Teaching Tuesday: Cooperative Learning to Increase Engagement

By Alicia Kozimor, Ed.D., Faculty Chair

Young students collaborating in the classroom

As educators, we want classrooms that are abuzz with learning. In order to create this engaging environment of students excited about learning, there are a variety of strategies we can use. One of the most effective is the use of cooperative learning.

What Is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is the chance for students to learn through their academic and social interactions with one another. Students work with their peers to develop, communicate and analyze their ideas. Usually, we initiate this learning process by posing a challenge or question to students. Next, we place students into groups or pairs to work together to discuss ideas.

Each student shares their individual ideas during this exchange. After this, we call on each group to share one common idea, ask individual students to share what their group discussed or ask students to complete an exit ticket related to the discussion.

Benefits of Cooperative Learning Strategies

Cooperative learning can be used in any subject area or grade level. With the right amount of planning, students of all ages and abilities benefit from the use of cooperative learning. Some of the benefits of cooperative learning include the following:

Increased Communication Skills

When students work through cooperative learning strategies, they build problem-solving and communication skills. Supported pairs or groups can properly communicate their ideas and elaborate on what their peers are saying. As educators, we are responsible for helping the students work together to solve problems or develop an answer to posed questions.

Individual Accountability

Individual accountability is another great benefit to using cooperative learning. When we incorporate cooperative learning strategies, students are responsible to generating their own ideas, contributing to the group and listening to be prepared to share out information. Students can see immediately how they play an important role in their group. Students are empowered to share their ideas in a collaborative manner to move their group forward and progress.

Increased Student Engagement

There are several cooperative learning strategies that can be implemented in order to increase student engagement. Below are three strategies that can be implemented in any grade level or content area, with the right amount of planning and supports: 

  • Think, Pair, Share: During a lesson, pause to ask a question to the students. Give them time to think of an answer, then pair students up with a partner to share their answers. Asking students to then share their partner’s answers to the class increases student engagement, as the student needs to ensure they are listening to their partner. 
  • Rally Robin: Students are posed with a question that could produce multiple answers. After appropriate wait time, place students into pairs or small groups. Each student takes a turn sharing an answer that has not already been shared. This continues until the time for sharing ends. This strategy truly pushes students to think deeply about an answer and work collaboratively to produce answers during the allotted time. 
  • Quiz-Quiz-Trade: To start, give students a card with a question or prompt. Allow them time to develop their answer, and then share it with a partner. Each student then shares the prompt and their developed answer with their partners before trading cards. This process is repeated for the predetermined amount of time. This strategy encourages engagement, as students must listen to the answer being shared by their partner.

Increasing Accountability During Cooperative Learning

Each cooperative learning strategy can be scaled to become simpler for younger students and more rigorous for older students. An easy way to increase accountability during any strategy would be to ask students to respond to their partner.

For example, if implementing Quiz-Quiz-Trade, after a student shares their prompt and answer, their partner can respond using a sentence stem such as “I heard you say…” or “I agree/disagree with you because…” These sentence stems and responses can be worked into any strategy to ensure that students are listening to their partners and thinking about what is being shared.

Keep in mind, when you implement cooperative learning in your classroom, you are teaching the whole child. With this, students can develop interpersonal skills such as problem solving and effective communication. They are also given the time to develop, analyze and think critically about content. Ultimately, they are more engaged in the learning, allowing for memorable classroom experiences.

Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. Learn more about Grand Canyon University’s College of Education and our degree programs and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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