As educators, we want classrooms that are abuzz with learning. There are a variety of strategies we can use to create an engaging environment of students that are excited about learning. One of the most effective strategies is the use of cooperative learning.
What Is Cooperative Learning?
The cooperative learning definition revolves around students working with and among each other for their educational benefit. It is a chance for students to learn through their academic and social interactions with one another. Students use cooperation in learning while working 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.
Top Cooperative Learning Activities and Strategies
There are several cooperative learning strategies that can be implemented to increase student engagement. Below are four of the top cooperative learning activities 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.
- Corners: This activity is ideal for open, opinion-type questions where students can dig deep to explain their answer based on their experiences. You will use the corners of your classroom, assigning one answer option to each corner. Students will then move to the corner to show their answer. They can discuss their choice within that corner, and then later share with the class.
Benefits of Cooperative Learning Strategies
Cooperative learning strategies 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 utilizing cooperative learning strategy include the following:
Increased Communication and Social Skills
When students use the cooperative learning strategy, 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 is another great benefit to using cooperative learning. When we incorporate cooperative learning strategies, students are responsible for generating their own ideas, contributing to the group and listening to be prepared to share 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.
Increasing Accountability During Cooperative Learning
Cooperation in learning 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 strategies in your classroom, you are teaching the whole child. With this, students 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.
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Approved by the Program Director for the College of Education on Sept. 15, 2022.
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.