Cooperative Learning is a broad teaching strategy that uses group communication to deepen student learning. Researchers tend to differ in their definitions of this approach because of the components that they believe must exist (Dean et al, 2012). This approach can encourage motivation for learning because it is the students’ peers holding each other accountable rather than simply the teacher. For best results, the group tasks should be interesting and involve a sense of challenge that the students must work together to overcome. The main recommendations to consider in the implementation of Cooperative Learning is to keep the groups small to ensure that all students participate, have both individual and group accountability, and to have a well structured plan for students to follow together. (Dean et al, 2012). This is a helpful approach if your curriculum relies on a good amount of technology, such as my graphic design and video production classes that I have taught in the past. Cooperative Learning allows students to work together to promote not only each individual’s learning but also the progress of others.
Key Research Findings:
- This approach can be very effective in online learning contexts with the use of programs and online tools (Roseth, Akcaoglu, and Zellner, (2013).
- Cooperative Learning can have very positive results with ELL students because they not only learn language, but also can actively participate and implement it through group communication (Colorado, 2007).
- Over 650 primary studies across 9 decades and 27 countries have proved that Cooperative Learning is an effective instructional strategy in the classroom (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec (2008).
- Since Cooperative Learning is a process, teachers need to first teach the students the process and allow space for practice. The teacher should start implementation of this approach once he/she is confident that students understand the expectations for their involvement in Cooperative Learning (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012).
- Have students break into small groups where each person takes on a different assigned role. Each role has key descriptions of what is expected from them. Motivation comes from group accountability because everyone’s effort is needed for the group to have success. An example from video production classes that I have taught is placing students on “film crews” and assigning the following roles: Director, writer, cinematographer and editor.
- Have small groups process a lesson together through guiding questions. Encourage communication between group members so that students not only learn information, but they analyze it with peers and see the content material through the perspective of others.
- At the end of lesson segments, give students reflection questions that allow them to focus on the main points and reflect on their learning as a group.
- Give instruction to students on how to collaborate with others in their small groups. Teach students how to have positive discussions; showing them how to listen to others and respect them as individuals.
- Give students positive interdependence in projects and teach students to use their individual gifts to contribute to the success of the overall cooperative group.
- Use Cooperative Learning with online media resources so that students can collaborate without having to meet in person. Give students clear guidelines and expectations for their online actions and communication with other peers.
- For new collaborative ideas, look at what other teachers are doing by accessing the online application Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lauracandler/cooperative-learning-resources/
- For examples of specific Cooperative Learning programs go to: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/OR/ConsumerGuides/cooplear.html. This contains short descriptions of the programs and contact information of key people that would accept questions.
- For an example of a film crew Cooperative Learning experience, look at this final music video project from my freshmen students: https://vimeo.com/39602564. Each student was assigned a different role, and part of this project was assessing each other’s contributions so that there was individual and group accountability.