Learning Strategy: Cooperative Learning


In groups, students take on varying roles and learn by sharing knowledge and tasks in a collective, understanding through a variety of means. Effective cooperative learning includes team building, positive interdependence, group investigation, structure dialogues or activities, or project based learning. The focus is between the learning that occurs between the students who are participating in the cooperative groups.

Learning Strategies this can be confused with

  • Train the Trainer: You are not training a member in the group to facilitate; the group is collectively working towards an understanding.
  • Hands On Learning: Not necessarily performed in groups, could be individual.
  • Peer Teaching/Collaboration/Facilitation: The connection to learning comes from the instructor(s)/peer(s) as opposed to cooperative learning where the focus is between the students in the group.

Examples at USD

  • Restorative Justice Conferences
  • Fraternity and Sorority Life Standards Board Hearings
  • Global Social Innovation Challenge - Changemaker Hub
  • Rainbow Educators
  • Peer Educators

Resources for using this strategy

Brown and Ciuffetelli Parker (2009) and Siltala (2010) discuss the 5 basic and essential elements to cooperative learning:

  1. Positive interdependence
    1. Students must fully participate and put forth effort within their group
    2. Each group member has a task/role/responsibility and therefore must believe that they are responsible for their learning and that of their group
  2. Face-to-face promotive interaction
    1. Members promote each other's success
    2. Students explain to one another what they have learned or are learning and assist one another with understanding and completion of assignments
  3. Individual and group accountability
    1. Each student must demonstrate mastery of the content being studied
    2. Each student is accountable for their learning and work, therefore eliminating "social loafing"
  4. Social skills
    1. Social skills that must be taught in order for successful cooperative learning to occur
    2. Skills include effective communication, interpersonal and group skills
      1. Leadership
      2. Decision-making
      3. Trust-building
      4. Friendship-development
      5. Communication
      6. Conflict-management skills
  5. Group processing
    1. Group processing occurs when group members (a) reflect on which member actions were helpful and (b) make decisions about which actions to continue or change.
    2. The purpose of group processing is to clarify and improve the effectiveness with which members carry out the processes necessary to achieve the group's goals.

Sample Activity

Student are members of two groups: home group and expert group. In the heterogeneous home group, students are each assigned a different topic. Once a topic has been identified, students leave the home group and group with the other students with their assigned topic. In the new group, students learn the material together before returning to their home group. Once back in their home group, each student is accountable for teaching his or her assigned topic. (Lyman, Frank. "Think-pair-share". MAA-CIE Cooperative News.)

Rev. 8/25/17

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