Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Group Work vs. Cooperative Learning

I mentioned in my other post that I loved the way that the Boaler article talked about interactions between students and this article also discusses the relationships that students have with each other when working in group settings. This is a very important aspect of group work that I often forget about because we assume that students already have relationships with each other. Although this might be true, students don’t always have the most positive relationships and we need to explicitly teach how to be respectful and how to properly contribute to a group.

We have talked a lot at my school about cooperative learning this year, which emphasizes the importance of students working in groups and each student having a specific role. It prevents students from sitting in the group and not participating. Vygotsky is referenced as promoting the opportunity for students to talk about what they are learning, which means that group discussions are important, but they are only valuable if all members are able to speak and be heard.


  1. May I be bold and ask if you feel that there is a difference between group work represented in these articles and cooperative learning? Or is cooperative learning, in fact group work? I must admit it has been awhile since I read material regarding cooperative learning, but I wondered if you felt there is a difference?

  2. I would consider Boaler's and Chizhen's work (some of the literature they refer to is in collaborative learning volumes), but I agree it feel different than the work of Slavin and Johnson.

  3. Various people use different terms like group work, cooperative learning, collaborative learning... are there more?
    Personally, I think that when we set up people to work in groups, there are lots of different dynamics that can play out. So I resist the impulse to label differently unless I know what students are really doing, and then sometimes i'll talk about group work that is 'truly collaborative,' or something like that.
    To me, the bigger question is - what do students do when the work together? How can we help them do that better so they learn more/better?

  4. I guess you're right that there are different terms that can refer to the same idea. Cooperative learning is just a big buzz word at my school and the teacher who is really heading that movement begins every presentation he does by saying that it's different than group work. I suppose that he should really define what he means by that as well.

    In my own experience, I see that when students are simply placed in groups and asked to complete a task, there are students who take over and those who do not participate. I think that's normal because there are so many different personalities in a class and each student has a different way that is their strength in communicating. As the articles we read this week suggest, there is a lot that has to be done in the classroom culture in order to ensure that work done in groups is meaningful.

  5. Kagan Cooperative Learning is a great place to start to truly see the difference between Group Work and Cooperative Learning. TRUE cooperative learning is achieved because there is a structure and adheres to four basic principles which are Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Equal Participation, and Simultaneous Interaction.