Co-operative learning: It’s more than group work

Co-operative learning must be carefully structured in order to improve children’s learning. Bette Chambers describes the essential components that make it more effective than traditional group work

Mrs Martin is a Year 5 (US fourth grade) teacher who is teaching her pupils to add fractions. In most classrooms, after teaching the concept, the teacher would work through a few problems with the class, asking questions and taking answers from the children who raise their hands. The teacher might then place the pupils into similar-ability groups to work on solving fractions questions, appropriate to their level of functioning in mathematics. This is what many teachers think of as co-operative learning but it is really simply group work and is not the kind of co-operative learning, that has been proven by research studies to be effective.

What we know
● Improving children’s achievement requires more than putting children in groups to work together.
● Group work need to be structured so that the pupils must co-operate to succeed.
● Pupil must be individually accountable for learning the material and helping their teammates learn.

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February 2014