What is Cooperative Learning?
Cooperative learning is a strategy which involves students in established, sustained learning groups or teams. The group work is an integral part of, not an adjunct to, the achievement of the learning goals of the class. Cooperative learning foster s individual accountability in a context of group interdependence in which students discover information and teach that material to their group and, perhaps, to the class as a whole. The teacher's role changes as Alison King (1993) says "from sage on the stage to guide on the side." Although they learn in groups, the students are evaluated individually on the learning they have achieved. Cooperative Learning:
… is Structured
… Creates a Classroom Community
… is a Sustained Approach
… Requires and Enhances Students' Communication Skills
… Balances Interdependence with Individual Accountability
… Responds to Classroom Diversity
Cooperative Learning is Structured and focused to make sure that learning is taking place. The teacher chooses the groups to reflect a diversity of viewpoints, abilities, gender, race, and other characteristics. The gr oups contain fewer than six students - most likely four. Four students can work in pairs (each student having 3 potential partners) or together. (Millis, 1993).
Cooperative Learning Creates a Classroom Community involving students in a kind of interdependence whereby all are working towards a common goal, often with group members responsible for different aspects of the c ontent and teaching it to other members of the group. In other words, the group's work is not complete until all its members have mastered the content.
Cooperative Learning is a Sustained Approach, lasting longer than a 15 - 20 minute small-group discussion. An entire course or module may be taught using the cooperative learning method. Because they are in the sa me group for a longer time, students experience greater continuity than in occasional small-group situations.
Cooperative Learning Requires and Enhances Students' Communication Skills, with the success of the group depending upon the interaction of its members.. Before cooperative learning can begin, students will learn some of the skills required for successful group interaction:
paraphrasing other's words to ensure and verify comprehension;
giving and receiving feedback;
allowing everyone to contribute ideas; and
refraining from taking over the group or allowing another to do so.
Cooperative Learning Balances Interdependence with Individual Accountability Instructions to the students are specific: each group and each student within that group has a task to perform. In o ther words, each student must demonstrate his or her mastery of the subject and receive an individual grade.
Cooperative Learning Responds to Classroom Diversity and has a positive impact on students whose voices may otherwise go unheard in the classroom. These students include women, minorities, and those who for other reasons may be shy to speak in front of the entire class. Those whose learning style preference is cooperative and collaborative rather than competitive are also served well by this classroom technique.