Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning refers to a set of techniques designed very specifically to make students work together in small groups. These techniques are research-proven to increase cognition, improve social skills, and prepare students for the world of work.

To do a cooperative learning (CL) technique, teachers must incorporate the principles of positive interdependence, accountability, group formation and size, social development, and cognitive development into its organizational structure. These principles are what set CL apart from other approaches, such as collaborative learning, which is less prescriptive and more focused on acculturation and social constructivism. More information on the principles can be found by clicking on the icons in the picture below.

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Accountability

Upon completion of the assignment, students grade one another with a rubric provided by the teacher, thus making each student accountable to the other group members. The teacher grades the whole group, making students accountable to them as well.

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Positive Interdependence

Setting up the activity in such a way that the students must work together to complete it.

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Group Formation and Size

Teachers should form the groups in order to make them heterogenous. Group size can range from 5-7 students.

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Social Development

Students have the opportunity to practice social skills such as turn-taking, active listening, and more in an authentic, real-time situation.

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Cognitive Development

The main goal of cooperative learning. Because students must carry the responsibility for learning their part of the assignment themselves, and then teach it to the other group members, cognitive development is higher than it otherwise would be. 

Perhaps the most well-known example of a cooperative-learning technique is the Jigsaw. Developed by Eliot Aronson in the early 1970s to improve the relationships between students from different ethnic backgrounds, the Jigsaw technique requires each student to provide a piece of the overall assignment so that the group can fully learn the material. In Dr. Aronson’s words:  

After only eight weeks, there were clear differences, even though students spent only a small portion of their time in jigsaw groups. When tested objectively, jigsaw students expressed less prejudice and negative stereotyping, were more self-confident, and reported liking school better than children in traditional classrooms. Moreover, children in jigsaw classes were absent less often than were other students, and they showed greater academic improvement.

For a step-by-step guide on how to perform the Jigsaw technique in class, visit the excellent Jigsaw Classroom website by clicking the button below.

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