Respond to Questions:

  1. Based on Cooperative Learning Reading by Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec (1994).  Respond to the following:
    • Why use cooperative learning? What is the difference between formal cooperative learning and informal?
    • What are the 5 essential elements of cooperative learning? Discuss what each means in your own words and why it is important.
    • What do teachers need to know about monitoring and intervening when students are working in cooperative groups

 2. Based on Gillies (2003) article on Structuring cooperative group work in classrooms, respond to the following:

  • What are the key research findings of cooperative learning? To what extent are these findings important for teachers, including yourself? Explain why.
  • What theoretical perspective(s) inform cooperative learning research and practice?
  • To what extent are findings in the reading similar to those reported in the short Video—Incorporating Cooperative Learning Effectively.

3.Read the Mirrored Tiles Lesson Plan and provide specific examples to explain in what ways each of the five key elements of cooperative learning are evidenced (or not) in the lesson plan. If any of the five elements are not addressed, point those out and explain your observation; then suggest a way that it might be addressed in the lesson plan.

4. Watch the Video Lesson—Where Cooperative Learning Works.  Provide specific examples to explain in what ways each of the key five elements for cooperative learning are evidenced (or not) in the lesson. If any of the five elements are not addressed, point those out and explain your observation; then suggest a way that it might be addressed in the lesson. (As you observe the video, watch for teacher interactions with the groups (e.g., How does the teacher promote group interactions? Some teachers exchange communications with individual students (as if it was an individual task) rather than addressing the entire group when a member asks a question or when the teacher has a question or comment. This does not model cooperation in the group to the students.)

5. What questions or concerns do you still have about using cooperative learning through the implementation of the 5 key elements that other classmates may respond to?

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What Is Cooperative Learning? Learning is something students do, not something that is done to

students. Learning is not a spectator sport. It requires students’ direct and active involvement and participation. Like mountain climbers, students most easily scale the heights of learning when they are part of a cooperative team.

Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals. Within cooperative situations, individuals seek outcomes beneficial to them­ selves and all other group members. Cooperative learning is the instruc­ tional use of small groups through which students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. It may be contrasted with competitive learning in which students work against each other to achieve an academic goal such as a grade of “A” that only one or a few students can attain and individualistic learning in which students work by themselves to accomplish learning goals unrelated to those of the other students. In cooperative and individualistic learning, teachers evaluate student efforts on a criteria-referenced basis, but in competitive learning, students are graded on a norm-referenced basis. Though there are limitations on when and where you can use competitive and indi­ vidualistic learning appropriately, you may structure any learning task in any subject area: with any curriculum cooperatively.

Cooperative learning relies on three types of cooperative learning groups. Formal cooperative learning groups last from one class period to several weeks. Formal cooperative learning is students working to­ ~ether to achieve shared learning goals by ensuring that they and their ~roupmates successfully complete the learning task assigned. Any learn­ ing task in any subject area with any curriculum can be structured ~ooperatively. Any course requirement or assignment may by reformu­ ated for formal cooperative learning. When working with formal coop­ ~rative learning groups, you must (a) specify the objectives for the lesson, b) make a number of pre-instructional decisions, (c) explain the task and he positive interdependence to students, (d) monitor students’ learning md intervene in the groups to provide task assistance or to increase tudents’ interpersonal and group skills, and (e) evaluate students’ earning and help students process how well their groups functioned. ‘ormal cooperative learning groups ensure that students are actively nvolved in the intellectual work of organizing material, explaining it, ummarizing it, ~nd integrating it into existing conceptual structures.


Informal cooperative learning groups are ad-hoc groups that last from a few minutes to one class period. You can use them during direct teaching (lectures, demonstrations, films, and videos) to focus student attention on particular material, set a mood conducive to learning, help set expectations about what the lesson will cover, ensure that students cognitively process the material you are teaching, and provide closure to an instructional session. Informal cooperative learning groups are often organized so that students engage in three- to five-minute focused discussion before and after a lecture and two- to three-minute turn-to­ your-partner discussions throughout a lecture. Like formal cooperative learning groups, informal cooperative learning groups help you ensure that students do the intellectual work of organizing, explaining, summa­ rizing, and integrating material into existing conceptual structures dur­ ing direct teaching.

Cooperative base groups are long term (lasting for at least a year), heterogeneous cooperative learning groups with stable membership whose primary purpose is to allow members to give each other the support, help, encouragement, and assistance each needs, to succeed academically. Base groups provide students with long-term, committed relationships that allow group members to give each other the support, help, encouragement, and assistance needed to consistently work hard in school, make academic progress (attend class, complete all assign­ ments, learn), and develop in cognitively and socially healthy ways Uohnson, Johnson, and Holubec 1992; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith 1991).

In addition to these three types of cooperative learning groups, cooperative learning scripts are used to structure repetitive classroom routines and recurring lessons, which, once structured cooperatively, provide a cooperative learning foundation for your classes. Cooperative learning scripts are standard cooperative procedures for conducting generic, repetitive lessons (such as writing reports or giving presenta­ tions) and managing classroom routines (such as checking homework or reviewing a test). Once planned and conducted several times, they become automatic activities in the classroom and make building a cooperative classroom easier.

When you use formal, informal. and cooperative base groups repeat­ edly, you will gain a routine level of expertise, that is, you will be able to structure cooperative learning situations automatically without con­ scious thought or planning. You can then use cooperative learning with fidelity for the rest of your teaching career.


” ‘ How Do You Know a Group Is Cotlpera.HvP

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uf ,;r, the classroom. Other types hinde1 student learning ,mct create dis.harmony and dissatisfaction in the classroom. To use learning · groups effectively, you must know what is and is not a cooperative group.

Cooperative learning groups are just one of many types of groups that can be used in the classroom. When you use instructional groups, ask yourself, “What type of group am I using?” The following list of types of groups might help you answer that question.

1. The Pseudo-Learning Group: Students are assigned to work to­ gether, but they have no interest in doing so. They believe they will be evaluated by being ranked on individual performance. While on the surface students talk to each other, under the surface they are competing. They see each other as rivals who must be defeated, so they block or interfere with each other’s learning, hide information from each other, attempt to mislead and confuse each other, and distrust each other. As a result, the sum of the whole is less than the potential of the individual members. Students would work better individually.

2. The Traditional Classroom Learning Group: Students are assigned to work together and accept that they have to do so, but assignments are structured so that very little joint work is required. Students believe that they will be evaluated and rewarded as individuals, not as members of the group. They interact primarily to clarify how assignments are to be done. They seek each other’s information, but have no motivation to teach what they know to their groupmates. Helping and sharing is minimized. Some students loaf, seeking a free ride on the efforts of their more conscientious groupmates. Conscientious members feel exploited and put forth less than their usual effort. The result is that the sum of the whole is more than the potential of some of the members, but harder working, more conscientious students would be better off working alone.

3. The Cooperative Learning Group: Students are assigned to work together and are happy to do so. They know that their success depends on the efforts of all group members. Such groups have five defining characteristics. First, the group goal of maximizing all members’ learning motivates members to roll up their sleeves and accomplish something beyond their individual abilities. Members believe that they sink or swim together, and if one fails, they all fail. Second, group members hold themselves and each other accountable for doing high-quality work to

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a 1.:ommitrnent to and concern for each other. Fourth, group members are taught social skills and ~e expected to use them to coordinate their efforts and achieve their goals. Taskwork and teamwork skills are em• phasized, and all members accept responsibility for providing leader• ship. Finally, groups analyze how effectively they achieving the~ goals and how well members are working together to ensure continuous improvement of the quality of their learning and teamwork processes,. As a result, the group is more than the sum of its parts, and all students perform better academically than they would if they worked alone.

4. The High-Performance Cooperative Learning Group: This is· a group that meets all the criteria for being a cooperative learning group and outperforms all reasonable expectations. What differentiates . the high-performance group from the cooperative learning group is the level of commitment members have to each other and the group’s success. Jennifer Futemick, who is part of a high-performing, rapicbesponse team at McKinsey & Company, calls the emotion binding her teammates together a form of love (Katzenbach and Smith 1993). Ken Hoepner of the Burlington Northern Intermodal Team (also described by Katzenbach and Smith 1993) stated: “Not only did we trust each other, not only did we respect each other, but we gave a damn about the rest of the people on this team. If we saw somebody vulnerable, we were there to help.” Members’ mutual concern for each other’s personal growth enables high-performance cooperative groups to exceed expectations, and also have fun. Unfortunately, but understandably, high-performance coop­ erative groups rare because most groups never achieve this level of development.

To use cooperative learning effectively, you must realize that not all groups are cooperative groups. The learning group performance curve illustrates that how well any small group performs depends on how it is structured (see Figure 1.1 )(Katzenbach and Smith 1993 ). Placing people in the same room and calling them a cooperative group does not make them one. Study groups, project groups, lab groups, homerooms, and reading groups are groups, but they are not necessarily cooperative. Even with the best of intentions, you can end up with traditional classroom learning groups rather than cooperatiye learning groups. One of the major parts of your job is to form students into learning groups, diagnose


The Leaming Group Performance Curve

High-performing Cooperative Learning

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where on the performance curve the groups are, strengthen the basic elements of cooperation, and move the groups up the performance curve until they are truly cooperative learning groups.

How Can You Make Cooperation Work? Together we stand, divided we fall.

-Watchword of the American Revolution

To structure lessons so students do in fact work cooperatively with each other, you must understand the basic elements that make coopera­ tion work. Mastering the basic elements of cooperation allows you to:

1. Take your existing lessons, curriculums, and courses and structure them cooperatively.

2. Tailor cooperative learning lessons to your uniqu.e instructional needs, circumstances, curriculums, subject areas, and students.

3. Diagnose the problems some students may have in working to­ gether and intervene to increase learning groups’ effectivenfSS.

For cooperation to work well, you must explicitly structure five essential elements in each lesson (see Figure 1.2).

The first and most important element of cooperative learning is positive interdependence. You must provide a clear task and a group goal so that students know they sink or swim together. Group members must realize that each person’s efforts benefit not only that individual. but all other group members as well. Such positive interdependence creates a commitment to other people’s success as well as one’s own, which is the heart of cooperative learning. Without positive interdepen­ dence, there is no cooperation.

The second essential element of cooperative learning is individual and group accountability. The group must be accountable for achieving its goals, and each member must be accountable for contributing a fair share of the work. No one can “hitchhike” on the worlc of others. The group has to be clear about its goals and be able to measure (a) its progress toward achieving them and (b) the individual efforts of each member. Individual accountability exists when the performance of each individ­ ual student is assessed and the results are given back to the group and the individual so they can ascertain who needs more assistance, support, and encouragement in completing the assignment. The purpose of coop­ erative learning groups is to make each member a stronger individual,

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Essential Components of Cooperative Leaming

Face-to-Face Positive

Interdependence Promotive



Individual InterpersonalAccountability/

Personal and Small-Group / SkillsResponsibility


Group Processing

that is, students learn together so that they can subsequently perform better as individuals.

The third essential element of cooperative learning is promotive interaction, preferably face-to-face. Students need to do real work to­ gether in which they promote each other’s success by sharing resources and helping, supporting, encouraging, and praising each other’s efforts to learn. Cooperative learning groups are both an academic support system and a personal support system. Some important cognitive activi­ ties and interpersonal dynamics occur only when students promote each other’s learning by orally explaining bow to solve problems, discussing the nature of the concepts being learned, teaching one’s knowledge to classmates, and connecting present and past learning. Through promot­ ing each other’s learning face-to-face, members become personally com-, mitted to each other as well as to their mutual goals.

The fourth essential element of cooperative learning is teaching students some necessary interpersonal and small-group skills. Coopera­ tive learning is inherently more complex than competitive or individu­ alistic learning because it requires students to learn academic subject

matter (taskwork) as well as the interpersonal and small-group skills required to function as part ofa group (teamwork). Group members must know how to provide effective leadership, make decisions, build trust, communicate, and manage conflict, and be motivated to do so. You must teach teamwork skills just as purposefully and precisely as academic skills. Because cooperation and conflict are interrelated (see Johnson and Johnson 1991, 1992), the procedures and skills for managing conflicts

• constructively are especially important for the long-term success of learning groups. (Procedures and strategies for teaching students social, skills can be found in Johnson [1991, 1993] and Johnson and F. Johnson [1994].)

The fifth essential component of cooperative learning isgroup pro­ cessing. Group processing exists when group members discuss how well . they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working rela­ tionships. Groups need to describe what member actions are helpful and unhelpful and make decisions about what behaviors to continue or change. Continuous improvement of the learning process results from the careful analysis of how members are working together and how group effectiveness can be enhanced. ‘

Using cooperative learning requires disciplined action on your part. The five basic elements are not jl!st characteristics of good cooperative learning groups. They are a discipline that must be rigorously applied to produce the conditions for effective cooperative action.

WhyUse Cooperative Learning? A conviction to use cooperative learning results from knowing the

research. Since the first research study in 1898, nearly 6O0experimental and over 100 correlational studies have been conducted on cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts to learn (see Johnson and Johnson 1989 for a complete review of these studies). The multiple outcomes studied can be classified into three major categories (see Figure 1.3): efforts to achieve, positive relationships. and psychological health.

From the research, we know that cooperation, compared with com­ petitive and individualistic efforts, typically results in:

1. Greater Efforts to Achieve: This includes higher achievement and greater productivity by all students (high-, medium-, and low-achievers), long-term retention, intrinsic motivation, achievement motivation, time on task, higher-level reasoning, and critical thinking.


2. More Positive Relationships Among Students: This includes in­ creases in esprit de corps, caring and committed relationships, personal and academic support, valuing of diversity, and cohesion.

3. Greater Psychological Health: This includes general psychological adjustment, ego strength, social development, social competencies, self­ esteem, self-identity, and ability to cope with adversity and stress.

The powerful effects that cooperation has on so many important outcomes separate cooperative learning from other instructional meth­ ods and make it one of the most important tools for ensuring student success.


Outcomes of Cooperation 1.3

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The Underlying Organizational Structure The issue of cooperation among students is part of a larger issue of

the organizational structure of schools (Johnson and F. Johnson 1994)., W.Edwards Deming, J. Juran, and other founders of the quality move­ ment have stated that more than 85 percent of the behavior of members of an organization is directly attributable to the organization’s structure, not to the nature of the individuals involved. Your classroom is no exception. If competitive or individualistic learning dominates your classroom, your students will behave accordingly, even if you temporar­ ily put them in cooperative groups. If cooperative learning dominates your classrooll)., your students will behave accordingly, and a true learning community will result

For decades schools have functioned as mass-production organiza­ tions that divide work into component parts (l_st grade, 2nd grade, English, social studies, science) performed by teachers isolated from their colleagues, working alone in their own rooms, with their own students and their own curriculum materials. Such a system views students as interchangeable parts in the education machine, tyho can be assigned to any teacher. Using cooperative learning the majority of the time allows you to change your classroom from this mass-production model to a team-based, high-performance model. In other words, coop­ eration is more than an instructional procedure. It’s a basic shift in organizational structure that affects all aspects of classroom life.

How Can You Gain Expertise in Cooperative Learning?

Expertise is reflected in a person’s proficiency, adroitness, compe­ tence, and skill in doing something. Gaining expertise in using coopera­ tive learning is not a quick process. Natural talent alone is not enough to make a great teacher. Being well trained in how to use cooperative learning and unusually well disciplined in structuring the five basic elements in every lesson are also necessary. Expertise in structuring cooperative efforts is reflected in your ability to:

1. Take any lesson in any subject area with any level student and structure it cooperatively.

2. Use cooperative learning (at a routine-use -level)60 to 80 percent of the time. ·

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3. Describe precisely what you are doing and why to communicate to others the nature and advantages of cooperative learning and teach colleagues how to implement cooperative learning.

4. Apply the principles of cooperation to other settings, such as collegial relationships and faculty meetings.

Such expertise is gained through a progressive-refinement procedure of (a) teaching a cooperative lesson, (b) assessing how well it went, (c) reflecting on how cooperation could have been better structured, (d) teaching an improved cooperative lesson, (e) assessing how well it went, and so forth. Thus, you gain experience in an incremental, step­ by-step manner.

As you progressively refine your ability to use cooperative learning effectively, seek the help of colleagues and help them as well. We know that to learn a moderately difficult teaching strategy might require teachers to participate in between 20 and 30 hours of instruction in its theory, 15 to 20 demonstrations using it with different students and subjects, and an additional 10 to 15 coaching sessions to attain higher­ level skills. Expertise in a more difficult teaching strategy, like coopera­ tive learning, might require several years of training and practice. Transfer (trying out cooperative learning in your classroom) and main­ tenance (long-term use of cooperative learning) are important keys to gaining expertise. As Aristotle said, “For things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” You have to do cooperative learning for some time before you begin to gain real expertise.



Monitoring Students’ Behavior

Five-Minute Walk 1. Select social skill(s) to observe. 2. Construct observation sheet. 3. Plan route through the classroom. 4. Gather data on every group.

5. Provide the data to the groups or to the class as a whole. 6. Chart/graph the results.

Youxjob begins in earnest when cooperative learning groups start working. While students are working together, you must move from group to group systematically monitoring the interaction among group members to assess students’ academic progress and IJSe of interpersonal and small-group skills. You’re responsible for listening to each group and coUecting data on the interaction among group members. You can also ask individual students to act as observers along with you. Based on these observations, you can intervene to improve students’ academic learning and group skills.


Monitoring has four stages:

1. Preparing to observe the learning groups by deciding who, if anyone, might help you observe and which observation forms to use.

2. Observing to assess the quality of cooperative efforts in the learn­ ing groups.

3. Intervening when necessary to improve a group’s taskwork or teamwork.

4. Having students assess the quality of their own individual partici! pation in the learning groups to encourage self-monitoring.

Preparing to. Observe You must decide whether you will ask individual students to help

you observe (you, of course, are always an observer) and choose the observation forms and procedures you will use.

Student Observers and Sampling Plans As students become experienced working in cooperatf ve learning

groups, they should be trained to be observers. Observation is aimed at recording and describing members’ behavior within a group to provide objective data about the interaction among group members. The goal is to give students feedback about their participation in the group and help them to analyze the group’s effectiveness. Students can be roving ob­ servers who circulate throughout the classroom and monitor all learning

,, groups or they can observe their own groups (one observer per group). When observing their own groups, student observers should remain close enough to see and hear the interaction among group members but should not participate in the academic task. Student observers shouldn’t comment or intervene until the time set aside near the end of the class period for the learning groups to review their work. The role of observer should rotate so that each group member is an observer an equal amount of time.

You and student roving observers need a sampling plan to ensure that all groups are observed for approximately equal amounts of time. Simply decide before a lesson begins how much time you will spend observing each learning group (this is a sampling plan). You can observe one learning group for the entire class period, collecting information on every member, or you may decide to observe group an equal portion of the class period. You might also choose to observe each group for two


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Structured Observation Form

Observer: Date:

Action Yvette Keith Dale Total

Contributes Ideas

Encourages Participation

Checks for Understanding

Gives Group Direction




minutes at a time and rotate through all the groups several times during a class period. You will need to interrupt the sampling plan if you decide you should intervene in one group.

Academic and social skills objectives demand assessment of academic and teamwork efforts.



Observation Procedures

Observation procedures may be structured (using an observation schedule on which frequencies are tallied) or unstructured (making informal descriptions of students’ statements and actions). In both structured and unstructured observation, it’s important not to confuse observation with inference and interpretation. Observation is descrip­ tive; inferences are interpretative. Observation involves recording what students do while they work together to complete a task. Inferences and interpretations about how well students are cooperating are made based on the observation data.

To make structured observations, you:

1. Decide which teamwork and taskwork skills you will observe.

2. Construct an observation form to record the frequencies of targeted actions. (If students are going to be observers, the form must be appro­ priate for their age group.)

3. Observe each group and record how often each student performs the specified behaviors.

4. Summarize your observations in a clear and useful and present them to the groups as feedback.

5. Help group members analyze the observation data and infer how effectively the group is functioning and how well each group member is engaging in the targeted skills.

Observation Forms

Structured.Several types of observation forms can be used. These are useful tools for gathering and sharing specific information on how group members work together while completing an assignment.

Figure 10.1 is a simple observation form you can use.


1. Using one observation sheet per group, write each group member’s name across the top of the columns, placing one name above each column (reserving the first column for the targeted skills and .the last column for the row totals).

FIGURE 10.2 Checklist


Behavior Yes No Comments

1. Do students understand the task? . 2. Have students accepted the positive interdependence and the individual accountability?

3. Are students working toward the criteria, and are those criteria for success appropriate?

4. Are students practicing the specifiedbehaviors?

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2. Write each targeted skill on a separate row in the first column. 3. Place a tally mark in the appropriate row and column when a

student engages in one of the targeted actions. Don’t worry about record­ ing everything, but observe as accurately and rapidly as possible.

4. Make notes on the back of the observation form about actions that take place but do not fit into the actions being observed.

5. Write down specific positive contributions by each group member to ensure that every member receives positive feedback.

6. Look for patterns of behavior in the group. 7. After the work session is over, total the columns and rows. 8. Show the observation form to the group. Ask the group members

what they conclude about:

a. Their own participation in the group. b. The group functioning in gene

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