Cooperative learning (CL) is a student-centered, instructor-facilitated instructional strategy in which a small team of students is responsible for its own learning and the learning of all team members. CL is much more than placing students in teams and expecting them to discuss the chapter and then report back to the class. CL holds each of the team members accountable for his or her own and the team’s outcomes. Several essential characteristics must be present for a team to be called “cooperative.” Even though the instructor structures the majority of the activities, it is the team and each of its members who are responsible for learning. A team must exhibit interdependence; support one another’s learning; will hold each other accountable for the team’s process and outcomes; exhibit acceptable interpersonal skills and process team dynamics (Johnson and Others, 2003).
The literature shows that students who are given opportunities to work in CL teams are able to learn more quickly and efficiently, are better able to grasp and retain content, and take a more positive stance toward their own learning (Felder & Brent, 2001; Hamilton, 1997; Johnson & Johnson, 1994; D. W; Stahl. 1994). In addition, CL experiences give students the opportunity to collaborate and assume various team-related roles. Cooperative learning, then, when effectively implemented, can provide students with transferable skills sought after in today’s competitive workplace.
Cooperative learning, then, when effectively implemented, can provide students with transferable skills sought after in today’s competitive workplace.
Although there are different approaches to creating cooperative learning (CL) teams, it is best to consider some characteristics which are essential to their success in the classroom. Ledlow (1999) has identified six areas to help design and develop successful cooperative learning teams: climate-setting, team formation, teambuilding, cooperative skills development, lesson design, and classroom management. The following has been excerpted from both Stahl (1994) and Ledlow (1999). See their works for more complete and detailed information.
Illustrate how Cooperative Learning helps build communication, leadership and trust-building skills.
Carefully planned cooperative learning teams can maximize the performance of each team member. The following are some ideas to help you organize students into well-structured teams.
Keep teams together for most of the semester to help students get comfortable with one another and build community.
Team dynamics should be welcoming, organized and cohesive. Because CL teams can span several weeks or an entire semester, a number of points should be followed to help create and sustain all members of the team.
Suggest that the teams develop their own rules of the road or guidelines
Cooperative Skills Development
Give the team a set of well-defined and explicit instructions or guidelines before they begin team activity . . .
Ledlow (1999) recommends four essential principles (PIES) when designing cooperative learning lessons: Positive interdependence, Individual accountability, Equal participation, and Simultaneous interaction. With these principles in mind, design cooperative learning lessons and activities to also include a specific outcome or task related to course goals and learning objectives.
As with all team work, cooperative learning teams requires careful monitoring to ensure students are on track, each team member is contributing, and the team members are getting along.
Monitor team work though frequent feedback such as self- and peer-evaluations and team progress reports.
Cooperative learning works well in small and large classes, can be adapted across learning disciplines and can meet the needs of students with diverse learning preferences. Cooperative learning imparts learning through positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, interpersonal skills, and reflection (Johnson and Johnson (1994).
Felder, R. M., Brent, R. (2001). Effective strategies for cooperative learning. Journal of Cooperation & Collaboration in College Teaching, 10(2), 69-75.
Hamilton, S. J. (1997). Collaborative learning: Teaching and learning in the arts, sciences, and professional schools. (2nd Ed.). Indianapolis, IN: IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning.
Johnson, D. W., and Others, (2003). Cooperative learning: Increasing college faculty instructional productivity. http://www.ntlf.com/html/lib/bib/92-2dig.htm
Johnson, R. T., & Johnson, D. W. (1994). An overview of cooperative learning.
Ledlow, S. (1999). Cooperative learning in higher education.
Stahl, R. J. (1994). The essential elements of cooperative learning in the classroom. ERICDIGESTS.ORG.ERIC Identifier: ED370881. http://www.ed.gov/pubs/OR/ConsumerGuides/cooplear.html
Millis, B. J., & Cottell, P. G., Jr. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty. Phoenix, AZ: The Oryx Press.
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Cooperative learning. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide