Five Basic Elements of Cooperative Learning

There are five fundamental elements involved in cooperative learning. In fact, these five elements distinguish cooperative learning from other forms of group learning. These elements can be thought of as pieces in a puzzle. When all of these elements are present in a learning situation, the result is a cooperative learning group. The five basic elements of cooperative learning are:


Positive Interdependence

Many hands touching.



This means the group has a clear task or goal so everyone knows they sink or swim together. The efforts of each person benefit not only the individual, but also everyone else in the group. The key to positive interdependence is committing to personal success as well as the success of every member of the group.





Individual and Group Accountability

Self and Team Evaluation





The group is accountable for achieving its goals, and each member must be accountable for contributing a fair share of the work toward the group goal. No one can "hitchhike" on the work of others. The performance of each individual must be assessed and the results given back to the group.




Interpersonal and Small Group Skills

Interpersonal and small group skills are required to function as part of a group. These are basic teamwork skills. Group members must know how to - and be motivated to - provide effective leadership, make decisions, build trust, communicate, and manage conflict.



Face-to-Face Promotive Interaction

Two faces looking at each other. This means that students promote each other's success by sharing resources. They help, support, encourage, and praise each other's efforts to learn. Both academic and personal support are part of this mutual goal. 




Group Processing

Students working together.




Group members need to feel free to communicate openly with each other to express concerns as well as to celebrate accomplishments. They should discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships.




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To help you understand cooperative learning a little better, here are some ideas and activities that could help team members develop better skills in each of the areas listed above.

Ways To Ensure Positive Interdependence:


Ways To Ensure Individual and Group Accountability:


Ways To Ensure Interpersonal and Small Group Skills:


Ways To Ensure Face-to-Face Promotive Interaction:


Ways To Ensure Group Processing:

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Additional Elements of Effective Groups

Although team dynamics (how the individual team members work together) can differ from team to team, effective teams share the following characteristics:

Full participation - All team members contribute their time and energy to the project. More importantly, all team members participate in the decision making process.

Trust - Members trust that each member will add value to the project, and members work to ensure that everybody contributes and that appreciation is expressed for different contributions.

Open communication - Communication is the glue that holds a team together. Communication is effective when all members:

Social/business balance - Although teams shouldn't socialize 100% of the time, it shouldn't be all business either. Casual conversation allows members to know each other better, leading to better working relations.


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