The concept of cooperative education has been around for a long time. Yet, for some reason, a lot of people still don’t have a clear cooperative learning definition. Part of the reason for this could be that other learning strategies have largely gained more attention than cooperative learning, such as differentiated or blended learning.
Cooperative learning, not to be confused with collaborative learning, is an important learning theory which supports the development of students in various settings, from classroom to business. Cooperative learning is based on group work and communication between teams, but there’s much more to it than most people realize.
What is Cooperative Learning?
Cooperative learning is a strategy for education based on group work and teams coming together towards a shared goal. The core element of this learning strategy is that it showcases the positive effects of people being independent and showing their own skills, while managing personal responsibility. In cooperative learning, students work with one another on a task or project.
However, an important point to note about this kind of learning is that although students do work together on group efforts, they each have their own task to focus on. The idea is that people within this environment will have a chance to strengthen their skills, while simultaneously seeing how their actions can affect a wider group.
Students being social while they’re working also builds better camaraderie and bonding opportunities between teams, particularly in the work environment. It’s a chance for people to get to know each other and understand the strengths and weaknesses of their peers. Working socially also supports employees in developing soft skills like problem solving, communication, and collaboration.
Understanding the Benefits Cooperative Learning
Cooperative learning is all about keeping students focused on their goals, and how their activities affect the other people in their team. As a teacher in a cooperative learning environment, educators aren’t actively instructing, but simply ensuring that students remain on task.
This less hands-on method of education can be a positive thing for leaders in teams who don’t have as much time to offer training solutions. Cooperative learning allows students to manage more of their own educational experiences. Other benefits of cooperative learning include:
- Positive interdependence: The group shares a goal that all students work collaboratively to meet. Whether or not these employees meet this goal will rely on the ability of all team members to come together and implement their own skills to succeed. Everyone needs to work together to succeed, but it’s also important for individuals to be aware of their own responsibilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Group and individual accountability: The students in a cooperative learning environment are responsible for their own work and meeting the goals of the project. However, they also know that other people in the group are relying on them so they can complete their own tasks. This helps to develop an understanding of the individual’s position in a group.
- Positive interactions: Students in cooperative learning work in an environment where they’re encouraged to support each other and maintain discussions. Everyone has their own skill set, so they can learn new things they might not have been able to discover if they were working alone. This helps to facilitate collaborative learning, which is different from cooperative learning.
- Interpersonal and group skills: In a cooperative environment where multiple people are working together, students learn how to work in tandem with others, and communicate with the wider group. They learn to be open and communicative with their ideas, as well as being open to feedback and listening to ideas that differ from their own.
- Group processing: Group members working together in small groups get an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their peers in teamwork. These learning activities can also build self-esteem by helping students to see their own strengths. When cooperate learning groups can understand their abilities in relation to the rest of the team, everyone can work more effectively together.
- Critical thinking: Students can use these learning tasks to develop their critical thinking abilities. Being able to think carefully about how to reach common girls in a business space is crucial. Cooperative learning strategies even improve decision-making, by helping individuals to determine the best course of action for a group with specific learning goals.
Where Are Cooperative Learning Experiences most Successful?
Cooperative learning lessons and group activities are excellent in situations where it’s important to develop a sense of group accountability. A group of students in either an educational space like a high school, or a business can use the benefits of cooperative learning activities to grow and thrive. However, for these learning methods to be successful, they must include the following elements:
- Positive interdependence: Students must participate in the group and know their role in other students’ learning. Every member needs to be responsible for something
- Positive interaction: Small group skills are developed by groups of students interacting together and motivating each other. Group members should be open about what they understand and what they don’t so strengths and weaknesses can be discovered.
- Accountability: Each individual must be accountable for their actions in pursuing group goals. Active learning requires individuals to show their understanding
- Group processing: Students should think about the structuring of the group and reflect on which members did what to encourage a higher-level learning experience
Throughout the process, the students in this kind of learning environment will also develop individualistic learning results, including improved interpersonal skills and soft skills. Face-to-face communication will improve, along with leadership skills, conflict-management, and trust-building. The learning process also encourages social skills among cooperative learning groups, to help individuals make friends.
Strategies for Cooperative Learning
Discussed by innovators like David Johnson and Johnson, Robert Slavin, Edythe Holubec and Spencer Kagan, cooperative learning has a significant impact on individualistic learning and interpersonal skills. There are many ways to bring a higher level of cooperative learning structuring into the classroom for student achievement, such as:
- The Jigsaw technique: With this use of cooperative learning, each student is responsible for a specific part of the project and group performance. The students need to incorporate their skills into the group to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.
- Think-pair-share: In this student learning method, students are given a specific question to consider. They’ll record their thoughts interdependently and silently. During the class period, the students will pair up with a partner to discuss ideas for achieving common goals. The teacher responsible for classroom management can call on students to share their answers.
- Inside-outside circle: In this teaching strategy, the students in an instructional session form two circles, one inside the other. The students take time rotating so they can discuss ideas with a new partner.
- Team games and tournaments: This is when students are organized into small groups to prepare for a trivia game or quiz experience.
Notably, cooperative learning is not the same as collaborative learning, where students take a role in ensuring they teach the other members of their team certain skills to improve the chances of group success. Collaborative learning follows a slightly different set of rules and techniques.
The Role of a Teacher in Cooperative Learning
The purpose of the Pedagogy methods of social interaction in cooperative learning is to provide students with opportunities to learn from their peers, grow, and develop new skills. Unlike other teaching strategies, the teacher in a cooperative learning session is often minimal. The main task of the teacher is to keep the students on topic and focused on their work or project.
When working in groups, it’s easy for students in cooperative learning to go off topic and start socializing, rather than staying focused on the task at hand. The teacher should observe the cooperative learning group to ensure their focus remains firmly on the task at hand and doesn’t drift to something new.
If there are multiple groups working together within a classroom or educational setting, it’s difficult for any teacher to keep a watch over every team at once. However, the educator will still often check in on the groups every so often to ensure they’re not losing track too much. Teachers can offer advice and guidance to steer the conversation back in the correct direction.
Is Cooperative Learning a Good Idea?
Cooperative learning can be a powerful way to bring teams together in a social environment for a better educational experience. A cooperative learning session can build culture and community in a workplace or schooling environment. It’s also an excellent way to teach leadership skills and help students to discover new ways of working as a team.
Cooperative learning respects the individual strengths and weaknesses of each student, giving them the chance to grow as part of a team, and as a single person. Like all teaching strategies, cooperative learning experiences can work better with some students than others.