Cooperative Learning, Groups and Teams

Cooperative learning involves having students work together in groups to maximize their own and one another’s learning (Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1991).  During cooperative learning activities students are exposed to perspectives that may be new or contrary to their own.  By working together students actively explore class concepts and material by talking, listening, reading, writing, and reflecting.  This page provides resources about cooperative learning, designing effective small group activities, and guidance for creating and sustaining effective student learning groups.

  • Guidelines for Using Groups Effectively (Hershock and Milkova, CRLT) - Students learn best when they are actively engaged in the learning process.  This article provides strategies for effective management of group activities during the planning stages, implementation, and after. 
  • Team-Based Learning Collaborative - A place to learn more about team-based teaching and learning, obtain resources, and see what faculty across the country are doing to implement team-based learning in their classes.  The website has a wealth of information, including ideas for getting started with team-based learning, links to instructional videos, bibliographic sources, a FAQ section, and more.
  • CRLT Occasional Paper No. 29: Student Teams in the Engineering Classroom and Beyond, (Finelli, Bergom, and Mesa, 2011) - There is a wide demand for engineering graduates to be capable of working well in teams.  Research has demonstrated that students who engage with course material by working in teams tend to learn and retain more for a longer period of time than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats, such as lecture.  However, studies have shown that the undergraduate experience does not adequately prepare graduates for the necessary challenge of working in multicultural teams. This paper provides instructors with a framework for ensuring the success of student team work:  designing good team assignments, constructing teams carefully, teaching teamwork skills, and assessing student teams.   
  • Three Keys to Using Learning Groups Effectively (Michaelson, 1998) - This brief article gives three key principles for implementing learning groups effectively:  1) promoting accountability, 2) using assignments that link individual work, group work, and total class discussions, and 3) motivating stimulating give-and-take interactions between groups. 
  • Collaborative Learning: Group Work and Study Teams (Gross Davis, 1993) - This is an excerpt from the book Tools for Teaching that provides definitions for three different types of learning groups—informal learning groups, formal learning groups, and study teams—and general strategies for their design, implementation, and evaluation.  
  • Enhancing Learning – and More! – Through Cooperative Learning (IDEA Center, Millis, 2002) - This paper describes cooperative learning, and how it can enhance critical thinking, promote “deep” (as opposed to superficial) learning, encourage both self-esteem and the acceptance of others, and improve interpersonal effectiveness (with an emphasis on team skills).
  • The Collaborative Research Model: Student Learning Teams in Undergraduate Research (University of Oregon) - A flexible model for collaborative student research in coursework across the curriculum. The foundation of the model lies in its cooperative stance, which supports students in working together toward informed decision making on a common research problem.
  • Navigating the Bumpy Road to Student-Centered Instruction (Felder and Brent, 1996) -Address common concerns expressed by faculty about adopting a student-centered approach to instruction—“ If I spend time in class on active learning exercises, I’ll never get through the syllabus,” “I assign readings but many of my students don’t read them and those who do seem unable to understand the material independently,” and “I’m having a hard time getting my students to work in teams”—by providing both rational for student and instructor hesitations and giving some practical strategies for overcoming resistance.

For more on cooperative learning also see:
Active Learning
Interactive Lecturing