Teaching with Cooperative Learning


Cooperative learning is “a teaching strategy where small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject” (NEA). Often referred to as small-group learning, cooperative learning allows students to take ownership of their learning and actively participate in learning activities. Cooperative learning activities are structured so each student is assigned a specific role, and students will work together to achieve group success. This type of learning does come with its challenges, but working in groups is a fact of life, so by implementing this instructional strategy into their curriculums, educators are giving students the opportunity to learn more effectively and prepare for working with a team in the future.


There are an abundance of resources available online for teaching students with cooperative learning. The collection below will help guide you through the process of bringing this different instructional strategy into your classroom.

Lesson Plans

  1. Cooperative Learning Sample Lesson: ThoughtCo. has put together a cooperative learning sample lesson plan using the Jigsaw method. Included in this lesson is direct instruction for choosing groups, presenting the content (which in this plan happens to be a chapter in a social studies book about the first nations in North America), promoting teamwork, and giving an assessment. This sample lesson plan will help guide educators who are looking to build their own!
  2. Examples of Cooperative Learning Strategies: KNILT provides several examples of cooperative learning strategies that educators can utilize in the classroom with their own content, including Think/Pair/Share, Jigsaw, Numbered Heads Together, and the Tea Party Method. This resource focuses in detail on how to do these strategies rather than solely focusing on what they look like. Educators can use the descriptions of these strategies and their curriculum content to create cooperative learning activities for their classrooms!
  3. 5 Cooperative Learning Strategies to Try Today: TeachHUB provides educators with a list of five cooperative learning strategies to try in their classrooms, such as the Focused Listing Cooperative Learning Strategy, One-Minute Papers, Forced Debate, Uncommon Commonalities, and Cooperative Graffiti. These strategies, which educators can tailor to their specific needs, are effective ways for students to learn and will get them to work together as a team!


  1. Making Cooperative Learning Powerful: ASCD provides an article explaining the five key practices of cooperative learning that help to make it more powerful. The author recommends forming interdependent teams, setting group goals, ensuring individual accountability, teaching communication and problem-solving skills, and integrating cooperative learning with other structures. By integrating these skills into their classrooms, educators “can get the greatest benefit possible from cooperative learning and ensure that collaboration enhances learning.”
  2. Using Cooperative Learning Groups Effectively: Vanderbilt University published an article on how to use cooperative learning groups effectively. Included in this article is a description of what cooperative learning can look like, its theoretical underpinning, whether or not there is evidence that it works, and the approaches that can help make it the most effective. Additionally, there are examples given of ways to structure informal cooperative learning group work (think-pair-share, peer instruction, jigsaw) and a useful description of the several features that can help formal cooperative learning groups work well.
  3. Cooperative Education – Making It Work: Edutopia provides a brief article in which an educator explores the concept and methods of cooperative learning. This piece lists a handful of key factors that need to be considered in order for this type of learning to be successful in the classroom, such as educators being clear about what they want to accomplish with a specific task, giving clear explanations to students of the academic and social goals of a task, etc. Lastly, the author talks about how it is necessary to debrief as a class once a cooperative learning task is completed because learning takes place when students reflect. 

Informational Sites

  1. Cooperative Learning – Teaching Strategy (Grades K-12): TeacherVision offers educators and students useful information on cooperative learning. This article includes a definition of cooperative learning, a list of the five basic elements that allow successful small-group learning, a list of reasons why cooperative learning is important, an explanation of how educators can implement cooperative learning into the classroom, an overview of the various student roles which can be utilized, etc. Also, the TeacherVision Staff offers insight into how cooperative learning can be used in different subject areas (reading, writing, math, science, social studies).
  2. Cooperative Learning: Lumen provides information on cooperative learning, key features that make cooperative learning work well, and examples of cooperative and collaborative learning. The most beneficial knowledge in this article may be the list of features that improve cooperative learning because it will help guide educators on the dos and don’ts of cooperative learning in the classroom.
  3. Research Spotlight on Cooperative Learning: The NEA staff researchers have reviewed the research on the best practices in education, specifically cooperative learning. The researchers explain the definition of cooperative learning, its benefits, etc. This resource will help educators better understand the importance of cooperation in the classroom!


Teaching with cooperative learning is an important task because it significantly changes the way students learn in the classroom. The terms cooperative learning and collaborative learning are often used interchangeably, but there are several vital differences between these two learning strategies. In cooperative learning activities, students are assigned specific group roles, while in collaborative learning activities, students coordinate their efforts to accomplish their goal. The resources above will help you to successfully implement cooperative learning into your classroom!

Additional Resources

  1. 3 Best Cooperative Learning Strategies Proven to Maximize Gains: Prodigy provides an article explaining cooperative learning, the five key elements of cooperative learning, the research-backed benefits of cooperative learning, and the various types of cooperative learning strategies (i.e. formal, informal, and base group cooperative learning strategies).
  2. Let’s Cooperate! Teachers Share Tips for Cooperative Learning: Education World offers an article in which educators share their personal experiences with cooperative learning in the classroom. Educators discuss everything from forming groups, using rubrics, delegating responsibilities in groups, promoting cooperation among students, and more.