What is it?
Cooperative learning is used in a classroom to engage students in learning and give them the option of differentiated instruction. “It is probably the most discussed teaching method among educators today” (George, 241). Cooperative learning can be executed as whole class instruction, in teams, or in pairs. Using these different instructional strategies create class-building, team-building, mastery, thinking skills, communication skills, and information sharing in the classroom for any content area (Tsay& Brady, 79).
This strategy supports Constructivist Learning Theory (CLT), Developmental Learning Theory (DLT) because students are able to build on their existing knowledge (CLT) while working in groups or pairs (DLT). Often, “students may know what other students don’t understand, perhaps better than the teacher. The students’ explanations may be clearer, less intimidating, use more familiar terms, and be provided at the right time” (George, 243).
Students can improve their social skills
Students can get assistance from peers in a small group if they are struggling and embarrassed to ask whole group
Students may have different background knowledge which can lead to a question being explored differently due to a diverse perspective than their own (George, 275).
Students can incorporate their prior experiences and skills into their group discussions and assignments (Tsay& Brady, 79).
The inappropriate grouping of students which lead to more distractions than learning.
It can be a terrifying situation for students who may not have good social skills.
Grading can be tough because its hard to determine individual learning. For example, one student might dominate the group, or the teacher assigns unbalanced groups (Topping et al., 96). A concern that needs more effort and reflection is the difficulty to assess what the individual knows versus the group, to enter a representative grade into the gradebook (George, 275).
George, P.S. Cooperative Learning.
Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures for Success! 2001
Topping, K.J., Thurston, A., Tolmie, A., Chrstie, D., Murray, P., and Karagiannidou E. 2011. Cooperative learning in science: intervention in the secondary school. Research in Science & Technology Education 29 no. 1: 91-106.
Tsay, M., Brady, M. 2010 A case study of cooperative learning and communication pedagogy: Does working in teams make a difference? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and learning 10 no. 2:78-89.