More Than Just Group Work

Throughout school, I remember dreading group work. Huge projects that were supposed to be completed by multiple students. However, in the end it was always me finishing the project and compensating for other’s lack of work. This is obviously not the ideal way to instill teamwork in students. So what is? Cooperative Learning!

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is purposeful, teacher planned work completed equally by a team of students. Cooperative learning requires teachers to structure cooperative independence within the teams.

There are four key elements of cooperative learning

  1. Individual Accountability- Each student is held responsible for their own success- No more free rides!
  2. Interdependence- Effort from every student is required for the team to be successful – The teams sink or swim together
  3. Promotive Interaction- Working as a team promotes the learning of every student. Students will be able to explain to and learn from others. This helps not only promote academic learning, but also teamwork and social skills.
  4. Analysis- Students must be given an opportunity to evaluate how successful their learning was, as well as the success of the team.

Why use Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is very useful and beneficial in the classroom. Implementing cooperative learning helps to promote:

  • Teamwork
  • Student Learning
  • Student Engagement
  • Social skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Critical Thinking

Implementing cooperative learning in the classroom will make the class more beneficial and enjoyable for students.

This is a great summary of the benefits and steps of cooperative learning!

How do you Implement Cooperative Learning?

Implementing cooperative learning in the classroom may be hard work, but it is definitely worth it. Implementation requires the teacher to:

  • Organize room to allow for team placement- Think round tables, and shared spaces
  • Assign students to teams- Make it fun! Let them pick team names, team logos and even team slogans!
  • Assign roles to each student- These could include note-taker, material collector and communicator
  • Plan materials to promote interdependence- This could be shared materials, individual information, or sharing research with other teams
  • Explain the academic task- Everything you ask them to do should have an academic purpose- No one likes busy work
  • Ask them to produce one product- This could be one paper, one experiment or one presentation, but they are all responsible for this one thing
  • Evaluate for quality- You should evaluate for quality of learning, as well as the quality of the team’s function

For Example…..

One way to implement cooperative learning in a science classroom would be to ask the students to create a study tool for the final exam.

The team would have to

  • Assign each team member to a role
  • Decide what they were going to create – A worksheet? A power point? A game? The options are limitless
  • Choose what information would be included
  • Decide how to present their study tool

But how can a teacher ensure this is cooperative learning and not group work?

  • Be very aware of each individual’s role so they can be held accountable for them
  • Ask each team to cover a different topic- The teams become interdependent
  • Ask each student to cover a different topic- This creates interdependence within the team
  • Use goal sheets- Ask the team what they would like to accomplish for the day, then at the end , what they did accomplish
  • Allow for only one study tool per team that each individual is graded on

Yes, this is more work than simply lecturing to a class for hours on end. However, it is going to be more beneficial to your students and more rewarding for you! So why not try out cooperative learning in your own classroom?


  1. Awesome, informative post Natalie! I love the list of benefits when using cooperative learning in the classroom. I think teamwork and social skills are the most important ones because those are critical life skills that students will need when they grow up and get a job. Which benefit/s do you think is/are the most important and why?

    • Thank you! I think it is important to consider all of the benefits to cooperative learning because it is more difficult than standard lecture teaching. I think the most important benefit to cooperative learning is teamwork. No matter where you go in life or what job you have it is almost guaranteed you will have to work with other people. Gaining valuable skills in teamwork will not only hep students throughout their current and future education, but also in their future careers as well.

  2. Great post Natalie, I think that the example you gave in letting the students create a study tool together for the final exam is a great idea! This would benefit the students both during and after the cooperative learning has taken place. What would you do if a student with an assigned task does not come prepared and affect the whole team’s product?

    • Due to the interdependent nature of cooperative learning, the goal is that no students come unprepared. However, the reality is this may still occur. But the very nature of cooperative learning helps to allow teachers to determine exactly what that student/ did or did not do. This makes it much easier to grade their contributions accordingly and appropriately.

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