History And Perspectives Of Cooperative Learning Education Essay

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Three theoretical perspectives have guided research on cooperative learning which is social interdependence, cognitive-developmental, and behavioral. Social Interdependence Theory is the interaction with other people is essential for human survival. In an education setting, social interdependence refers to students' efforts to achieve, develop positive relationships, adjust psychologically, and show social competence. The social interdependence perspective of cooperative learning presupposes that the way social interdependence is structured determines the way persons interact with each other. Moreover, outcomes are the consequence of persons' interactions. Therefore, one of the cooperative elements that have to be structured in the classroom is positive interdependence or cooperation. When this is done, cooperation results in promotive interaction as group members encourage and ease each other's efforts to learn (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998).   

History of Theory and Research: Social Interdependence Theory (adapted from Johnson, Johnson and Holubec, 1998, p.3:18)


The way in which social interdependence is structured determines who individuals interact with and determines outcomes.

Early 1900s

Kurt Koffka: Groups are dynamic wholes featuring member interdependence


Kurt Lewin: Interdependence among members, common goals


Morton Deutsch: Positive, negative, and no goal interdependence (cooperative, competitive, individualistic efforts); two mediating variables (trust &conflict); distributive justice


David and Roger Johnson:Impact of social interdependence on achievement, relationships, psychological health and social development, mediating variables (positive interdependence, individual accountability, promotive interaction, social skills, group processing)


Dean Tjosvold: Research in business and industry setting

Assumptions of social interdependence theory:

Cooperative efforts are based on intrinsic motivation generated by interpersonal factors in working together and joint aspirations to achieve a significant goal

Focus on relational concepts dealing with what happens among individuals

The other one is the cognitive developmental perspective where it is grounded in the work of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piagetian perspectives suggest that when individuals work together, sociocognitive conflict occurs and creates cognitive disequilibrium that stimulates perspective-taking ability and reasoning. Vygotsky's theories present knowledge as a societal product (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998).   

History of Theory and Research: Cognitive Development Theory (adapted from Johnson, Johnson and Holubec, 1998, p.3:18)


When individuals cooperate on the environment, sociocognitive conflict occurs, thus creating cognitive disequilibrium, which in turn stimulates perspective-taking ability and cognitive development.


Piaget, Vygotsky, Kohlberg, Murray, controversy theorists (Johnsons &Tjosvold), cognitive restructuring theorists


Focus on what happens within a single person (e.g., disequilibrium, cognitive reorganization)

Lastly, the behavioral-social perspective presupposes that cooperative efforts are fueled by extrinsic motivation to achieve group rewards (academic and/or nonacademic) (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998).   

History of Theory and Research: Behavioral Learning Theory (adapted from Johnson, Johnson and Holubec, 1998, p.3:18)


Actions followed by extrinsic rewards (group contingencies) are repeated.


Skinner (group contingencies); Bandura (imitation); Homans, Thibaut &Kelley (balance of rewards and costs); Mesch-Lew-Nevin (specific application to cooperative learning)


Cooperative efforts are powered by extrinsic motivation to achieve group rewards.


Cooperative Learning is a teaching arrangement that refers to small, heterogeneous groups of students working together to achieve a common goal. Students work together to learn and are responsible for their teammates' learning as well as their own. Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Each member of a team is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. Students work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it.

In other words, Cooperative Learning also is a relationship in a group of students that requires positive interdependence (a sense of sink or swim together), individual accountability (each of us has to contribute and learn), interpersonal skills (communication, trust, leadership, decision making, and conflict resolution), face-to-face promotive interaction, and processing (reflecting on how well the team is functioning and how to function even better). Some definitions of cooperative learning (also known as collaborative learning) are the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning the principles and techniques for helping students work together more effectively (Jacobs, Power, & Loh, 2002, p. 1). The point is that cooperative learning involves more than just asking students to work together in groups. Instead, conscious thought goes in to helping students make the experience as successful as possible.

There is a difference between simply having students work in a group and structuring groups of students to work cooperatively. A group of students sitting at the same table doing their own work, but free to talk with each other as they work, is not structured to be a cooperative group, as there is no positive interdependence. Perhaps it could be called individualistic learning with talking. For this to be a cooperative learning situation, there needs to be an accepted common goal on which the group is rewarded for its efforts. If a group of students has been assigned to do a report, but only one student does all the work and the others go along for a free ride, it is not a cooperative group. A cooperative group has a sense of individual accountability that means that all students need to know the material or spell well for the whole group to be successful. Putting students into groups does not necessarily gain a cooperative relationship, it has to be structured and managed by the teacher or professor.

Cooperative efforts result in participants striving for mutual benefit so that all group members gain from each other's efforts, recognize that all group members share a common fate and know that one's performance is mutually caused by oneself and one's team members and also feel proud and jointly celebrate when a group member is recognized for achievement.


Positive Interdependence

The first requirement for an effectively structured cooperative lesson is that students believe that they "sink or swim together." Within cooperative learning situations, students have two responsibilities which are learn the assigned material and ensure that all members of the group learn the assigned material. The technical term for that dual responsibility is positive interdependence. Positive interdependence exists when students perceive that they are linked with group mates in such a way that they cannot succeed unless their group mates do (and vice versa) and/or that they must coordinate their efforts with the efforts of their group mates to complete a task. Positive interdependence promotes a situation in which students see that their work benefits group mates and their group mates' work benefits them and work together in small groups to maximize the learning of all members by sharing their resources to provide mutual support and encouragement and to celebrate their joint success. When positive interdependence is clearly understood, it establishes that each group member's efforts are required and indispensable for group success and each group member has a unique contribution to make to the joint effort because of his or her resources and/or role and task responsibilities.

There are a number of ways of structuring positive interdependence within a learning group.

Positive Goal Interdependence

Students perceive that they can achieve their learning goals if' and only if all the members of their group also attain their goals. The group is united around a common goal -- a concrete reason for being. To ensure that students believe they "sink or swim together" and care about how much each other learns, the teacher has to structure a clear group or mutual goal, such as "learn the assigned material and make sure that all members of the group learn the assigned material." The group goal always has to be a part of the lesson.

Positive Reward -- Celebrate Interdependence

Each group member receives the same reward when the group achieves its goals. To supplement goal interdependence, teachers may wish to add joint rewards (e.g., if all members of the group score 90% correct or better on the test, each receives 5 bonus points). Sometimes teachers give students: 1) a group grade for the overall production of their group, 2) an individual grade resulting from tests, and 3) bonus points if all members of the group achieve the criterion on tests. Regular celebrations of group efforts and success enhance the quality of cooperation.

Positive Resource Interdependence

Each group member has only a portion of the resources, information, or materials necessary for the task to be completed; the members' resources have to be combined for the group to achieve its goals. Teachers may wish to highlight the cooperative relationships by giving students limited resources that must be shared (one copy of the problem or task per group) or giving each student part of the required resources that the group must then fit together (the Jigsaw procedure).

Positive Role Interdependence

Each member is assigned complementary and interconnected roles that specify responsibilities that the group needs in order to complete the joint task. Teachers create role interdependence among students when they assign them complementary roles such as reader, recorder, checker of understanding, encourager of participation, and elaborator of knowledge. Such roles are vital to high-quality learning. The role of checker, for example, focuses on periodically asking each group mate to explain what is being learned. Rosenshine and Stevens (1986) reviewed a large body of well-controlled research on teaching effectiveness at the pre-collegiate level and found "checking for comprehension" to be one specific teaching behavior that was significantly associated with higher levels of student learning and achievement. Although the teacher cannot continually check the understanding of every student, the teacher can engineer such checking by having students work in cooperative groups and assigning one member the role of checker.

There are other types of positive interdependence. Positive task interdependence exists when a division of labor is created so that the actions of one group member have to be completed if the next member is to complete his or her responsibility. Positive identity interdependence exists when a mutual identity is established through a name or motto. Outside threat interdependence exists when groups are placed in competition with each other. Fantasy interdependence exists when a task is given that requires group members to imagine that they are in a hypothetical situation.

Face-to-Face Promotive Interaction

"In an industrial organization, it's the group effort that counts. There's really no room for stars in an industrial organization. You need talented people, but they can't do it alone. They have to have help." (John F. Donnelly, President, Donnelly Mirrors)

Positive interdependence results in promotive interaction. Promotive interaction may be defined as individuals encouraging and facilitating each other's efforts to achieve, complete tasks, and produce in order to reach the group's goals. Although positive interdependence in and of itself may have some effect on outcomes, it is the face-to-face promotive interaction among individuals fostered by the positive inter-relationships, and psychological adjustment and social competence. Promotive interaction is characterized by individuals providing each other with efficient and effective help and assistance; exchanging needed resources, such as information and materials, and processing information more efficiently and effectively; providing each other with feedback in order to improve their subsequent performance; challenging each other's conclusions and reasoning in order to promote higher quality decision making and greater insight into the problems being considered; advocating the exertion of effort to achieve mutual goals; influencing each other's efforts to achieve the group's goals; acting in trusting and trustworthy ways; being motivated to strive for mutual benefit; and maintaining a moderate level of arousal characterized by low anxiety and stress. 

Individual Accountability/Personal Responsibility

"What children can do together today, they can do alone tomorrow." (Let Vygotsky, 1962)

Among the early settlers of Massachusetts there was a saying, "If you do not work, you do not eat." Everyone had to do their fair share of the work. The third essential element of cooperative learning is individual accountability, which exists when the performance of individual students is assessed, the results are given back to the individual and the group, and the student is held responsible by group mates for contributing his or her fair share to the group's success. It is important that the group-knows who needs more assistance, support, and encouragement in completing the assignment. It is also important that group members know they cannot "hitchhike" on the work of others. When it is difficult to identify members' contributions, when members' contributions are redundant, and when members are not responsible for the final group outcome, they may be seeking a free ride. This is called social loafing.

The purpose of cooperative learning groups is to make each member a stronger individual in his or her own right. Individual accountability is the key to ensuring that all group members are, in fact, strengthened by learning cooperatively. After participating in a cooperative lesson, group members should be better prepared to complete similar tasks by themselves. To ensure that each student is individually accountable to do his or her fair share of the group's work, teachers need to assess how much effort each member is contributing to the group's work, provide feedback to groups and individual students, help groups avoid redundant efforts by members, and ensure that every member is responsible for the final outcome.

There are common ways to structure individual accountability include:

Keeping the size of the group small. The smaller the size of the group, the greater the individual accountability may be.

Giving an individual test to each student.

Randomly examining students orally by calling on one student to present his or her group's work to the teacher (in the presence of the group) or to the entire class.

Observing each group and recording the frequency with which each member-contributes to the group's work.

Assigning one student in each group the role of checker. The checker asks other group members to explain the reasoning and rationale underlying group answers.

Having students teach what they learned to someone else. When all students do this, it is called simultaneous explaining.

There is a pattern to classroom learning. First, students learn knowledge, skills, strategies, or procedures in a cooperative group. Second, students apply the knowledge or perform the skill, strategy, or procedure alone to demonstrate their personal mastery of the material. Students learn it together and then perform it alone.

Interpersonal and Small-Group Skills

"I will pay more for the ability to deal with people than any other ability under the sun." (John D. Rockefeller)

The fourth essential element of cooperative learning is the appropriate use of interpersonal and small-group skills. In order to coordinate efforts to achieve mutual goals, students must get to know and trust each other, communicate accurately and unambiguously, accept and support each other, and resolve conflict constructively. Placing socially unskilled students in a group and telling them to cooperate does not guarantee that they have the ability to do so effectively. We are not born instinctively knowing how to interact effectively with others. Interpersonal and small-group skills do not magically appear when they are needed. Students must be taught the social skills required for high quality collaboration and be motivated to use them if cooperative groups are to be productive.

The whole field of group dynamics is based on the premise that social skills are the key to group productivity. The more socially skillful students are and the more attention teachers pay-to teaching and rewarding the use of social skills, the higher the achievement that can be expected within cooperative learning groups. In the cooperative skills conditions, students were trained weekly in four social skills and each member of a cooperative group was given two bonus points toward the quiz grade if all group members were observed by the teacher to demonstrate three out of four cooperative skills. The results indicated that the combination of positive interdependence, an academic contingency for high performance by all group members, and a social skills contingency promoted the highest achievement.

Group Processing

"Take care of each other. Share your energies with the group. No one must feel alone, cut off, for that is when you do not make it." (Willi Unsoeld, Renowned Mountain Climber)

The fifth essential element of cooperative learning is group processing. Effective group work is influenced by whether or not groups reflect on how well they are functioning. A process is an identifiable sequence of events taking place over time, and process goals refer to the sequence of events instrumental in achieving outcome goals. Group processing may be defined as reflecting on a group session to describe what member actions were helpful and unhelpful, and make decisions about what actions to continue or change. The purpose of group processing is to clarify and improve the effectiveness of the members in contributing to the collaborative efforts to achieve the group's goals. While the teacher systematically observes the cooperative learning groups, he or she attains a "window" into what students do and do not understand as they explain to each other how to complete the assignment. Listening in on the students' explanations provides valuable information about bow well the students understand the instructions, the major concepts and strategies being learned, and the basic elements of cooperative learning.

There are two levels of processing which are small group and whole class. In order to ensure that small-group processing takes place, teachers allocate some time at the end of each class session for each cooperative group to process how effectively members worked together. Groups need to describe what member actions were helpful and not helpful in completing the group's work and make decisions about what behaviors to continue or change. Some of the keys to successful small-group processing are allowing sufficient time for it to take place, providing a structure for processing, emphasizing positive feedback, making the processing specific rather than general, maintaining student involvement in processing, reminding students to use their cooperative skills while they process, and communicating clear expectations as to the purpose of processing.

In addition to small-group processing, the teacher should periodically engage in whole-class processing. When cooperative learning groups are used, the teacher observes the groups, analyzes the problems they have working together, and gives feedback to each group on how well they are working together. The teacher systematically moves from group to group and observes them at work. A formal observation sheet may be used to gather specific data on each group. At the end of the class period the teacher can then conduct a whole-class processing session by sharing with the class the results of his or her observations. If each group has a peer observer, the results of their observations may be added together to get overall class data. An important aspect of both small-group and whole-class processing is group and class celebrations. It is feeling successful, appreciated, and respected that builds commitment to learning, enthusiasm about working in cooperative groups, and a sense of self-efficacy in terms of subject-matter mastery and working cooperatively with classmates.


The Jigsaw Model

Defined broadly, Jigsaw is a grouping strategy in which the members of the class are organized into "jigsaw" groups. The students are then reorganized into "expert" groups containing one member from each jigsaw group. The members of the expert group work together to learn the material or solve the problem, then return to their "jigsaw" groups to share their learning. In this way, the work of the expert groups is quickly disseminated throughout the class, with each person taking responsibility for sharing a piece of the puzzle.

Jigsaw Groups:

Group One

Group Two

Group Three

Group Four

Nucleus (Kathy)

Nucleus (Susan)

Nucleus (Jose)

Nucleus (Jim)

Mitochondria (Jorge)

Mitochondria (Randy)

Mitochondria (Gail)

Mitochondria (Tan)

Cell Wall (Sara)

Cell Wall (Andy)

Cell Wall (Chris)

Cell Wall (Julie)

Protoplasm (Heather)

Protoplasm (Jessenia)

Protoplasm (Phu)

Protoplasm (Karen)

Expert Groups:

Group One

Group Two

Group Three

Group Four

Nucleus (Kathy)

Mitochondria (Jorge)

Cell Wall (Sara)

Protoplasm (Heather)

Nucleus (Susan)

Mitochondria (Randy)

Cell Wall (Andy)

Protoplasm (Jessenia)

Nucleus (Jose)

Mitochondria (Gail)

Cell Wall (Chris)

Protoplasm (Phu)

Nucleus (Jim)

Mitochondria (Tan)

Cell Wall (Julie)

Protoplasm (Karen)

Jigsaw can be used for sharing different solutions to the same problem or for dividing up research responsibilities. For example, if the class is studying living cells, one group of students learns about the nucleus, another learns about the mitochondria, another learns about the cell wall, and so on. The groups are then reconfigured into jigsaw groups; the experts take turns teaching their specialty to their jigsaw group so that each group learns about every topic.

Jigsaw is an efficient way for students to become engaged in their learning, learn a lot of material quickly, share information with other groups, minimize listening time, and be individually accountable for their learning. Since each group needs its members to do well in order for the whole group to do well, Jigsaw maximizes interaction and establishes an atmosphere of cooperation and respect for other students. Teachers who listen in to the sharing of one of the jigsaw groups can quickly hear what each of the original groups has been doing.

Jigsaw II is an alternative strategy, developed by Robert Slavin (1990). The process is as described above, with the exception that students in jigsaw groups read the entire assignment or all of the materials to acquire the information. Group members then take an individual test on the material, the results of which contribute to a team score.

There a few steps on how to implement the Jigsaw Model. Firstly, divide the day's lesson into segments, and form student groups. The groups should be diverse in terms of ability. Then, form temporary expert groups in which students are assigned to the same segment. Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group. After that, bring the students into jigsaw groups that are composed of one student from each expert group. Have each student present her or his segment to the group. At the end of the session, you may give a quiz so that students are held accountable for learning all the material.

The teacher's role in the jigsaw is to facilitate learning. When students are in expert groups, the teacher can support students by encouraging them to find ways to put information they learned into their own words, to relate the material to their own lives, and to give examples that help them explain the material to their group. Students should be encouraged to help each other and to make sure everyone in their group understands the material and will be confident presenting it to his or her group.

If a student finds it difficult to explain his or her topic to the jigsaw group, a teacher first might pair that student with a partner who will help research and present the information to the jigsaw group and then have the pair travel together to the expert group and to the jigsaw group. This will help both students develop interpersonal skills, communication skills, and cooperating. To facilitate this partner coaching, have both students tell you if this is helping them learn the material. Encourage both students to make suggestions that would help them learn more efficiently.

The Jigsaw strategy is fundamental to all kinds of work in small groups. Use it frequently to maximize accountability and interactivity. As students become accustomed to sharing their understanding and ideas with others, you will find that they become more responsible learners. Faced with the need to articulate their learning to others, they will master the material at a deeper level than they would otherwise. As you give students more and more complex materials to discuss, master, and present to their peers, you will be providing them with opportunities to expand their thinking and understanding. You can increase accountability by giving individual students a quiz on the material after the jigsaw sharing is complete.

The strategy can be used in many different ways. Jigsaw can be used during an author study. Have each expert group read the books of an author, and have each student present the author to his or her jigsaw group. For younger students, each small group can be given a different storybook to read. Students take turns reading parts of the story. Then they take turns reading the whole story aloud again in their jigsaw groups. Essays or reports can be divided into sections, and expert groups can research together and then bring their knowledge to their jigsaw groups to write the essay or report. Students can be asked to critique the same piece of writing in small groups and then share and compare their critiques in the jigsaw group.

Give students the same multi-step problem to work on in small groups (for example, estimate the number of supermarkets in the United States. Then reorganize students into jigsaw groups and have them share and discuss each original group's solution. Chapters or articles can be divided and studied by student groups and then shared. Small groups can be asked to develop a solution to the same problem; solutions then can be shared and discussed in jigsaw groups. Small groups can conduct the same experiment and then share and compare results with a jigsaw group. Ask small groups to become experts in particular domains and then have them share their domain knowledge with the jigsaw group.

Think, Pair, Share Model

The think, pair, share strategy is a cooperative learning technique that encourages individual participation and is applicable across all grade levels and class sizes. Students think through questions using three distinct steps:

Think: Students think independently about the question that has been posed, forming ideas of their own.

Pair: Students are grouped in pairs to discuss their thoughts. This step allows students to articulate their ideas and to consider those of others.

Share: Student pairs share their ideas with a larger group, such as the whole class. Often, students are more comfortable presenting ideas to a group with the support of a partner. In addition, students' ideas have become more refined through this three-step process.

Students need many opportunities to talk in a linguistically rich environment. Researchers have found that students' learning is enhanced when they have many opportunities to elaborate on ideas through talk. The think, pair, share strategy increases the kinds of personal communications that are necessary for students to internally process, organize, and retain ideas. In sharing their ideas, students take ownership of their learning and negotiate meanings rather than rely solely on the teacher's authority.

Additional benefits of using the think, pair, share strategy include the positive changes in students' self-esteem that occur when they listen to one another and respect others' ideas. Students have the opportunity to learn higher-level thinking skills from their peers, gain the extra time or prompting they may need, and gain confidence when reporting ideas to the whole class. In addition, the "pair" step of the strategy ensures that no student is left out of the discussion. Even a student who is uncomfortable discussing his or her ideas with the whole class still has an audience in this step. Finally, while the strategy may appear to be time-consuming, it makes classroom discussions more productive, as students have already had an opportunity to think about their ideas before plunging into whole-class conversations.

The think, pair, share strategy is ideal for teachers and students who are new to collaborative learning. It can be used in a variety of contexts. However, to be effective, students must consider a question or issue. It could be a complex question, such as, "What do you think were the key issues that led to World War I?" It could be a more straightforward request, such as, "Create a pattern that could be described as 'a, b, a, b.'"

As students consider the question or issue, they should derive some benefit from thinking about it further with partners, such as when there are multiple correct answers to a question. For instance, in the previous example, students could provide many examples of "a, b, a, b" patterns and seeing multiple answers will reinforce this concept. On the other hand, providing students with questions that have only one correct response, such as, "What is 5 + 2?" soon becomes tedious to students, as there is not much to share with partners or the whole class.

The "think" step may require students merely to be quiet for a few moments and ponder their thoughts about the question. They may write some thoughts in response to the question. Some teachers find it helpful to set a time limit for the "think" and "pair" steps of the strategy. If you choose to do this, be sure to give students an idea of how much time they will have. Remember to allow sufficient time during the "pair" step to allow both students to talk about their thoughts.

In the "share" step of the strategy, students can share their ideas in several ways. One way is to have all students stand, and after each student responds, he or she sits down, as does any student with a similar response. This continues until everyone is seated. Another way is to move quickly through the class, having students respond quickly, one after the other, or to have a class vote. Responses can be recorded on an overhead projector or on a graphic organizer for future discussions. Another variation is to stop after the "pair" step, and have students write their ideas. Collect students' responses and assess any problems in understanding.

This strategy often stretches students' thinking merely by its implementation. Some students consider it a challenge to articulate their thoughts to another person. However, once students become comfortable with this aspect, there are ways to expand the strategy's reach. One way to be sure that students have opportunities is to pair with a variety of partners. Pairing students who sit closest to each other is convenient but doesn't provide the same intellectual or social challenge as accommodating the learning and discussion styles of a variety of classmates.

Another method for varying the strategy is to allow two "pair" steps before proceeding to "share." Students can either participate in two consecutive pairings or can pair with one student and then the first pair can be grouped with another pair to discuss their thoughts before joining a whole-class discussion. This double-pair method is particularly helpful if you have a very large class or are dealing with an especially complex question.

The think, pair, share strategy can be used to enhance discussions about specific characters in books. For instance, a group that is reading The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson might be asked to think, pair, share in response to the questions, "Would you be able to be friends with Gilly? Why or why not?" The think, pair, share strategy can help students learn about the writing process. Students who are asked to choose a topic of their own to write about often become stuck. Teachers can make this process easier by asking early in the year, "Where do story ideas come from?" As students think about the question and discuss their ideas with a partner, they usually come up with a long and valuable list of ideas that can take them through an entire year's worth of writing.

The think, pair, share strategy works well when there are multiple correct answers to a given problem. This makes the strategy perfect for questions that involve estimation, patterns, logic, and so on. This strategy can also be used when students are deciding how to approach a problem rather than when they are settling on a specific answer to one. Social studies content provides many opportunities to implement this strategy, especially when introducing new topics. Use the think, pair, share strategy by asking a question such as, "What do you already know about the Revolutionary War?" As students grapple with ethical topics, you might ask questions such as, "Would you have agreed to be a 'stop' on the Underground Railroad? Why or why not?" As students are conducting experiments, the think, pair, share strategy can be a way for them to form hypotheses or to discuss their interpretations of a given experiment. For instance, before an experiment on density, students might be asked to use the think, pair, share strategy when deciding which of a given set of items will float when placed in a tub of water.

Numbered Heads Together

Numbered Heads Together is a cooperative learning strategy that holds each student accountable for learning the material. Students are placed in groups and each person is given a number (from one to the maximum number in each group). The teacher poses a question and students "put their heads together" to figure out the answer. The teacher calls a specific number to respond as spokesperson for the group. By having students work together in a group, this strategy ensures that each member knows the answer to problems or questions asked by the teacher. Because no one knows which number will be called, all team members must be prepared.

This cooperative learning strategy promotes discussion and both individual and group accountability. This strategy is beneficial for reviewing and integrating subject matter. Students with special needs often benefit when this strategy is used. After direct instruction of the material, the group supports each member and provides opportunities for practice, rehearsal, and discussion of content material. Group learning methods encourage students to take greater responsibility for their own learning and to learn from one another, as well as from the instructor.

There are several steps on how to implement the Numbered Head Together Model. First of all, divide the students into groups of four and give each one a number from one to four. Then pose a question or a problem to the class. Have students gather to think about the question and to make sure everyone in their group understands and can give an answer. Ask the question and call out a number randomly. Finally the students with that number raise their hands, and when called on, the student answers for his or her team.

This is a flexible strategy that can be used at a variety of levels. The teacher may start with factual information questions, and as students become more familiar with the strategy, ask questions that require analysis or synthesis of information. Student groups can be given statements such as, "School uniforms help to keep students focused on academics." Students' task is to come to consensus on whether they agree or disagree, giving an explanation of their reasoning.

After the students respond, have the other groups agree or disagree with the answer by showing thumbs up or thumbs down, and then explain their reasoning. Or, if the answer needs clarifying, ask another student to expand on the answer.

This strategy can be used when comprehension questions have been posed to groups, and students can work together to find the answers. For example, when reading a story, students can be given the task of analyzing one of the characters. They can be asked questions such as, "Which character traits are stated directly, and which are implied by the author?" and "What information do you get from the character's speech and actions?" On the other hand, students can evaluate the quality of a piece of writing using a rubric. Have students review the writing as a group and assign scores as a group. Ask them to respond with their scores and rationale using the numbered heads together strategy.

Moreover, numbered heads together can be used when solving math problems. Ask questions such as "What are the facts in this problem?" "Which strategy would be most appropriate?" and "What solution did your group agree on?" This strategy also can be used after reading a chapter in a text, or after material has been presented. Ask clarifying questions about the text and have students find and discuss the answers. When groups are ready, review the answers using this strategy. Otherwise, this strategy can be used in preparation for a test or quiz. Allow time for students to study together in their groups and perhaps create questions that might be on the test or quiz. Using the numbered heads together strategy, ask questions about the material that will be on the test or quiz.


The effective use of cooperative learning in the classroom is often built upon a four-step process. There are four elements need to be considered as the initial start to design and implement cooperative learning into the teaching routines. The first element is presentation of content. In Lesson Methodologies, I talked about the ways in which you can present information to your students. These instructional activities must be done prior to any cooperative learning activity. Cooperative learning is not a self-instruction model, but rather a way for students to "mess around" with previously presented material. In short, cooperative learning comes after you've taught something to your students.

The second element is teamwork where this is the time after the new material been taught and when students are engaged in a cooperative learning activity. The cooperative learning strategy (Jigsaw, Think-pair-share, Numbered heads) is selected and explained to the entire class. Students are divided into various teams and provided sufficient time to complete their assigned duties.

The third element that should be considered is individual assessment. In cooperative learning, the objective is not the production of a single set of correct answers for the entire group but rather the development and enhancement of each member's achievement. Although members of the team work together to master information, each individual member must be assessed in relation to her or his mastery of the content. In short, everybody is tested in line with her or his achievement potential.

The last element is team recognition. It is most appropriate to recognize and celebrate the efforts of the team as a whole. It is equally important to celebrate the efforts of the team to assist individual members in learning a specific body of knowledge. These ceremonies can be either public or private. Teachers have rewarded teams with an extra recess, a "homework pass," a snack, a certificate or award, or some other appropriate reward. In many cases, the reward can be as simple as a classroom cheer or extended series of high fives.