Extreme Group Work: Cooperative Learning

Think back to high school and all those group projects or group activities. Did you ever feel disconnected from your group? Like you were the only one carrying the group or vice versa? Hate group work? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you were NOT cooperative learning.

Cooperative learning is a form of teamwork. It gives all students the opportunity to collaborate with each other and guide their own learning.  It teaches students about responsibility and gives them each student their own responsibilities in assignments or projects.

In this video, it describes cooperative learning in the classroom. The benefits to cooperative learning were:

  1. Positive interdependence
  2. Face to face interaction
  3. Individual accountability
  4. Interpersonal and small group skills
  5. Group processing

Cooperative learning can help students develop better critical thinking skills and leadership in their learning.

There are also several types of cooperative learning that can occur in any classroom setting:

  1. STAD
    1. The teacher starts the class with a presentation about the material and covers important concepts that they students need to understand.
    2. The students break off into teams to work on a worksheet or activity together. The teacher can make sure that each of the students are:
      1. Answering questions correctly
      2. Answering questions on their own
      3. Explaining the answers to the questions
    3. After completing the activity, there is a quiz for the students to complete individually to track their knowledge.
    4. Teachers will then record each student’s individual improvement score to track progress.
    5. The teacher is then responsible for recognizing teams and individual students through a newsletter or bulletin board. Praise can boost student’s confidence in their abilities.
  2. Jigsaw II
    1. The teacher begins by creating a quiz and expert sheet that describes what the students are going to be covering.
    2. Each student is then part of an expert group and learning team.
      1. Give each student an expert sheet and tell the learning teams that each student is going to be responsible for a different topic.
      2. Have each expert group do an activity with key questions on that subtopic and have them ready to report back their findings to the group.
    3. After working in expert groups, have students return to their learning teams and report their findings. Have them ask each other questions and be sure there’s no gaps in understanding.
    4. The teacher will then quiz the students on the overall topic, similar to STAD.
  3. Group Investigation
    1. Students break off into teams and picks a topic relating to the material in class that day. Have each student in the team pick a subtopic to focus on.
    2. Students and teachers then prepare objectives and goals with plans for the groups to achieve and complete.
    3. The students will then work through their plan, being sure that different activities and skills are being used.
    4. Students then analyze and synthesize their findings into a presentation of some sort.
    5. The teacher and students then evaluate the presentations and contribution to the class.
  4. Co-op Co-op
    1. Start with introducing a topic and having a discussion about their interests and questions. Keep record of this discussion with chart paper and different colored makers.
    2. Have the students pick their teams and inform them to choose out of interest and less on personal reasons. Adjust the teams if necessary.
    3. Have each team choose a topic, then have each student of the team choose a subtopic to become an expert of. Each member will be responsible for their subtopic and sharing their findings.
      1. Research can be through any form (library, experiments, computer research, etc.)
    4. The teams then create a presentation for the class with demos, discussion, or other forms of involvement. They are responsible for all materials that are a part of the presentation.
    5. Following each presentation, allow the students to ask questions or discuss the topic more.
    6. Evaluate the students presentations and have them evaluate it themselves. Have them point out strong and weak points of each. No evaluation is required and sometimes just the learning is rewarding.
    7. This is the most complex and is best at the end of the school year.
  5. Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning
    1. Conduct a 10-15 minute lecture on a topic or assign reading about it.
    2. Provide the students with some questions stems like:
      1. What is the main idea of…?
      2. What if…?
      3. How does… affect…?
      4. Explain how…?
    3. Students then work individually to prepare their questions.
    4. The students DO NOT have to be able to answer the questions, this is just to guide them towards critical thinking about the topic.
    5. Students should be encouraged to use as many different stems as possible.
    6. Students then break off into teams and each student offers one of their questions to discuss together.

Some activities that could be used in the science classroom are:

  • Jigsaw activity to talk about the different biomes where each member is assigned a different one and is responsible for explaining it to their team.
  • Have the students collect data from an experiment and have them graph the data. Have each student then use a different color marker to show how each group contributed.
  • Let the students choose team names for their table groups and pair it with a handshake for when the team is successful to celebrate with.
  • Design a game around a certain topic for teams to compete against. This could be like jeopardy or a mystery based game where students are given clues about something and have to work together to solve.

Cooperative learning is so much more than group work. Cooperative learning is just one of the many foundations to create critical thinkers and lifelong learners.


  1. Kacey!

    I loved this blog! I thought you had great visuals mixed in throughout which really broke up your explanations and examples. That being said, I loved that you had so many examples! You gave us your own examples, the placemat example and explanation from the video, and you included the different types of cooperative learning to give people an opportunity to create their own, which I thought was awesome.
    Assuming you’ll use some variation of one of the examples you provided, how will you assess cooperative learning in your class? Will you grade them individually based on the work only they did, or will you grade the group as a whole, no matter the effort put in by each student?
    Overall great job!

  2. Kacey,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog! I think the video really clearly demonstrated what you were talking about. I also like how you included that cartoon at the end about how cooperative learning is not all the kids in the group just standing there yelling at each other about their ideas. It’s more about actually COOPERATING. I also think that the idea about learning about the different biomes would be a really good topic to use cooperative learning. Do you think that there is a limit to how often you should use cooperative learning or is it always practical and useful?

  3. I love how you went in depth on all of the different methods of cooperative learning. This would be a very helpful resource for a teacher looking to build more cooperative learning into their curriculum. Your examples are also spot on and well-represent the different methods previously discussed. I am curious–which methods do you think would be best for a teacher that may be just starting out? It seems that some are a bit complicated and may take some experience to work out. Which cooperative learning method would be a simple start on the right path in your opinion?

    • Kate,
      I think that for a first year teacher, Jigsaw would be an easier one to accomplish because it is straight forward and can help break down new content. I think that it is perfect for a pre or post lab activity to cover important topics in groups.

  4. Kacey

    I liked how you opened up your blog post by asking questions of being “disconnected from your group” and “carrying the group” because you then lead to the conclusion of what cooperative learning is NOT. You go on to clarify what cooperative learning IS and continue to give examples of the different methods. Also, in your video about cooperative learning, there was the “think-pair-share” method. Do you remember doing that in some of our past education classes. I used to do it all the time in EDP 256.


    • Michael,
      Think-pair-share is something I have done several times throughout my schooling. I think it’s a great way to get the students working together and sharing ideas.

  5. Kacey,
    Nice blog! I really enjoyed watching the video you included. It was a good example of cooperative learning, and clears up what cooperative learning really is. I also like how you stated, “Cooperative learning is so much more than group work.” A lot of people think that all cooperative learning is is group work, and you’re right, it’s not.
    If I had to give a suggestion, it would be to break up the different types of cooperative learning somehow. I really like how you included them! It’s just a lot of text all at once, maybe add some pictures or something?
    Good job though!

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