Cooperative Learning: Team Work Makes the Dream Work

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Getting Started

One of the many benefits of cooperative learning is the development of social skills through team building. In order for you and your students to get the most out of your cooperative learning experience you have to start off by having strong teams. The foundation of CL is a solid team, so you can’t rush into this if you haven’t done the prior homework. Tips to get your teams to the right place:

  • Come up with a team name
  • Develop a team logo
  • Create a team handshake
  • Have the students fill out “about me” sheets for each other

Another element of CL that you need to consider is how your room is set up. If you have the ability to move your desks or tables, be sure that they are arranged in a way that is conducive to teams. Also be sure that you are able to maneuver the room effectively, that way you can get to each team when needed.

Getting the Ball Rolling

Here is a great video to get you started on cooperative learning:

A key to CL is interdependence. Being interdependent means that each member of the group is reliant on the other members. No one member of the group can do all the work, this is the difference between group work and teamwork. Thinking back to group work in my school days often involved one individual baring the brunt of the work and everyone else just attaching their name to the results. Teamwork requires every member to contribute equally. One way to achieve this is by assigning each team member a role. Such roles can be:

  • Materials attendant
  • Time keeper
  • The communicator
  • Scribe/Artist
  • Data collector

Things to Remember

1. Don’t start too fast

Cooperative learning doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time for the teams to become properly acclimated with one another. Even then, you will still want to take some time for students prepare themselves for this kind of work, as it may be that they have never done anything like it before.

2. You can’t do it every day

Doing cooperative learning everyday is not feasible. The amount of planning that is required, and the time it takes in the classroom, make it hard to have effective instruction. Leaving CL to once or twice a week not only gives you a chance to plan, but it also keeps the students from being burnt out. As well as the next key point…

3. A students grade should be no more than 25% CL

Parents and students may not feel too hot about their grade being dependent on other students work. Even though teamwork is an essential part of today’s work force, and students should be prepared for it, there are still some limitations when it comes to convincing parents.

4. How to assess students doing cooperative learning

Assessment is an essential part of the classroom, and figuring out how to fit it into cooperative learning can be difficult. It’s important to remember the goals you and the class have for the task, and when it comes time to grade try a few of these out:

  • Peer/team evaluation
  • Group quiz
  • Team presentations
  • Choose on group members assignment to grade for the team

Here are a few Cooperative Learning Methods


The jigsaw method gives students the opportunity to become the leaders of their own learning. Members of each team become the “expert” on a topic, and them come back and teach the rest of the group about what they learned.

Co-op Co-op

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Co-op co-op is similar to jigsaw except that it puts the whole team at the forefront of the teaching. Each team become the expert on their topic and they get to design a lesson for the whole class to lead. This can be very effective when it trying to get students to develop their abilities to work as a team.

Group Investigation

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The difference between group investigation and co-op co-op, is that in a group investigation the topics students are investigating should be more detailed. They should all fall under the same umbrella, but each member of the group should have their own specific topic that they will contribute to the final product.

Guided Reciprocal Peer Questioning

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The goal here is for students to have discussions about a specific topic. This can be helpful at the beginning of a unit so you may gauge how the rest of the unit will go, or at the end of a lesson to see how you will proceed. It’s important to keep the questions very open ended, that way students have the ability to take the conversation that the team sees best fit.

Cooperative Learning in the Science Classroom

Science is a collaborative discipline. The scientific community is entirely reliant on the cooperation of individual scientists, scientific institutions, and scientific disciplines working together for the betterment of society. Instilling this in the minds of students will only make them more successful down the road.

You can do it, and so can they. Don’t fall into the trappings of group work, keep in mind team work makes the dream work!


  1. Hey Aaron! I really enjoyed reading your post! You broke down cooperative learning in a way that was very easy to understand. I especially enjoyed your “things to remember” about incorporating cooperative learning into the classroom. I definitely agree that while cooperative learning is important, it shouldn’t be used all the time. We need to remember to change it up from time to time! Do you have any ideas about how you can incorporate cooperative learning into a science class specifically?

    • I think the best way to incorporate cooperative learning into the classroom is through an inquiry based approach. Having the teams lead their own investigations can combine these two great methods of instruction in a science class.

  2. Great post Aaron! I really liked the 4 things to remember during cooperative learning, because sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and not follow all of those ideas you have listed. I think it is very important to know that cooperative learning cannot be done every day. I think cooperative learning is exciting for students and doing it every day will make it boring and overdone. I also liked the different ways to assess students, and how it doesn’t only has to be an exam. Which way do you plan to assess your students with cooperative learning?

    • I plan on using a multitude of assessments in order to keep things interesting for me and the students. Whatever the assessment is, I will make sure that it is appropriate to the goals of the cooperative learning activity.

  3. Great post Aaron! I liked that you gave a step-by-step description of how to implement cooperative learning in the classroom. It is definitely the planning stage that takes up the most time. Do you have any specific ideas on what kind of cooperative learning you plan to use in your own classroom?

    • I plan on using the many different models of cooperative learning. I think my favorite is the peer guided reciprocal questioning. I love seeing students engaging in in depth conversations with one another.

  4. I loved the post! Great work! Something that I really liked was the big “O” at the beginning. I dont know why, it was just cool. Anyways, I thought your blog post did a great job of highlighting everything important that was covered in class and I really appreciated seeing your take and summary of our discussions in class. Very insightful. You specifically talked about implementing cooperative learning in the science classroom and was wondering if you see this being effective in any other discipline! Let me know what you think! Thanks!

    • I definitely think cooperative learning would be useful in any discipline. The core ideas of cooperative learning are not there so that students can become better students, they are there to help students become better thinker, teammates, and successful individuals.

  5. I love all the tips you give about implementing cooperative learning in the classroom. there is nothing more harmful to a good idea than poor execution. It would be very easy for a teacher to get discouraged and give up on cooperative learning if they didn’t know any of this. I also enjoyed some of the different ideas on how to implement cooperative learning into the classroom. Did you experience any of these in a classroom you have been in?

    • I can’t recall ever doing anything like cooperative learning in my high school. However, I do remember doing a lot of group work that had some elements of cooperative learning, but never a fully cooperative lesson plan.

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