Cooperative Learning In the Classroom

What is Cooperative Learning?

So many of my teachers assign projects that involve some type of group work to encourage us to work together. But is this cooperative learning? No. In so many of the groups I have been in for these types of assignments, there has always been at least one person who takes a step back and relies on everyone else. At the same time, these projects rarely encourage me to actually learn the material.

The real goal of cooperative learning is to encourage dialogue, interaction, and authentic learning between students. Instead of the teacher standing in front of the class lecturing, the students take control of their own learning and, in theory, teach each other.

Key Parts of Cooperative Learning:

  • Teams
    • You want the teams to be big enough so that all of the material can be learned but not too big so that every member of the team has a key responsibility or job
  • Directions
    • The students need directions to understand what the goal is and what they should be accomplishing individually, as a team, and with other groups
  • Assign Roles
    • It’s important to assign roles to your students so each person knows what they are responsible for learning and doing
  • Monitor
    • Walk around and observe each student and group to make sure that they not only stay on task, but to make sure they understand what they are learning and to see if they need any help
  • Evaluate
    • In order to hold each student accountable and to measure learning, you have to include some sort of assessment whether this is a written quiz/exam, a reflection, etc.

Different Types of Cooperative Learning

There are many ways to include cooperative learning in your classroom but highlighted below are a few popular models you can adopt.

  •  Jigsaw II
    • Goal: to encourage group work and encourage students to take their learning into their own hands
    • Process: Break up into learner groups and expert groups. Each student is a member of both groups but they first break up into their expert groups. Once each expert group feels they have become an expert on a topic, they go back to their learner groups and teach the other group members about their topic. Use a worksheet or guiding questions to direct students’ thinking.
  • Co-0p Co-op
    • Goal: for students to gain and express curiosity and be in charge of their own learning.
    • Process: Similar to Jigsaw II, Co-op Co-op also uses groups. After a short introduction to the unit, students discuss the types of topics, relevant to the unit, that they want to learn and that they’re interested in. Once broken up into groups, each group picks a topic from the previous discussion and then they break that topic into mini-topics. Each mini-topic should be researched and learned by each member of the group. Each member then teaches their group about what they learned and then they construct a presentation about their topic as a whole, to be given to the class.
  • Group Investigation
    • Goal: to get each and every student involved in the learning.
    • Process: Similar to Co-op Co-op, students are grouped together and choose a topic that they research and study. Each student within the group (or pairs) then learn about subtopics and come up with a plan on how to learn and study that subtopic. Students should learn using a wide variety of activities and then summarize their studying strategy into a presentation for the class.
  • Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning
    • Goal: to encourage and foster discussion in the classroom when learning a topic
    • Process: After a small lecture about a topic, teachers provide basic question stems like “what is the main idea of…?” “What if…?” or “What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?” Students use these stems to construct their own questions using what they learned from the mini lecture. After they have their questions, they get into groups and pose their questions to other students to generate a discussion.


But remember, when doing a cooperative learning activity, always keep an eye on your students to make sure they’re actually cooperating!


  1. Claire, I think you did a great job with this post! I really liked how you listed the key components of cooperative learning and explained so that the main goal of it isn’t confused. I also liked how in the beginning you talked about how you didn’t actually learn very much from your group work. I definitely feel you on this and always feel like I’m not learning the material I’m supposed to be, but instead learning how pick up everyone’s slack instead. Do you have any ideas about how current teachers that are implementing that bad group work could be enlightened to use better cooperative learning approaches instead?

    • Thank you! As much as I want to, I probably wouldn’t just blatantly tell them that their teaching practices are useless so I would find a way to maybe do a cooperative project with them. I love collaboration and my field teacher told us about how she and 5 other teachers crafted a unit around a murder mystery for their students. I would find a way to work with them on some sort of project like this and push for cooperative learning activities so they can see the true benefits! In field, I also got to sit in on a team meeting between the teachers and it was such an open, casual environment where the teachers just bounced around ideas that I feel like I could casually ask if people wanted to help me on an activity I was trying to plan out so I could get that teacher involved in it!

  2. Claire,
    Great post! I think you nailed the whole concept of cooperative learning and provided great information about it as well. I also really liked your section on key parts because I didn’t even think about including something like that in my post. I also liked how you broke down the different types and methods with the goals and processes. Your tweet was also great and I agree with it 100%. Teaching is the best way to learn something genuinely and is how I know that I understand a concept completely. The two pictures with the quotes were also a great way to sum up cooperative learning too and I agreed with them. Overall, awesome post!

    • Thank you Kacey! I felt like it was important to break cooperative learning down so that people can use those key elements to construct cooperative learning activities on their own. I felt like my tweet really summed up what I feel about cooperative learning because it really gives students an opportunity to be the teacher for a change. When students are responsible for not only their learning, but others’ learning as well, I think they really take charge of it and appreciate what they’re doing!

  3. Claire, I love this blog post! There is so much information describing the types of cooperative learning which I think is very important. I also really agree with the key parts of cooperative learning that you discussed! Also all of your images work well in the post. The quote you used in your tweet is very true too. With all of the information you have gave how do you plan to incorporate cooperative learning in your classroom? Great post!

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