Teacher? Team-builder? or Coach? Why Cooperative Learning Enriches Education

Group work is tough. Group work often has skewed work loads. Group work doesn’t get students interested. Group work stresses students out for these reasons plus many more.

Group work IS NOT Cooperative learning

Cooperative work is easy! Cooperative learning takes planning on part of the teacher. Cooperative learning is deeply rooted in teamwork. Cooperative learning is interdependent work.

What a great looking team!

In the field of Education, the idea of Cooperative Learning is becoming more and more popular and is regarded as a positive and effective way to have students engage with the material. Instead of dreaded group work, cooperative work makes the time FLY in the classroom because they are working with each other and learning a lot while having fun along the way.

This is a real method of education and it has been studied for some time. The cooperative learning center at the University of Minnesota, specifically looked at cooperative learning in science classrooms. The article can be found at the bottom of this blog. These are what Roger T. Johnson and David W. Johnson found in their study.

Here are David and Roger
  • 3 types of learning (Individualistic, Competitive and Cooperative)
  • In cooperative strategies, students learned more than Individualistic and Competitive
  • Cooperative learners also enjoyed the subject matter more, had a higher self-esteem and were more inclusive of diversity
  • One of their conclusions was students relationship’s with their peers are directly related to their achievement in school

Roger and David made an astute observation. They were wondering why students were not achieving as they should. They then realized that teachers were “just putting students into GROUPS to work” and slapping the label of “Cooperative learning” on it instead of actually following the cooperative learning practices.

They found 6 steps and practices to ensure that cooperative learning stays true to the meaning.

  1. Stick to small groups 2, 3 or 4
  2. Make the groups heterogenous
  3. Provide a clear group goal
  4. Check group accountability by moving from group to group and asking one group member to explain
  5. Provide a set of expected behaviors
  6. Monitor the groups looking for understanding of science
An image of Cooperative learning taking place at their Institute for Cooperative Learning

These six steps and practices that Roger and David composed align really well with what we have discussed in class the past few sessions. Of course there are certain and specific strategies that are a little more specialized such as STAD, Jigsaw II, Co-Op Co-Op, Group investigation and guided reciprocal peer questioning.

However, as an educator is you plan, encourage and cultivate teamwork and create interdependent work for your students, you will create an environment where cooperative learning can increase student learning. Cooperative learning no group work.

Thank you for reading!

Here is the link to the article referenced during my post!



  1. Hey Mason, thanks for providing that great article! I think it was pretty astute for the researchers to realize that the teachers were just disguising the group work as cooperative learning. What are some ways teachers can be sure that they don’t fall into the trappings of group work? That way we can provide the best instruction for our students. Great post!

    • I think two things that teachers can do to ensure that they are in the “cooperative learning realm” and not doing group work is to ensure that there is a sense of teamwork amongst them members. I believe that if you provide a consistent team with a clear goal and have their work be interdependent on one another that this will ensure that your work stays away from group work.

  2. Hi Mason! I enjoyed reading the article about Roger and David Johnson. It’s so important that teachers are using cooperative learning in their classroom rather than just putting students into groups to work. Students learn so much more when they have a sense of interdependence as well as self accountability. I found it really interesting that student’ relationship with their peers is directed correlated to how they do in school. How will you promote team building and positive student interaction in your classroom? Great post!

    • In the future there are a bunch of ways that I plan on promoting a team building and positive atmosphere. I have a lot of experience from camp because this plays a huge role in my campers’ weeks. I think one of the largest things is to not just have intentional and meaningful conversations with you students but having students have those conversations with themselves and really get to know each other. This can look like doing a “getting to know you activity” where you find someone with a common interest with you or giving students the opportunity for a few minutes just to talk about their weekends or what they plan on doing that night when they go home.

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