Cooperative Learning


Why use C/L

  • C/L alters the primary discourse pattern of an activity from Teacher-Student to Student- Student
  • It utilizes many benefits of Vygotskian social learning. Cross age and competency tutoring is beneficial to both the high performer and the low performer.
  • Students take on responsibility for their own learning.
  • C/L reduces anxiety of interaction in the classroom.
  • When used correctly, it reduces classroom management problems.
  • It is integrates well with other approaches.
  • C/L is consistent with the social needs of a service oriented society. It fills the socialization void in schools.
  • It improves intercultural relations.
  • It increases studentís time on task
  • It increases frequency and types of practice of skills and content.
  • It has a large body of theoretical support.
  • It is supported by successful practice.

When to use C/L

  • C/L should be used only as long as it is effective. C/L should be accompanied by effective classroom management.
  • It need not be used for the whole class. Spencer Kagan does not recommend the exclusive use of C/L. Direct instruction is equally invaluable and is in fact an integral part of C/L
  • Start with activities that require short periods of time. As the cooperative skills of studentís develop, increase the length of time in C/L.


What is C/L

  • Groups should not be forced and C/L does not mean giving up individuality.
  • C/L should be designed so that every member of a group must participate in order to achieve.
  • The range of C/L methods address both basic skills and high level processes and content.
  • C/L seeks to develop intrinsic motivation in the content AND social motivation.

How to implement C/L: The Six Key Concepts

  • Teams: Groups of students
    • Heterogeneous Teams
    • Random Groups
    • Homogeneous Language Teams
    • Interest Teams
  • Cooperative Management
    • Giving Directions
    • Start and Stop of Activity
    • Modeling
    • Positive examples of behavior rather than negative examples
  • Will to Cooperate
    • Teambuilding and classbuilding by team and class rewards.
  • Skill to Cooperate
    • Modeling and reinforcement, role assignments, structuring, and reflection
  • Basic Principles
    • Simultaneous Interaction: Time is used efficiently
    • Positive Interdependence: The cooperative principle
    • Individual Accountability: Everyone participates, everyone learns

Structures: A content free way of organizing the interaction of individuals in a classroom.

  • Structures + Content = Activity
  • Structures yield predictable outcomes in academic, linguistic, and social domains. Different structures are used for different objectives.
  • Can be used with or without specially designed curriculum materials.
  • C/L goes wrong when there is a mismatch of structures, objective, and skill or cognitive level.


  • Teachers should have a few structures and activities in regular practice to incorporate into and complement other teaching practices.
  • Distinguish between Cooperation and Cooperative Skills. Skills are something you learn and practice.
  • Always be aware when implementing:
  • Identify cognitive development
  • Identify social development
  • Identify the ideal location in a lesson plan
  • Identify location in a curriculum

The path of C/L

1) Students learn to cooperate
2) Students develop a range of cooperative skills
3) Students apply skills in a structured situation
4) Students ultimately develop the ability to transfer skills, organize prior content knowledge and organize socially, and strategize in an unstructured situation


Bibliography and Resources:

Kagan, Spencer; Cooperative Learning; San Diego; Resources for Teachers; 1994

Slavin, Robert; Cooperative Learning; New York; Longman; 1983

Johnson, D.W. and Johnson, R.T.; Structuring Cooperative Learning: Lesson Plans for Teachers; Minneapolis, MI; Interaction Book Co. 1984