Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cooperative Learning

According to Dr. Michael Orey, social constructivism involves students constructing artifacts as a result of communication with others (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). An important component of the social learning theory is cooperative learning. Through cooperative learning, students are able to share their ideas with classmates and construct meaning to the material presented in the classroom. The meaning to the content is affected by the social interpretation of the topic (Orey, 2001). Students will create meaning based on their backgrounds, personal connections, and personal experiences. These differences will have a strong impact on the development of knowledge and can lead to a deeper understanding of the content that has been presented (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).
In order for collaboration strategies to be successful, it is important that teachers take the time to group students using a variety of criteria. This will be directly related to the task that the students must complete. Groups must be kept at a manageable size so that each student has a responsibility for a particular task (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). As well as efficient grouping, teachers must focus on detailed expectations and assessment. Tasks should be focused toward a particular learning standard. Students should be assessed for individual contributions as well as the overall group presentation. Collaborative learning also creates an opportunity for peer teaching.
Technology can provide another aspect to cooperative learning. Through the use of multimedia, such as creating a video, there are many roles that must be filled.  Proper grouping can fill those roles with students that are strong in a particular area.  The strengths are then shared among peers for further understanding, improving a weakness that a different student may have. Technology allows students to create artifacts that can be shared on the web. This allows students to not only communicate in the classroom, but from their home. They can collaborate online with classmates, or venture out to collaborate with students and experts worldwide. Technology opens the door for teachers to quickly be able to share information with their students. This type of course management provides students with access to shared resources and facilitates online discussions (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Discussions can take place in a chat room or through more advanced communication software such as Skype.
Cooperative learning is a component of social learning that is necessary for this strategy to be successful. As students work socially with peers, they develop meanings that they may not have created by thinking on their own.  This expands the knowledge base of the student, and creates new connections and experiences that can be used in future learning.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program eight. Social learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. I agree that an important part of effective group work is giving the students detailed expectations and assessments. It is easy to put students into groups and think that they will know what they should do, but this is not always the case. I know that I've made this mistake before. Even if they do know what is expected, they need to be held responsible for pulling their fair share. For larger projects, rubrics are a great tool for making these expectations clear. They help to give students specific guidelines that will help them to perform effectively. Also, addressing what effective group work likes from the very beginning of the school year will help to set the tone for the remainder of the year.

  2. I think the hardest part of cooperative learning is making sure that everyone in the group is contributing. Even though rubrics are excellent tools to use for projects, sometimes they are not enough. Groups many times have a leader that is willing to do a majority of the work because they want it to fulfill all of the teacher’s expectations. One way to make sure that each student is doing their part is to create a project that has a job for each member of the group. This also gives students the opportunity to volunteer for the jobs that fit their strengths.

  3. How do you feel about "positive interdepence" or all students in group sink or swim together. At my school students work together up to a point, but ultimately each is responsible for their own work. Obviously each student can achieve more if all the members of the group are working together, but we are no longer allowed to grade completely as a group. Too many parents got angry about their child's grade being affected by the performance of others. have you experienced any similar issues?

  4. I actually feel that I probably grade as a group too much and should start implementing an individual grade component to my rubrics. There is usually a student in the group who does not allow a project to go sour. With that said, there is usually a student that rides the shirt tails of the group members just enough to get a good grade.