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Cooperative learning is widely recognised as a pedagogical practice that promotes socialization and learning among students from pre-school through to tertiary level and across different subject domains. It involves students working together to achieve common goals or complete group tasks - goals and tasks that they would be unable to complete by themselves. The purpose of this paper is to review developments in research and practice on cooperative learning and to examine the factors that help to explain its success. In particular, the review focuses on the key elements that contribute to its success and the role teachers play in developing students' thinking and learning when implementing this pedagogical practice in their classrooms.
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
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Cooperative Learning: Review of Research and
Robyn M. Gillies
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Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 39
Cooperative Learning: Review of Research and Practice
Robyn M. Gillies
The University of Queensland
Abstract: Cooperative learning is widely recognised as a pedagogical
practice that promotes socialization and learning among students
from pre-school through to tertiary level and across different subject
domains. It involves students working together to achieve common
goals or complete group tasks goals and tasks that they would be
unable to complete by themselves. The purpose of this paper is to
review developments in research and practice on cooperative learning
and to examine the factors that help to explain its success. In
particular, the review focuses on the key elements that contribute to its
success and the role teachers play in developing students’ thinking
and learning when implementing this pedagogical practice in their
Background Research on Cooperative Learning
Interest in cooperative learning gathered momentum in the early 1980s with the
publication of the first meta-analysis involving 122 studies on the effects of cooperative,
competitive, and individualistic goal structures on students’ achievement and productivity in
a sample of North American schools (Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, & Skon, 1981).
The results showed that cooperation was more effective than interpersonal competition and
individualistic efforts; cooperation with intergroup competition was also superior to
interpersonal competition and individualistic efforts; and, there were no significant
differences between interpersonal competitive and individualistic efforts. Moreover, these
results were consistent across all subject areas (language arts, reading, mathematics, science,
social studies and physical education), for all age groups, and for all tasks involving
conceptual understanding, problem solving, categorizing, and reasoning. In a similar vein,
Slavin (1989) reported on a best-evidence synthesis of 60 studies across both elementary and
secondary schools that compared cooperative learning to control groups studying the same
material. The results showed that the overall effects of cooperative learning on achievement
were clearly positive in 72% of the comparisons whereas only 15% favoured control groups
with 13% recording no significant differences. These findings led Slavin to conclude that
cooperative learning can be an effective strategy for increasing student achievement.
In a follow-up meta-analysis of 117 studies that was conducted on the Learning
Together and Learning Alone method (Johnson & Johnson, 1994), Johnson and Johnson
(2002) examined the effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning on a
number of academic, personal and social dependent variables (i.e. achievement, interpersonal
attraction, social support, self-esteem, perspective taking, learning together, and controversy)
and found strong effect sizes between cooperative learning in comparison to competitive and
individualistic learning. These effect sizes ranged from 0.58 to 0.70 or effect sizes that Hattie
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 40
(2009) believes are desirable because they can make real world differences (p. 17) in
educational interventions. In short, the results of this meta-analysis and the Johnson et al.
(1981) meta-analysis and Slavin’s (1989) best-evidence synthesis found that cooperative
learning in comparison to competitive and individualistic learning has very strong effects on
a range of dependent variables such as achievement, socialization, motivation, and personal
Given the findings from these meta-analyses (Johnson et al., 1981; Johnson &
Johnson, 2002; Slavin, 1989) that have highlighted the academic and social benefits students
derived from working cooperatively together, Roseth, Johnson and Johnson (2008) examined
the social-contextual view of the mechanisms and processes by which these benefits are
promoted. In a meta-analysis of 148 studies that compared the effectiveness of cooperative,
competitive, and individualistic goal structures in promoting early adolescents’ achievement
and peer relationships, Roseth et al. found that higher achievement and more positive peer
relationships were cooperative rather than competitive or individualistic. Furthermore,
cooperative goal structures were strongly associated with early adolescents’ achievement and
positive peer relationships. In short,
“the more early adolescent teachers structure students’ academic goals
cooperatively, (a) the more students will tend to achieve, (b) the more positive
students’ relationships will tend to be, and (c) the more higher levels of achievement
will be associated with more positive peer relationships (Roseth et al., p. 238).
In a follow-up meta-analysis that investigated the degree to which achievement is
positively associated with motivation in positive (i.e. students are linked together to achieve
goals), negative (i.e. students compete to achieve goals), or no interdependence (i.e. students
work individually) situations, Johnson, Johnson, Roseth and Shin (2014) found that situations
characterized by positive interdependence resulted in greater motivation and achievement
than did negative or no interdependence situations.
In a best evidence synthesis of research on primary and secondary mathematics and
reading and programs for struggling readers, Slavin (2013) found that well-structured
methods such as cooperative learning produce more positive effect sizes than those
evaluating other instructional practices such as the use of innovative curriculum text books or
the use of technology in reading and mathematics. Similar results were obtained in a best-
evidence synthesis of elementary science programs by Slavin, Lake, Hanley, and Thurston
(2014) who stated that: “science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom
instruction throughout the year, such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration,
as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have
significant potential to improve science learning” (p. 901). In short, there is overwhelming
evidence that cooperative learning as a pedagogical practice has had a profound effect on
student learning and socialization (Slavin, 2014).
What Accounts for the Success of Cooperative Learning?
Placing students in groups and expecting them to work together will not necessarily
promote cooperation. Group members often struggle with what to do and discord can occur
as members grapple with the demands of the task as well as managing the processes involved
in learning such as dealing with conflicting opinions among members or with students who
essentially loaf and contribute little to the group’s goal (Johnson & Johnson, 1990). In order
to avoid these pitfalls, Johnson and F. Johnson (2009) propose that groups need to be
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 41
established so that the five key components of successful cooperative learning are embedded
in their structure.
The first of these key components involves structuring positive interdependence
within the learning situation so all group members understand that they are linked together in
such a way that one cannot achieve success unless they all do, and they must learn to
synchronize their efforts to ensure this occurs. Deutsch (1949) found that cohesiveness
develops in the group as a direct result of the perception of goal interdependence and the
perception of interdependence among group members. Positive interdependence is
established in groups when students understand that they are each responsible for completing
a part of the task which, in turn, all must achieve in order for the group to complete its goal.
Teachers can ensure that this occurs by assigning different parts of the group’s task to
different group members to complete (Johnson & Johnson, 2002).
The second key component for successful cooperation is promotive interaction or the
willingness of group members to encourage and facilitate each other’s efforts to complete
their tasks in order for the group to achieve its goal. Johnson and Johnson (1990) noted that
promotive interaction is characterised by students: providing each other with the help they
need; sharing needed resources; providing effective feedback to group members on their
performances on specific tasks; challenging other’s conclusions and reasoning in order to
promote clearer insights into the problem issue; and, working constructively together to attain
mutual goals. In so doing, students develop an awareness of what others do not understand
and the need to provide explanations or assistance that can be readily understood. Willingness
to engage with others not only benefits recipients but also helpers as giving help encourages
helpers to reorganise and restructure the information in their own minds so they, in turn,
develop clearer and more elaborate cognitive understandings than they held previously
(Webb & Mastergeorge, 2003). Teachers can facilitate interaction in groups when they ensure
students sit in close proximity to other group members so they can hear what is being
discussed, see each other’s faces, and participate in the group’s discussion. When students are
provided with opportunities to interact with their peers during small group discussions, they
learn to read each other’s non-verbal language, respond to social cues, and engage in general
banter about the work they are completing (Gillies, 2003a,b).
The third key component is individual accountability or one’s responsibility in
ensuring that he or she completes his or her share of the work while also ensuring that others
complete theirs. In fact, the more students perceive they are linked together, the more they
feel personally responsible for contributing to the collective effort of the group. Johnson and
Johnson (1990) maintain that teachers can establish individual accountability in two ways:
firstly, by structuring positive interdependence among group members so they will feel
responsible for facilitating others’ efforts; and secondly, by holding students personally
responsible for completing their part of the task and ensuring that their contributions can be
clearly identified.
Assigning students to groups and expecting them to know how to cooperate does not
ensure that this will happen. In fact, groups often implode because they lack the interpersonal
skills required to manage disagreements among group members. These skills need to be
explicitly negotiated (older students) or taught (younger children) and are the fourth key
component in successful cooperative learning. In a series of studies that investigated the
effects of structured and unstructured cooperative groups on students’ behaviours and
interactions, Gillies (2003a, 2003b, 2004, 2006, 2008) and Gillies and Ashman (1996, 1998)
have consistently found that students who were trained to cooperate and help each other are:
more inclusive of others; respectful and considerate of others’ contributions; and, provide
more detailed explanations to assist each other’s learning than students who have not
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participated in this training. The social skills that facilitate students’ interactions during small
group discussions include:
Actively listening to each other;
Sharing ideas and resources;
Commenting constructively on others’ ideas;
Accepting responsibility for one’s behaviours;
Making decisions democratically.
In fact, Johnson and Johnson (2009) maintain that students need to be taught the
social skills needed for high quality cooperation and they must be motivated to use them if
they are to facilitate learning in themselves and others. Furthermore, providing students with
feedback on how they use these skills not only helps to create more positive relationships
among group members, but it also helps to increase students’ achievement.
The final key component of successful cooperative learning is group processing.
Group processing involves students reflecting on their progress and their working
relationships. Questions such as the following are often used to stimulate this type of
What have we achieved?
What do we still need to achieve?
How might we do this?
In a study that investigated the effect of group processing on the achievement of 48
high school seniors and college students, Johnson, Johnson, Stanne, and Garibaldi (1990)
found that students had higher achievement gains when they participated in group processing
discussions in comparison to peers who did not have these experiences. In this study, group
processing involved ensuring that everyone in the group engaged in summarizing ideas and
information, participated in the discussion, and checked to see that decisions made by the
group were supported by members. The additional benefits of group processing included
enhanced respect among group members from each other which, in turn, increased members’
commitment to the group, acceptance of group norms, and contributed to an increase in
members’ collective identification (Johnson & Johnson, 2009).
Group Composition and Task
Given the importance of establishing cooperative groups that include the five key components
outlined above, other issues that teachers need to consider are the composition of the group
and its size. In a meta-analysis of 66 studies that examined the effects of within-class
grouping (i.e., establishing small groups in classes) on student achievement at the elementary,
secondary and post-secondary levels, Lou, Abrami, Spence, Poulsen, Chambers, &
d’Apollonia (1996) found that students achieved higher outcomes when they worked in small
cooperative groups than when they were not grouped, such as occurs in traditional whole-
class settings. Students also worked better and achieved more when they worked in groups of
3-4 members than in groups of 5-7 members, possibly because the latter arrangement was
closer to whole class teaching where information was transmitted rather than constructed.
Interestingly, the effects of group ability composition were different for students of different
relative ability with low-ability students learning more in heterogeneous or mixed ability
groups while medium-ability students benefited significantly more in homogeneous groups.
Composition made no difference to high ability students who worked equally well in
heterogeneous or homogeneous groups. Similar results were also obtained in a meta-analysis
of small group and individual learning with technology by Lou et al. (2001), with small group
learning having significantly more positive effects than individual learning on students’
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individual achievement and group task performance. Group performance was higher in
smaller groups (3-5 members) than those working individually and students gained more
individual knowledge when they worked in small groups than those working individually
with computer technology.
In a theory-based meta-analysis of 123 studies that used technology to support
undergraduate student learning in distance education, Lou, Bernard and Abrami (2006) found
that when media were used to support collaborative discussions among students in
asynchronous distance education (i.e., through discussion boards, email), the distance
education students out-performed their peers who received classroom instruction only. This
finding is consistent with previous findings (Lou et al, 1996, 2001) that reported that students
involved in small group discussions (with and without technology) achieved significantly
higher learning outcomes than students who did not participate in discussions with their
peers. Lou et al. proposed that the asynchronous discussions among students not only
provided opportunities for elaborated feedback and help but these discussions may also have
provided opportunities for students to learn reflectively and actively through peer modelling
and mentoring. This modelling and mentoring, in turn, may have helped them to develop
better metacognitive and self-regulated learning skills; skills which are strongly associated
with successful learning.
The type of task students undertake in their groups is also important because Cohen
(1994) found that it affects student interactions. Interaction among group members is
critically important to the success of small group activities with Shachar and Sharan (1994)
arguing that this will only happen when teachers create conditions that enable students to
work in small groups on tasks that require cooperation among group members. This includes
ensuring that students are given a group task that is open and discovery-based where there is
no right answer and successful completion requires students to interact with each other and
share and exchange resources (information, knowledge, heuristic problem-solving strategies,
materials and skills). These are resources that no single individual possesses so input from
others is required. Cohen has consistently found that when this occurs, it is the frequency of
task-related interactions that are related to gains on computation and mathematical concepts
and applications, as well as on content referenced tests in science with the most consistent
predictor of achievement being giving detailed or elaborate information (Webb, 1991; Webb
& Matergeorge, 2003).
Furthermore, Cohen (1994) proposes that the importance of arriving at a synthesis of
everyone’s contributions, and the expectation that the group product will be presented to the
wider class, are structures that are designed to foster group cohesion and motivate students to
complete the task. When teachers structure small group activities so that these conditions are
met, students are more interactive, use more words per turn of speech, communicate more
equitably so ideas are shared among group members, and elaborate more to explain the
problem at hand.
In summary, the results of these meta-analyses (Lou et al., 1996, 2001, 2006) indicate
students derive both academic and social benefits when they work cooperatively together
rather than when they compete or work individually. Students are likely to achieve more
when they work in groups of four or less members, preferably in mixed-ability groups rather
than homogeneous groups, and when they work on tasks that require them to cooperate or
tasks where students are interdependently linked so they are required to interact and share
resources (Cohen, 1994).
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The Teacher’s Role in Promoting Cooperation among Students
There is no doubt that teachers play a key role in establishing cooperative learning
experiences in their classrooms. This includes structuring the groups and the tasks so that
students understand what they are expected to do and how they are expected to behave. It
also includes teachers understanding that they have a role in promoting student interactions
during small group discussions. Helping students to interact and work together not only
enables students to learn from each other but also to accept responsibility for the tasks they
have to complete and the decisions they have to make.
Sadly, research indicates that high-level cognitive talk which incorporates task-related
talk about facts, concepts, and thinking only appears with low frequency when left to emerge
as a by-product of small group learning (Meloth & Deering, 1999). Students do not elaborate
on information, do not ask thought-provoking questions, and do not spontaneously draw upon
prior knowledge without some relevant external guidance (King, 2002). Chinn, O’Donnell
and Jinks (2000) also observed that students rarely engage in high-level discourse or
explanatory behaviour or provide reasons for their conclusions unless explicitly taught to do
so. However, when students are taught to talk and reason together and apply those skills in
their interactions with each other (in this case, science), Mercer, Dawes, Wegerif, and Sams
(2004) found that they were able to talk and reason effectively together. Furthermore, these
talk-based group activities helped in the development of individuals’ reasoning, problem-
solving and learning.
In a similar vein, Gillies (2004) found that when teachers were taught how to mediate
students’ learning by engaging in dialogic exchanges where they probed and clarified issues,
confronted discrepancies in students’ thinking, offered tentative suggestions, and
acknowledged and validated students’ responses, the children’s responses to each other
mirrored many of the responses they gave their teachers, that is, they were detailed or
elaborated. In a study of teachers’ and students’ verbal behaviours in secondary classrooms,
Gillies (2006) found that teachers who implement cooperative learning demonstrate more
mediated-learning interactions than teachers who implement group-work only. Furthermore,
students in the cooperative groups engaged in more verbal behaviours that are generally
regarded as helpful and supportive of group endeavours than their peers in the group-work
only groups (i.e., ad hoc groups where students had not been taught to cooperate). Gillies
argued that many of these verbal behaviours may have, in part, emerged from the types of
reciprocal interactions their teachers modelled as they interacted with group members where
the students learned to provide more explanations and detailed responses to other students’
requests for help or perceived need for help. The frequency of the multidirectional responses
that occurred in the cooperative groups both among the students and with their teachers may
also have emerged from the group tasks which were generally open and discovery-based and
required students to exchange information and ideas in order to find a solution to the
problem. In short, the research (Gillies, 2004, 2006; Mercer et al., 2004) shows that teachers
can teach students how to talk and reason together to promote student interactions and
Teacher’s Mediation of Students’ Learning
The vignette below provides an example of how one Year 6 teacher mediates her
students’ learning during a discussion on human body systems - a topic from the science
curriculum. The students are working in groups of 3-4 members using the Six Thinking Hats
(de Bono, 1990) to help them ask questions of each other that elicit facts (white hat), feelings
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 45
(red hat), generate ideas (green hat), drawbacks (black hat), actions (yellow hat), and
summaries of key ideas (blue hat). The purpose of the activity is for each group to develop a
report on a topic that they can share with younger children in their school (e.g., effects of
drugs on the body; healthy eating; exercise; positive mindset).
The vignette begins with the teacher directing her comments at all the small groups in
her classroom. The interactions that occur between the teacher (T) and the students (S)
represent only a few minutes of the teacher’s time as she moves among the groups to monitor
progress, provide assistance and actively challenge the children’s thinking and ideas.
(T. comments directed at all the groups in the classroom)
1. T: Ok. So, there’s been some good conversation going on in your groups and you all know
the purpose of this task. Can someone remind us what the purpose of this task is? Jasmine,
what’s the purpose of this task? (T. challenges students to think of the purpose of the
2. S: We’re doing group work so help each other. (S. provides short explanation)
3. T: Yes, we need to make sure we fully understand all the information we’ve been learning
in our groups about body systems because we’re going to take that information and make a
presentation to children at our primary school on things that they can do to help them be
healthy. (T. focuses on the issue) OK. Remember each group is responsible for telling us
about your discussion, for linking your ideas and explaining them to the rest of the class. Are
there any questions? (T. prompts students to link ideas)
4. S: Are we writing these ideas on paper?
5. T: Yes or on the board if you don’t have paper.
(Teacher then settles students into their groups).
The teacher moves to a group. This group are discussing human nutritional needs.
6. T: Tell me about that, Elvis. (T. asks open question to elicit information)
7. S: We need calcium, vitamins, and grains to keep us strong. As we get older, we need more
calcium so our bones will grow strong. We want to be like a normal person. (S. provides
explanation with reason)
8. T: So, if we’re aiming this presentation at little kids, what are the sorts of things they need
to do to ensure that they always have healthy bones? (T. focuses students’ thinking on how
to present the information to younger children)
9. S: Don’t eat junk foods. Always eat calcium, grains. (S. provides explanation)
10. T: Where do we get our calcium from, Kenny? (T. asks open question)
11. S: Grains, milk, weetbix, eggs. We have to have that three times a day to keep our bodies
strong. (S. provides explanation with reason)
12. S: If we don’t eat that, we’ll get weak and our bones won’t be strong. (S. provides
13. S: We won’t get strong and we’ll get weaker. (S. reiterates explanation)
14. T: Yes, lots of good thinking going on here. (T. acknowledges and validates students’
thinking) So it’s to help adults to have healthier bones. Is that what you’re saying to me? OK.
So you also mentioned to me that kids now have to eat the correct food. When you’re
thinking about some of the problems, why is it do you think children are not eating some of
those foods now? (T. challenges students to provide reasons)
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 46
15. S: Students are not eating the right quantities of those foods and they’re getting smaller
and weaker. (S. provides reason)
16. T: Elvis, do you feel children understand about eating the right quantities of those foods?
(T. models how to ask a feeling question)
17. S: No because they don’t understand what’s happening to you until you get older. (S.
provides reason)
18. S: What will help us when we get older? (S. asks open question)
19. T: You’ve already told us what will help us so they will have healthy bones as they get
older. It is helping children to eat the right foods at present so they will grow healthily. (T.
makes statement)
20. S: Some children grow at different times. Some children grow quickly and some grow
slowly. (S. provides explanation with reason)
21. T: Yes, Nathan and it’s perfectly normal for children to grow at different rates. When you
see them in Years 7, 8 and 9 they are about the same size and then some children start to
shoot up after that whereas in comparison, some children take longer to grow. (T.
acknowledges and validates student response)
22. T: Let’s see what you can write on this sheet. OK. Can you explain to me, Wilson, how
we feel about this problem because Jeremiah is putting this point under the red hat? (T.
models how to ask a feeling question) (T. challenges students to provide reason)
23. S: People are friends and they can get osteoporosis (S. makes statement)
24. T: Can you explain to them what osteoporosis is? (T. encourages students to provide an
explanation of osteoporosis)
25. S: When you have it, you can fall down and break your bones. (S. provides explanation)
26. T: Yes, so when people have a simple fall they may break a hip that requires
physiotherapy and other medical help. Yes, we can see the impact of that on our families as
well. Older men can also suffer from that disease. You look as if you’ve got some good ideas
there. Can you explain to me what some of those ideas are? (T. challenges students to
explain their ideas) So the topic you’re discussing is, Is what you’re doing to yourself
making you healthy or unhealthy? So you’re trying to get to the bottom of that issue. So in
relation to that, what are some ways of solving that problem of making people aware of what
they’re doing to their bodies. (T. challenges students to identify some solutions)
(Students discuss among themselves)
27. T: I think that what you may be doing here is that your topic is far too broad. It’s about us
telling little kids about the things they can do for themselves to make themselves healthy. Do
you mind if I change it and make it a little more specific and then you should be able to
respond to the task a little more easily. (T. makes tentative suggestion) What do we know
about the problem about people being unhealthy because of what they eat? (T. asks open
question) (Teacher writes ideas on whiteboard as group give suggestions and children discuss
junk food.) What do we think of when we think of junk food think of the things they
advertise on TV peanut butter, cereal foods with sugar, coco pops, foods with a lot of oil,
fats, sugar? (T. prompts students) (students discuss ideas) So do you want to put that down
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 47
do you want to start with Many foods… and then finish off the statement with your ideas?
Many foods have lots of fat and sugar and we need to eat them in moderation.
28. S: TV ads encourage children to eat junk food…That’s a good contribution there Jaylon.
(S. acknowledges and validates other S’s response)
29. T: Just looking at what you’re doing with the red hats. Would you like to explain how you
feel about that? (T. challenges students to identify feeling)
30. S: If we eat healthy foods we’d feel better. We’d be healthy. (S. provides explanation)
31. T: How would society feel about that? (T. models feeling question)(T. challenges
students to identify feeling)
32. S: They’d feel healthy.
33. T: Are you saying to me if people are healthy they feel better? (T. challenges students’
thinking) What do you feel about this problem? (T. models feeling question)
34. S: People would live longer. People would be happier if they were healthy. (S provides
explanation with reason)
35. T: What are the minuses of solving this problem people living longer. Could there be
any minuses in there? (T. scaffolds children’s thinking)
S: Students suggest minuses.
36. T: It’s a very difficult problem to solve because people have minds of their own. I wonder
what the implications might be if people lived to say 95 years? (T. challenges students to
think of the consequences)
37. S: People would get better and live longer. (S. provides explanation)
38. T: Maybe we’d need more nursing homes for elderly people…? (T. asks tentative
39. S: Some old people live long but can be very sick or weak and not able to move around or
do things for themselves. (S. elaborates)
40. T: How do you know their skeletal system is not strong as they get older? (T. models how
to ask a white hat question that focuses on seeking information)(T. challenges student to
provide reason)
41. S: Their bones get thinner and they’re weaker. So they can break easily. (S. elaborates
with reason)
42. T: Maybe a point that you need to put there to help with that is to give them help with that
particular disease. It can affect their families and society. (T. makes tentative suggestion)
In the vignette above the teacher ‘sets the scene’ by stimulating the children’s
thinking about the purpose of the activity (Turn 1), focuses their attention on the topic to be
investigated, and prompts them to link their ideas and explain them to the rest of the class
(Turn 3). The interaction with the students is positive and they clearly understand that they
are going to be working together to help each other with the topic they are going to discuss
(Turn 2).
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 48
Once she is satisfied that the students understand what they are to do in their groups,
she moves on to the first group where she engages the students in a series of dialogic
exchanges designed to elicit information on healthy eating, the topic they are discussing
(Turn 6), focuses their thinking on how to present the information (Turn 8) and seek specific
information on what foods provide calcium (Turn 10). In each instance, students respond
with an explanation or elaborated response (Turn 7, 9) and in some instances there is a
snowballing set of responses as the students build on the responses of others (Turns 11, 12,
13). It is interesting to note that this dialogic pattern of teacher-student interaction
continues until the last turn (Turn 41) with the teacher actively engaging the students by
asking questions designed to challenge their ideas (Turns 14, 22, 24, 26, 29, 36), scaffold and
guide their responses (Turns 27, 31, 33, 35, 38, 40, 42), and acknowledge and validate their
efforts (Turns 14, 21,). On the 19 occasions in which the teacher challenged the children’s
thinking or scaffolded and guided their responses, the students responded with an explanation
or elaborated response on 15 of those occasions (78%), an indication that they were thinking
about the task.
The teacher in the vignette above was clearly engaged in dialogic teaching or teaching
that involves using the power of talk to stimulate and extend students’ thinking and learning.
Alexander (2008a) proposed that dialogic talk is characterized by the teacher and students
addressing learning tasks together. It is reciprocal where participants share ideas and consider
alternative views, support each other’s learning, and build on each other’s ideas while the
teacher plans and guides the discussion with the purpose of achieving specific task-related
goals. During dialogic teaching, teachers structure questions so they are challenging and
designed to provoke thoughtful responses, answers build on previous dialogic interactions
and are cogently linked to lines of inquiry, students are encouraged to ask questions and
provide explanations, and reflection and evaluation are encouraged (Alexander, 2008b).
When teachers engage in dialogic teaching or teaching talk (Alexander, 2008a,
p.103), students learn to listen more attentively to others, encourage others to participate and
share ideas, actively work to co-construct new ideas and knowledge together, and strive to
reach consensus over issues while respecting the views and ideas of others. By behaving in
these ways, students learn to engage in “learning talk” (Alexander, p. 104) or a way of
talking that includes being able to narrate, explain, direct, question, analyze and resolve
difficulties, speculate and hypothesize, discuss, reason and justify, and negotiate.
Students mediating each other’s learning
In the vignette below, the students are discussing the effects of drugs on the body with the
purpose of preparing a report that they can present to younger children to help them
understand some of the issues. The students are working independently as a group and the
transcript represents a few minutes of continuous reciprocal interactions among the students,
although the teacher (above) does intervene briefly as she challenges the students to consider
how they intend to present the information. These students, as with the ones in the previous
vignette, have been taught to use the Six Thinking Hats (de Bono, 1990) to help them ask
different types of questions to elicit the information they need.
1. S: OK, how can drugs affect our bodies? (S. asks white hat question seeks information)
2. S: I think…
3. S: Alisha, we’ve going to start off with the white hat. How does it affect our bodies? (S.
asks white hat question seeks information)
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Vol 41, 3, March 2016 49
4. S: Bad oxygen. (S. statement)
5. S: The problems with drugs is that drugs can make us psycho. (S. explanation)
6. S: It can affect us visually, and it can fill us and all that kind of stuff. (S. explanation)
7. S: OK, we’ve got to figure out how they affect us (S. statement)
8. S: Our lungs can go real bad when our major organs are affected. (S. explanation)
9. S: It can affect your major organs and the way you breathe. (S. explanation)
10. T: OK, Greg, can you think of any way drugs can affect your major organs? (T.
challenges student to provide information)
11. S: Drugs…I’m not sure. (S. unsure, short response)
12. T: You’ve probably got some information on drugs that you can use. Think of how you
can present it to the children. (T. prompts)
13. S: I think that that should go in the white hat section. (S. prompts)
14. S: Only certain drugs make us go psycho. (S. statement)
15. S: What else do we know about drugs? That it can make our families go against us and
that stuff. (S. open question)
16. S: Feelings. I feel that taking drugs is a bad thing. (S. statement)
17. S: This problem can affect us and our families and our children. (S. explanation)
18. S: I think those go together because they are dangerous. (S. explanation)
19. S: It was a very good answer to your question. (S. acknowledges and validates response)
20. S: OK. Alisha, how do you feel about this problem? (S. asks a red hat question feeling
21. S: How do people feel who take drugs? (S. asks open question)
22. S: I feel sick in the stomach. (S. statement)
23. S: Thank you for saying that. What else people? (S. acknowledges student’s response
and seeks additional information)
24. S: I would like to say something about this problem. I feel that if people take drugs it will
form a habit and it will affect lots of people because of their families and their health and
that. (S. explanation with reason)
25. S: Why do you feel you don’t like it? (S. asks a red hat question to solicit reasons for
26. S: It will affect all the people around them(S. statement)
27. S: Have you heard anyone you know taken drugs? (S. asks open question)
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 50
28. S: No. I think people who take drugs want to be cool and show off to their friends and
their exs (ex-partners). (S. statement)
29. S: Yeah! That true. They think that it will be cool but it’s not. It is just uncool. (S.
30. S: It just doesn’t affect them it affects all the people around them. (S. explanation)
31. S: So now we should go to the Black hat (identify drawbaks). (S. statement)
32. S: What are the ideas we have in our heads that haven’t come out yet. (S. asks open
33. S: The black hat is what are some ways of exploring the ideas in our heads the ideas in
our heads that haven’t come out yet? (S. solicits minuses)
34. S: No we should go to the green hat. (S. statement)
35. S: Ok, what are some ways of solving this problem? (S. solicits creative ways of solving
the problem)
36. S: Alsiha, do you have some ways of solving this problem? The green hat question is,
What are some ways of solving this problem? Any ideas? (S. continues to probe for ideas)
37. S: People that like that …they should make new harsher rules to stop people from
importing drugs. (S. reason)
38. S: Do you want to say something that is related to that. (S. probes)
39. S: Yes, they should check their t-shirts because people wrap drugs around their bodies or
in their backpack such as ….(name of convicted drug dealer is mentioned). (S. statement)
While the vignette above represents only a few minutes of the students’ interactions
as they discuss the effects of drugs on the body, it is apparent that they are actively involved
in seeking information from each other (Turns 1, 3, 23), soliciting input from others (Turns
15, 21, 25, 27, 32, 33, 35,38), and acknowledging others’ contributions (Turns 19, 23). In
turn, group members respond with statements (Turns 4, 7, 14, 16, 22, 26, 28,29, 31, 34, 39) or
explanations or elaborations (Turns 5, 6, 8, 9, 17, 18, 24, 30) relevant to the topic; a clear
indication that they have appropriated many of the characteristics of dialogic teaching that
their teacher, in the previous vignette, had modelled. Their identity as a group or collective
was apparent from the use of terms such as “our, we”, and “us” or the implied use of these
collective pronouns (Gillies, 2003a) in their dialogic exchanges. Their interactions were
reciprocal with questions often followed by a series of statements or explanations that
snowballed (Turns 5, 6, 7, 8, 9), indicating that they had developed stratagems for talking and
thinking with each other which Anderson et al. (2001) proposes contribute to the
development of students’ language and thought.
Cooperative Learning: Implications for Education
The purpose of this paper is to review developments in research on cooperative
learning and to examine the factors that contribute to its success. In particular, the review
focuses on the key elements that underpin successful cooperative learning and the role
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 51
teachers’ play in developing students’ thinking and learning when implementing this
pedagogical practice in their classrooms.
The evidence for the success of cooperative learning as a pedagogical practice that
promotes both socialization and learning is overwhelmingly supported with meta-analyses by
Johnson et al. (1981), Johnson and Johnson (2002), Roseth et al. (2008), and Slavin (1989)
attesting to the benefits students derive when they cooperate with others. Working together to
achieve a common goal produces higher achievement and greater productivity than working
alone. Johnson and Johnson (2009) maintain that this is so well confirmed by the large
volume of research that has been published that it stands as one of the strongest principles in
social and organizational psychology. In fact, Johnson et al. (2014) suggest that organisations
that wish to maximize the motivation and achievement of their members would be well
advised to structure positive interdependence among members while minimizing negative or
no independence. In schools, opportunities for students to work in situations where they
experience positive interdependence would seem to be a better choice than situations based
on negative or no independence. This suggestion is particularly pertinent to secondary
schools where there tends to be a significant decrease in motivation after the transition from
elementary schools and the opportunity to work closely with others may help to ameliorate
this trend.
It is well recognized that students do not necessarily cooperate during group work and
that groups need to be structured so that the five key components that mediate successful
cooperation are evident. These include: establishing positive interdependence among group
members; facilitating promotive interaction; encouraging individual accountability; explicitly
teaching the appropriate social skills; and, encouraging groups to reflect on both the
processes involved in managing the task and interacting with their peers. When these key
components are embedded in groups, students are more likely to: feel motivated to work
together to achieve both their own and the group’s goals; accept personal responsibility for
their contributions to the group and their behaviours towards group members; respect others’
contributions: commit to resolving disagreements democratically: and, work constructively
towards managing the task and maintaining effective working relationships.
Teachers not only play a key role in structuring groups so that the key components
likely to facilitate successful cooperation are evident but they also have a role in promoting
interaction among students because research indicates that students rarely provide quality
explanations or engage in high-level discourse unless they are taught to do so (King, 2002).
However, students can be taught to talk and reason and problem-solve together which, in
turn, has been shown to contribute to the development of individual reasoning, problem-
solving and learning (Gillies, 2004, 2006, 2008; Mercer et al., 2004). Furthermore, teachers
can mediate students’ learning by engaging in dialogic teaching or teaching talk where they
model how to engage in reciprocal dialogues to resolve problems, ask questions that
challenge current understandings, build on the ideas of others so they are linked cogently
together, and reflect and evaluate on outcomes achieved (Alexander, 2008a,b). When
teachers model these ways of talking, students, in turn, learn how to talk or use talk to ask
questions, to explain their thinking, to analyse and solve problems, explore and evaluate
ideas, argue, reason and justify. In short, they learn to develop stratagems for talking,
thinking, and learning.
Australian Journal of Teacher Education
Vol 41, 3, March 2016 52
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This research was funded by a Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council
ACR-SRI: Science of Learning Research Centre (project number SR120300015)
... Therefore, students can only attain their learning objectives if they are encouraged and guided to collaborate effectively in order to achieve them (Johnson & Johnson, 2002). Gillies (2016) notes that social skills such as attentive listening, articulating thoughts and resources, constructively discussing other people's opinions, taking responsibility for one's own actions, and democratic decisionmaking are critical for students' interactions during group discussions. Students who participate in cooperative learning build their social skills, exchange information, improve their attitudes toward learning, and acquire the teamwork abilities essential for productive and successful engagement. ...
... Our results are in line with related studies such as J. Yang et al.'s (2014), who find that cooperative learning improves students' cross-cultural competencies and one study conducted by Awada and Gutie´rrez-Colo´n (2019), which demonstrated that cooperative learning via blogs could help students overcome their fear of intercultural communication. Other studies also suggest that cooperative learning significantly influences students' social development (Johnson et al., 2014;Lou et al., 2006;Yanti, 2021), interactions with other group members, and their respect for the assignment contributions of others (Gillies, 2016). Moreover, studies show that cooperative learning in an EFL classroom improves students' working relationships, class involvement, achievement (Gillies, 2016;Yanti, 2021), solidarity, respect and tolerance (Rabi'ah et al., 2021). ...
... Other studies also suggest that cooperative learning significantly influences students' social development (Johnson et al., 2014;Lou et al., 2006;Yanti, 2021), interactions with other group members, and their respect for the assignment contributions of others (Gillies, 2016). Moreover, studies show that cooperative learning in an EFL classroom improves students' working relationships, class involvement, achievement (Gillies, 2016;Yanti, 2021), solidarity, respect and tolerance (Rabi'ah et al., 2021). Similarly, a study conducted by Neo et al. (2012) showed that students who engaged in cooperative learning recognized the need for respect, communication, sharing, and tolerance as essential components of collaboration and the project's success. ...
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The role of talk in the construction of knowledge and learning has gathered interest in recent years as studies have been published that demonstrate the importance of social interaction in promoting cognitive development and academic learning. While there is a large volume of research that attests to the benefits that students derive when they work cooperatively together, it is only in the last 30 years that studies have been published that demonstrate how students learn by interacting with others and how teachers can utilise this information to create classroom experiences to ensure these benefits are realised. This article discusses the role of dialogic talk during cooperative learning and its capacity to promote students’ thinking and learning. The article provides insights into how one teacher used dialogic talk in her classroom to promote student interactions, thinking and learning. It also provides an example of how students in one small group listened to each other, asked questions, sought clarifications, and provided reasons and justifications for their suggestions as they considered the perspectives of others on how to construct an earthquake proof building.
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Global demands for collaborative problem solving (CPS) have sparked investigations of peer collaboration in the educational context. The aim of this systematic review was to identify and systematize research findings on (a) characteristics of productive and unproductive face-to-face (f2f) or synchronous CPS via digital devices among adolescents in the educational context, (b) training and scaffolding modalities enabling adolescents to engage in productive CPS, and (c) ways of supporting productive CPS by using digital resources. We conducted a thematic analysis of 160 selected papers from a larger corpus and identified six main themes, that is, groups of characteristics of CPS: socio-cognitive aspects; socio-emotional aspects; the quality of task/prob- lem-solving strategies; regulation of group activity oriented towards the task; regulation of group activity oriented towards group members; and participant engagement in CPS. We found that in efforts to contribute to successful CPS, adults (teachers/researchers) can moderate peer interaction in three ways, by focusing on either cognitive processes, group discussions, or class- room management. Regarding the third goal, we identified two major roles of digital resources in adolescent CPS. The first role pertained to ICT as a source of relevant knowledge or a tool for problem solving and the other role was related to peer collaboration and ICT as a tool for scaffolding collaboration. All characteristics that emerged in this review are discussed and concluding comments refer to educational implications.
Introduction. Educational independence is of major importance for the modern teachers’ work; its development is significant for training of future pedagogues. The development of educational independence oriented at the changes of the present and the future and at continuous self-improvement requires applying innovative pedagogical strategies and technologies. The introduction of project activity organisation technology for students of pedagogical profile, to be implemented in the educational process at the initial stages of training, is applied fragmentarily and is not comprehensively researched. Aim of the research: theoretical substantiation and approbation of project activity organisation technology for the development of students’ – future pedagogues’ – educational independence. Materials and methods. The participants of the experimental survey were represented by students majoring in “Pedagogical Education (different profiles)” at Tambov State University named after G.R. Derzhavin (45 persons) and State University of Education (45 persons) in 2022-2023 academic year. Theoretical research methods: analysis and generalisation of the history of the given issue, modern approaches to the development of educational independence, pedagogy of project activity. Empirical research methods: “Assessment of the ability for self-development, self-education” (V.I. Andreev), “Readiness for self-development” (V. Pavlov); expert card for assessing educational independence; assessment of project activity results; questioning; observation; content analysis of reflective texts. Statistical methods: Mann-Whitney U test. Results. The project activity organisation technology was developed for the formation of educational independence of a student – future pedagogue at the initial stage (level – Bachelor degree), depending on the initial level of preexisting educational independence (Introductory stage; Corrective stage; Development stage; Intermediate goal achievement stage). It was established that the use of the project activity organisation technology in the educational process has a positive impact on the development of educational independence of a student – future pedagogue. The research results confirmed the positive dynamics of this influence. The expedience of using project activities in future pedagogues teaching process was duly substantiated. The students, participating in project activities, select the field within the chosen speciality which will help them to realise their full potential in the future. It was revealed that the application of the designed technology showed effectiveness in the development of educational independence of a student – future pedagogue according to the following criteria: motivational/target-oriented (U = 584; p ≤ 0.01); cognitive/activity-based (U = 531.5; p ≤ 0.01) and evaluative/reflexive (U = 547.5; p ≤ 0.01). Conclusion. The novelty of the implemented research lies in the development of a project activity organisation technology for a student – future pedagogue, aimed at the development of educational independence, a set of supporting content, project topics for individual work. The results can be used in teaching other profiles and levels of higher education.
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The study investigated the behaviors, interactions, and perceptions of junior high school students as they worked in structured or unstructured cooperative learning groups on problem-solving, curriculum-based tasks in mathematics, science, and English. Two hundred twenty students in Grade 8 participated in the study, which was conducted across 3 school terms. The students worked in 4-person, gender-balanced, heterogeneous achievement groups. The results show that the children in the structured groups were more cooperative and provided more relevant verbal help and assistance to each other as they worked together in their groups than their peers in the unstructured groups. Furthermore, they had stronger perceptions of small-group work as being enjoyable and providing them with the opportunity to do quality work together.
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Emphasizing the developmental need for positive peer relationships, in this study the authors tested a social-contextual view of the mechanisms and processes by which early adolescents' achievement and peer relationships may be promoted simultaneously. Meta-analysis was used to review 148 independent studies comparing the relative effectiveness of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures in promoting early adolescents' achievement and positive peer relationships. These studies represented over 8 decades of research on over 17,000 early adolescents from 11 countries and 4 multinational samples. As predicted by social interdependence theory, results indicate that higher achievement and more positive peer relationships were associated with cooperative rather than competitive or individualistic goal structures. Also as predicted, results show that cooperative goal structures were associated with a positive relation between achievement and positive peer relationships. Implications for theory and application are discussed.
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This meta-analysis investigates the degree to which achievement is positively associated with motivation within situations characterized by positive, negative, and no interdependence. First, the relative effects of positive, negative, and no interdependence on motivation and achievement were determined. Then the amount of variance in achievement explained by motivation (and vice versa) was calculated. In all, 629 independent studies were included, representing 26 different countries. Results also showed that motivation accounted for 14% of the variance in achievement (and vice versa). When the lowest-quality studies were eliminated, the percentage of achievement explained by motivation increased to 24%. Positive interdependence resulted in greater motivation and achievement than did negative or no interdependence. Implications for theory and application are discussed.
Moving beyond the general question of effectiveness of small group learning, this conceptual review proposes conditions under which the use of small groups in classrooms can be productive. Included in the review is recent research that manipulates various features of cooperative learning as well as studies of the relationship of interaction in small groups to outcomes. The analysis develops propositions concerning the kinds of discourse that are productive of different types of learning as well as propositions concerning how desirable kinds of interaction may be fostered. Whereas limited exchange of information and explanation are adequate for routine learning in collaborative seatwork, more open exchange and elaborated discussion are necessary for conceptual learning with group tasks and ill-structured problems. Moreover, task instructions, student preparation, and the nature of the teacher role that are eminently suitable for supporting interaction in more routine learning tasks may result in unduly constraining the discussion in less structured tasks where the objective is conceptual learning. The research reviewed also suggests that it is necessary to treat problems of status within small groups engaged in group tasks with ill-structured problems. With a focus on task and interaction, the analysis attempts to move away from the debates about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and goal and resource interdependence that have characterized research in cooperative learning.
Seven authoritative contributions to the emerging field of pedagogy and to comparative, cultural and policy studies in education. A must for those who want to do more than merely comply with received versions of ‘best practice’.
This unique and ground-breaking book is the result of 15 years research and synthesises over 800 meta-analyses on the influences on achievement in school-aged students. It builds a story about the power of teachers, feedback, and a model of learning and understanding. The research involves many millions of students and represents the largest ever evidence based research into what actually works in schools to improve learning. Areas covered include the influence of the student, home, school, curricula, teacher, and teaching strategies. A model of teaching and learning is developed based on the notion of visible teaching and visible learning. A major message is that what works best for students is similar to what works best for teachers - an attention to setting challenging learning intentions, being clear about what success means, and an attention to learning strategies for developing conceptual understanding about what teachers and students know and understand. Although the current evidence based fad has turned into a debate about test scores, this book is about using evidence to build and defend a model of teaching and learning. A major contribution is a fascinating benchmark/dashboard for comparing many innovations in teaching and schools.
Cooperative learning refers to instructional methods in which students work in small groups to help each other learn. Four major theoretical perspectives on achievement effects of cooperative learning are reviewed: Motivational, social cohesion, developmental, and cognitive elaboration. Evidence from practical classroom research primarily supports the motivational perspective, which emphasizes the use of group goals and individual accountability for group success. However, there are conditions under which methods derived from all four theoretical perspectives contribute to achievement gain. This chapter reconciles these perspectives in a unified theory of cooperative learning effects.
This article summarises findings from systematic reviews of research on primary and secondary mathematics, primary and secondary reading, and programmes for struggling readers. All reviews used a common set of procedures, requiring comparisons with control groups and duration of at least 12 weeks. Across hundreds of qualifying studies, a clear pattern emerged. Programmes providing extensive professional development in well-structured methods such as cooperative learning and teaching of metacognitive skills produce much more positive effect sizes than those evaluating either curricular reforms or computer-assisted instruction.
This article presents a systematic review of research on the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in elementary schools. Study inclusion criteria included use of randomized or matched control groups, a study duration of at least 4 weeks, and use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 23 studies met these criteria. Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programs that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted ES = +0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programs that emphasized professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES = +0.36 in 10 studies). Technological approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and cooperative learning showed positive outcomes in a few small, matched studies (ES = +0.42 in 6 studies). The review concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers' classroom instruction throughout the year, such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach