Cooperative Learning Versus Traditional Learning for Group Activities

How Cooperative Learning Groups Differ

There are three different types of goal structures in a classroom setting. These are competitive goals where students work against each other towards some goal or reward, individualistic goals where students work alone towards independent goals, and cooperative where students work with each other towards a common goal. Cooperative learning groups provide students with the motivation to achieve as a group by putting forth a combined effort. However, many teachers do not properly structure groups so that instead of having cooperative group learning, they have what I am calling traditional group learning. This does not provide students with the same incentives nor in many cases is it as fair for the students in the long run.

Following is a list of ways that cooperative and traditional learning groups differ. In the end, cooperative learning activities take longer to create and assess but they are much more effective in helping students learn to work as part of a team.

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Teacher and students looking at tablet
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In a traditional classroom group setting, students are not interdependent upon one another. There is no feeling of a positive interaction where the students need to work as a group to produce a quality piece of work. On the other hand, true cooperative learning provides students with incentives to work as a team to succeed together.

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A traditional learning group does not provide the structure for individual accountability. This is often a huge downfall and upsetting to those students who work the hardest in the group. Since all students are graded the same, less motivated students will allow the motivated ones to do the majority of the work. On the other hand, a cooperative learning group provides for individual accountability through rubrics, teacher observation, and peer evaluations.

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Typically, one student will be appointed the group leader in a traditional group setting. On the other hand, in cooperative learning, students share leadership roles so that all have ownership of the project.

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Because traditional groups are treated homogeneously, students will typically look out for and be responsible for only themselves. There is no real shared responsibility. On the other hand, cooperative learning groups require students to share responsibility for the overall project that is created.

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Social Skills

In a traditional group, social skills are typically assumed and ignored. There is no direct instruction on group dynamics and teamwork. On the other hand, cooperative learning is all about teamwork and this is often directly taught, emphasized, and in the end assessed through the project rubric.

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Teacher Involvement

In a traditional group, a teacher will give an assignment like a shared worksheet, and then allow the students the time to finish the work. The teacher does not really observe and intervene on group dynamics because this is not the purpose of this type of activity. On the other hand, cooperative learning is all about teamwork and group dynamics. Because of this and the project rubric that is used to assess the students' work, teachers are more directly involved in observing and if necessary intervening to help ensure effective teamwork within each group.

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Group Evaluation

In a traditional classroom group setting, the students themselves have no reason to assess how well they worked as a group. Typically, the only time the teacher hears about group dynamics and teamwork is when one student feels that they "did all the work." On the other hand, in a cooperative learning group setting, students are expected and typically required to assess their effectiveness in the group setting. Teachers will hand out evaluations for the students to complete where they answer questions about and rate each team member including themselves and discuss any teamwork issues that arose.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "Cooperative Learning Versus Traditional Learning for Group Activities." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, Kelly, Melissa. (2017, February 21). Cooperative Learning Versus Traditional Learning for Group Activities. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "Cooperative Learning Versus Traditional Learning for Group Activities." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 16, 2018).