Less “I” and more “We”: Cooperative Learning in Classrooms

Cooperation of humans is KEY for allowing society to survive. Cooperation allows people to work together to achieve a common goal or derive mutual benefits. Without cooperation, individuals would not be able to exchange valuable information that allows both sides to improve their knowledge. But how does this tie into a classroom?

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is structuring a classroom around small groups who work together in a way that each group member’s success is dependent on the entire group’s success. This is different than group work!!!

  • Group Work Cooperative Learning
    • Group effort required -“Divide and Conquer”
    • Students are accountable for each other – More free-riders
    • Social skills improved – minimal interaction
    • Students are expected to help and share – minimal helping
    • Emphasis on product and process – emphasis on product

Why is Cooperative Learning Beneficial?

  • Students are able to learn more, remember the information longer, and develop critical-thinking skills
  • Students are more likely to attend/enjoy class because cooperative learning is not a typical lecture
  • Students are able to develop teamwork skills that will help them in future careers
  • Students are motivated to help one another learn

The video above gives a brief overview of cooperative learning in the classroom. It describes each of the different roles for students, as well as the role of the teacher. The students seem to be enjoying what they are learning and interacting with their peers.

Way to Incorporate Cooperative Learning in the Classroom

  • Think-Pair-Share
    • This technique allows students to think about a posed question silently. Then, when prompted, students will discuss their ideas with the group. The teacher will then solicit responses from the whole group.
  • Jigsaw
    • In this technique students are members of 2 groups; their home group and their expert group. In the heterogenous home group, each student is assigned a topic. Students will then group up with members of other groups that have been assigned their same topic (their expert groups). In the expert groups, the students will become “experts” on their topics and then return to their home group and share what they learned.

  • Inside-Outside Circle
    • In this technique students will form two circles, one inside the other. They will take turns rotating to face new partners to discuss a topic or question. The teacher works to manage the rotations and listen to hear when the students have finished sharing.


  1. Hi Shelby!
    Your post is very informative! I really like your list of benefits from cooperative learning and why is its better than group work. I also like your descriptions of the different cooperative learning models! Do you think there are any issues with cooperative learning? If so, how do you combat these problems?

    • I definitely think that cooperative learning does have some issues, but if we are aware of some of these issues we can fix them. One of those being a super stubborn student who refuses to do his or her part. A way to fix this is to maybe have the groups chose which activities they want to do or what topics they want to focus on with their cooperative learning. If the student enjoys the activity or topic he/she will hopefully more willing to participate.

  2. Hi Shelby! I loved how you related cooperative learning to cooperation in real life. That really helps you realize the long term importance of teaching your students teamwork and cooperation! I also really enjoyed all of the examples of cooperative learning being implemented. Which technique do you think you will use most often in your own classroom?

    • My favorite activity is the jigsaw, which I plan on using most often in my classroom. For me personally, when I become an expert at a topic and have to explain it to others, this topic really sticks with me. If you can explain a topic, then you understand the topic. In doing this exercise, students would really understand the topic they became masters on and can assist students who don’t necessarily understand. This technique also helps improve listening and communicating skills.

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