Collaboration Nation

In many classrooms, students sit in straight rows, face forward, and the teacher lectures at them for 45 to 55 minutes. The students take notes (or sleep) and then move on to their next class. This is not how students learn best. Humans are innately social beings and learning in this way can help.

Types of Cooperative Learning

  • STAD (Student Teams Achievement Division)
    • Class presentations by teacher
    • Teams help each other study for the quiz
    • Use a quiz to see what they learned. Students take it individually
    • Individual improvement scores to show how students have improved
    • Team recognition for improvement scores
  • Jigsaw II
    • Students will become experts on a part of the material in groups
    • Students will be given an expert sheet to help guide them in their studies
    • Expert groups are groups of people all becoming an expert on the same thing
    • Teams are groups of people who are experts in different things
    • Experts report back to their team and report back all of their findings
    • A quiz can be used to test students comprehension
  • Co-op Co-op
    • Uses student centered discussion where students express their interests within the topic being discusses
    • Students form teams based on interests, not friendships to research the topic of interest
    • Teams will break their topic into minitopics and each member will research a minitopic
    • Each team will give a presentation on their topic
    • Students can be evaluated in any way with this style
  • Group Investigation
    • Students break into teams and pick a topic. The teams are in charge of coming up with their research strategy
    • Within the teams, students pick smaller topics to focus on
    • Teams and teacher meet and plan out procedures to help match the subtopics
    • Students carry out their research by doing a wide range of activities both in and out of school
      • This is to be completely student led, but the teacher is there if the teams need assistance
    • Teams decide on a way to summarize their findings and present it to the class in an interesting way
  • Guided peer reciprocal questions
    • The teacher presents a little lecture on the topic
    • The teacher gives students a set of questions stems to help guide students in writing their own questions
    • Students do not need to be able to answer the question they write
    • In teams, each student asks at least one of their questions to the team

Fun Stuff!

Well, now that we’re through the nitty gritty of different types of cooperative learning, lets get into the fun stuff!

Elements of a successful collaborative classroom:

Arrangement of the classroom

This video from YouTube shows a teacher wanting to rearrange his classroom to be more conducive to collaborative learning. I have included part one of the transformation above.

Positive interdependence among students

  • Teachers need to encourage students to be interdependent on one another
  • This also comes with a need for trust. Students need to trust each other in order to want to work together.
    • Without trust, students will feel uneasy working in teams because they might feel they are going to end up with all the work
    • Teachers can start building trust the first day by doing class activities where they all work together toward a common goal

Holding teams accountable

  • I know in my educational career, group work meant my work with multiple names on it. One way to avoid students feeling like this is to keep every team accountable
  • This can be done in a variety of ways
    • Checkpoints: teachers can have checkpoints for different portions of the project to make sure teams are on track
    • Peer evaluation forms: these forms will allow team members to rate the other members and their contribution to the project

So why implement cooperative learning in my classroom?

  • Research has shown that group, hands on activities are best for learning
  • Students will have more fun and will be more engaged in the topics!
    • By having fun projects and getting to work together, students will find the learning more meaningful and will be more motivated to work on it
    • Many of the styles have the students pick topics they are interested in to research. By letting them pick things they are interested in within a topic, they are more likely to want to put in the time to learn more about it
  • It gives students real life experiences on working together. Nearly all jobs are cooperative in some way, and this will help students learn to work together
  • It is more fun for you and the students! It gets you out from the front of the classroom and lets the kids be the teachers

Lets face it. Our students are going to get tired of us giving them the information and always being in front of the classroom. These methods get them learning, and also puts them in the center of the classroom.

TEAM not group

I have been a competitive swimmer for the past 14 years. I work hard for my TEAM. Group work has such a negative connotation in school today that many students freak out when they hear they are doing it. When they hear they are going to be in a team, many students step up to not let their team down.

Cooperative Lesson: Plate Tectonics Detective-Jigsaw

  1. Show the following video on the 2016 Fukushima earthquake
  2. Have students break into teams
  3. Within each student will become an expert on one type of plate boundary. They will be given an expert sheet to help guide their research. This sheet will ask them to define the boundary, where it is most common, to draw a picture, explain what it does, and whether or not they they think it could have caused this earthquake
  4. The teams objective is to discover what type of plate boundary caused this earthquake
  5. Once they have decided on what boundary caused this earthquake, they are going to create a large poster that illustrates the different type of boundaries and explains them
  6. This lesson can be extended by having students look more into earthquakes and their effects.


When students work together, they will be firing ideas off of each other for every topic. Each student who walks through your door will have some prior experience with the topic you are teaching. Let them harness their experiences and build on it.





  1. Shay,

    I really enjoyed your post this week! I liked that you described all of the types of cooperative learning. My favorite was your sections about elements to a successful cooperative learning classroom. I never thought how much the classroom arrangement went into making it conducive for cooperative learning. I liked how the video explained why it was so important to have the desks in teams. I also think that holding teams accountable for their learning is important. A evaluation and checkpoints are a great way to keep students on track. It was also important for you to explain why “team” promotes cooperative learning more than “group.” All of your pictures did a great job of supporting your blog. Lastly, your lesson plan was an awesome! It uses cooperative learning in the classroom in a fun way! Great job.


    • Katin,
      Thank you for your feedback! I really wanted to include the segment on the classroom arrangement because this is something I feel many people might skip over when creating a classroom. If students cannot easily talk and work together, then there is no way to be able to do cooperative learning.

  2. Shay,

    You hit the nail on the coffin with this post! The opening about humans being social creatures is the most important reason to do cooperative learning. Students that can interact and engage with one another learn better than they do alone. I love that you highlighted the importance that students are working in teams not groups. The lesson plan that you created was wonderful, and incredibly detailed! The videos and social media were a great tie in to your blog post! This post was spectacular, good work!

    • Dillon,
      Thank you for your feedback! I really like the idea of using Jigsaw II for plate tectonics because it is something to easily split up within teams. As seen in one of my included tweets, it is possible to make plate tectonics hands on in other ways as well!

  3. Shay-
    I loved your descriptions of how to utilize cooperative learning in the classroom! You gave great ideas on hands-on opportunities and specific activities that students will enjoy. I will caution you, though–while your descriptions of the different types of cooperative learning are useful, they can be pretty boring to read through. You described them as “nitty gritty” and that’s exactly what I thought! I would maybe shorten those up a bit, or instead of listing through their qualities, use them to tell different stories of different classrooms. Overall, good work!

    • Naomi,
      Thank you for your all your feedback! I was really hesitant on including all the details for each style of cooperative learning, but I decided I wanted to include them so the reader has information about them in the same place that gives them ideas on how to implement them. I could definitely see how this might scare readers away, but I decided I needed it. I agree that doing it in a different way might have been better!

  4. Shay,
    I really like the fact that you talk so extensively about how students need to be interdependent on each other. This means that students NEED each other to be successful in the classroom. Also I think that if this is something that is emphasized and encouraged by the teacher, the student may always cooperate. I say this because when they understand that speaking to each other during class, and during activities is something that is encouraged those conversations may become more relevant to a topic if it is encouraged by the teacher.

    • Tom,
      Thanks for the feedback! I had never thought about how encouraging students to talk might actually help them want to talk about the topic. It does make sense. It lets students take advantage of something they might not get in other classes.

  5. Wow! This blog post really covered it all
    I think it’s easy to forget how important classroom setup is to collaborative learning. Maneuvering through the room is important for the teacher to be able to help everyone, and students shouldn’t feel limited by their classroom setup.
    I think the tectonic lesson plan you provided is great! I like the connections to the real world, and I like how every member is held accountable for one type of plate boundary!

    • Meghan,
      I really wanted to include the video on classroom set up because it really emphasizes that point. The teacher was struggling to do cooperative learning just because of his space. I am glad you liked my tectonics lesson! I am trying to give a good mix of both biology and Earth science lessons, but Earth science is a lot harder for me just because I have less experience in it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.