Cooperative Learning Theory

Have you heard about cooperative learning, but aren't sure what it is? Does your principal question why you are so passionate about cooperative learning strategies? Check out this post for the how and why of cooperative learning in the classroom!
 Have you heard about cooperative learning, but aren't sure what it is? Does your principal question why you are so passionate about cooperative learning strategies? In this post I hope to answer those questions and more!

I first heard about cooperative learning while I was working on my M. Ed. at Texas State University. I still remember receiving a big ol' book titled cooperative learning and when I first heard about the strategies they seemed to be a bit gimmicky, but boy oh boy was I wrong. VERY quickly I learned all about collaborative learning theory and why cooperative learning strategies work for ALL students. Soon I knew that I could never be in a classroom without cooperative learning, and became an evangelist myself. I now want to spread the good word about cooperative learning and make sure that everyone knows the miracles it works with out students.

What is Cooperative Learning?

Simply put, cooperative learning is when partners or small groups of students with differing abilities work together to accomplish a common goal. 

Of course, there is a ton more to it than that including positive interdependence, specific roles within the group or partnership, and imbedded social skills. 

Have you heard about cooperative learning, but aren't sure what it is? Does your principal question why you are so passionate about cooperative learning strategies? Check out this post for the how and why of cooperative learning in the classroom! Each cooperative learning strategy highlights students abilities and ensures success of the group by building in ways for students to scaffold for one another. When executed well, cooperative learning strategies leave students with a pumped up self esteem and confidence in their team. 


Tell Me More About Collaborative Learning Theory...

Collaborative learning theory is rooted in Vygotsky's Social Learning Theory. The short version is that when a learning experience maximizes a students's interaction with others the new information stands that much better of a chance of being cemented into a student's brain. 

This is achieved through shared conversations, questioning, physical interactions, following of social norms, and peer feedback. The general idea is to get students talking more with one another and the teacher talking less, while acting as a facilitator.

For more information on collaborative learning theory check out these articles:
Instructional Design Models and Theories: Cooperative and Collaborative Theory
Theories of Cognition in Collaborative Learning 
Collaborative Learning: Theories, Strategies, and Educational Benefits

Where Should I Start?

Anywhere! Truly, there is no wrong cooperative learning strategy to start with. When I throwback to my grad school days I think about how we were taught strategies. We learned about one new strategy a month to take back to our classrooms and really hone and master. 

In the classroom is is vital that you take the time to front-load the proper procedures for each strategy and take your time to get it right. Model the strategy for students with examples and non-examples, practice the structure with easy content or social questions, and then get down and dirty with content. 

To check out more on specific cooperative learning strategies click on over to the following posts:
Jigsaw (A personal favorite of mine!)

For more all about cooperative learning check out this post

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