in developing their social abilities.In a world where being a “team player” is often a key part of business success, cooperative learning is a very useful and relevant approach.It differs from traditional approaches because learners work together rather than compete. Of course, for some assignments individual work may be most efficient, while for others cooperative work best.
The conditions under which cooperative efforts may be expected to be more productive than competitive and individualistic efforts are:
Why use cooperative learning?
Research has shown that cooperative learning techniques:
|Using Cooperative learning in the classroom|
Cooperative learning can be used across a wide range of classroom settings ranging from small to large lectures, as well as in online classes. Exercises can be of different levels of complexity:
To create an environment in which cooperative learning can take place, three things are necessary. First individuals need to feel challenged; secondly, groups need to be small enough that everyone can contribute. Third, the task must be clearly defined.
At the beginning, the facilitator designs meaningful tasks that require active participation of each learner in the group toward a common end. As groups work on tasks, he/she has to move from group to group to monitor the learning process. He/she also provides learners with on-going feedback and assessments on the group’s progress.
Examples of class activities
Cooperative learning techniques can be categorized by the skills that each enhances, e.g. discussion, reciprocal teaching, graphic organization, writing and problem solving.
Discussion: communicating effectively
Reciprocal teaching: explaining, providing feedback, understanding different perspectives
Graphic organization: discovering patterns and relationships
Writing: organizing and synthesizing information
Problem solving: developing strategies and analysis
Cons and weaknesses of Cooperative Learning
Critics of this technique often point to problems related to vague objectives and avoidance of teaching. Dividing the class into small groups can mean that the teacher avoids taking responsibility. Other weaknesses are related to the fact that making members of the group responsible for each other’s learning can place too great burden on some students. The result is often that stronger students are left to teach weaker students and do most of the work. On the other hand, a list of recommendations is available below to help trainers address issues:
|Find below additional information and resources.|
|Free cooperative learning resources||Laura Candler Teaching Resources website on free resources and printables for the classroom|
|Examples of cooperative learning exercises||Starting Point- Teaching Entry Level website collecting different resources for teachers and facilitators.|