One of the most popular instructional strategies in education is cooperative learning. So what exactly is cooperative learning? Cooperative learning is a form of active learning where students work together to perform specific tasks in small group settings. Additionally, there are five defining elements of cooperative learning: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interactions, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).
One key component of cooperative learning is how groups are to be assembled. Research has shown that in general, homogenous groupings seem to have an positive effect on achievement in comparison with no grouping at all (Marzano, et al., 2001). Is using homogeneous groupings the more effective method? Research indicates that when low ability students are placed in homogeneous groups they will perform worse than in heterogeneous groups (-23 percentile gain). Research additionally shows high performing students only gaining marginally of 3 percentile and the medium ability students show a 19 percentile gain (Marzano, et al., 2001). The benefits of grouping students based on their abilities can show some achievement but it is not as effective as grouping students. Cooperative learning will allow for group members to learn from each other and for this reason it is important to organize groups with members of varying skills and abilities. By organizing based on ability we are limiting the learning and understandings in which students would be exposed to.
Cooperative learning is such a popular instructional strategy because it produces better learning and more motivated learners than competitive and individual learning. Furthermore, cooperative learning has demonstrated to facilitate learning at all grade levels regardless of the subject and for all achievement levels (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007). I love the idea of using cooperative learning as I feel beyond facilitating better learning; it also provides opportunities for other life skills to be developed. Through cooperative learning students will build positive feelings towards others and affirm the values of other people. In general, cooperation will increase students’ self-esteem as they become more valued within groups. Finally, as students work together they will begin to improve their small group skills of communication, trust, leadership, decision making, and conflict resolution (Marzano, et al., 2001). Cooperative learning is something that I hope to effectively use and implement in my classroom.
Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D. J., & Pollock, J. E. (2001). Classroom instructions that works: research based instruction for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Pressley, N., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guildford Press.