In cooperative learning students work with their peers to accomplish a shared or common goal. The goal is reached through interdependence among all group members rather than working alone. Each member is responsible for the outcome of the shared goal. "Cooperative learning does not take place in a vacuum." Not all groups are cooperative groups. Putting groups together in a room does not mean cooperative learning is taking place. (Johnson & Johnson, p. 26). In order to have effective cooperative learning the following 5 essential elements are needed.
Each group member depends on each other to accomplish a shared goal or task. Without the help of one member the group is not able to reach the desired goal.
Promoting success of group members by praising, encouraging, supporting, or assisting each other.
Each group member is held accountable for his or her work. Individual accountability helps to avoid members from "hitchhiking" on other group members' accomplishments.
Cooperative learning groups set the stage for students to learn social skills. These skills help to build stronger cooperation among group members. Leadership, decision-making, trust-building, and communication are different skills that are developed in cooperative learning.
Group processing is an assessment of how groups are functioning to achieve their goals or tasks. By reviewing group behavior the students and the teacher get a chance to discuss special needs or problems within the group. Groups get a chance to express their feelings about beneficial and unhelpful aspects of the group learning process in order to correct unwanted behavior and celebrate successful outcomes in the group work.
Role of the teacher
The role of the teacher is very important in cooperative learning. To have an effective cooperative learning group teachers must know their students well. Grouping of students can be a difficult process and must be decided with care. Teachers must consider the different learning skills, cultural background, personalities, and even gender when arranging cooperative groups. Much time is devoted to prepare the lesson for cooperative learning. However, teachers fade in the background and become a coach, facilitat, or and sometimes a spectator after the lesson is implemented. Teachers who set up a good cooperative lesson teach children to teach themselves and each other. Students learn from their peers and become less dependent on the teacher for help.
Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R. T. (1994). Learning Together and Alone