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Education 3-13: International Journalof Primary, Elementary and Early YearsEducationPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rett20
Implementing cooperative learning in aNetworked Learning CommunityWendy Jolliffe a & Hazel Hutchinson ba Centre for Educational Studies , University of Hull , UKb Kingswood College of Arts , Hull , UKPublished online: 08 Jan 2007.
To cite this article: Wendy Jolliffe & Hazel Hutchinson (2007) Implementing cooperative learning ina Networked Learning Community, Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary andEarly Years Education, 35:1, 5-16, DOI: 10.1080/03004270600898695
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Implementing cooperative learning in a
Networked Learning Community
Wendy Jolliffea* and Hazel HutchinsonbaCentre for Educational Studies, University of Hull, UK; bKingswood College of Arts,
This article presents research findings of work undertaken by a Networked Learning Community in
the north of England on implementing cooperative learning in primary and secondary schools. In
twelve primary and two secondary schools, in a social and economically deprived area, cooperative
learning is becoming embedded. How this has been supported by sharing good practice and
working collaboratively between primary and secondary schools and with a higher education
institution is examined. A crucial feature emerging from this is the role of a dedicated member of
staff, as facilitator, to support and monitor the use of cooperative learning.
The skills of cooperating and working with others can be argued to be central to human
existence (Argyle, 1991). It is ironic, therefore, that historically schools have encouraged
uncooperative and individualistic behaviour amongst pupils. Two factors have begun to
impact on this trend during the past three decades. First, a wealth of research originating
from the work of Dewey (1924) and Deutsch (1949, 1960) has spawned a growing
interest in cooperative learning, in which pupils support each other. Secondly, the
increased prominence of socio-cultural theories of learning, emanating from the work of
Vygotsky (1978), has transformed views of the learner from the lone scientist to the
social being. As a government-instigated report into learning to learn by DEMOS
(2005, p. 17) states, Students do not learn in isolation, and it recommends that a
Commission on Learning should be set up. The time is ripe for change.
This article analyses a method of ensuring that pupils do not learn in isolation:
cooperative learning. It begins by summarizing the key features and different formats
of cooperative learning and then examines the crucial issue of how to implement it in
the classroom. It describes the context for research into its implementation and
summarizes the key ingredients that support its use across the curriculum. It also
provides a brief action research study showing how work in a secondary school
exemplifies important factors in implementation.
*Corresponding author. Centre for Educational Studies, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, UK.
Vol. 35, No. 1, February 2007, pp. 5 16
ISSN 0300-4279 (print)/ISSN 1475-7575 (online)/07/01000512
2007 ASPEDOI: 10.1080/03004270600898695
What does cooperative learning involve?
Cooperative learning (CL) is the umbrella term for a variety of educational
approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers
together (Smith & MacGregor, 1992, p. 10). It requires a small number of pupils to
work together on a common task, supporting and encouraging each other to improve
their learning. It has an extensive history of research emanating from the work of
Deutsch (1949), across a range of cultures (North America, Canada and Mexico,
Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Israel, Nigeria and South Africa, and Europe).
Findings have consistently shown positive effects on pupils learning. How this can be
put into practice in the classroom forms the focus for this research.
Types of CL vary, with an intriguing array of names such as STAD, Jigsaw, Group
Investigation and Structural Approach. Student Team Achievement Division (STAD)
(Slavin, 1983) is where pupils work in teams to ensure that all members have
mastered an objective. Pupils then take individual tests on the material and scores are
averaged for teams, introducing an element of competition between teams. Another
form, Group Investigation, is a problem-solving approach which has four elements:
investigation, interaction, interpretation and intrinsic motivation (Sharan, 1994).
Jigsaw (Aronson et al., 1978) involves each member of a group learning an essential
part of a whole topic by working with a focus group and then helping the home group
to combine the knowledge to complete the task. The Structural Approach (Kagan,
1994) consists of structures, or social interaction sequences, which enable the teacher
to transform existing lessons into a cooperative format by using simple strategies.
These strategies are content-free mechanisms and are widely transferable across the
curriculum. An example is think-pair-share, where pupils are asked a question and
given time to think, then discuss it with a partner before sharing their answer with the
Regardless of the specific format, researchers generally agree on two features
essential to cooperative learning: positive interdependence and individual account-
ability (Cooper & Mueck, 1992; Cottell & Millis, 1992; Slavin, 1992; Smith et al.,
1992). Positive interdependence consists of ensuring that the group can only succeed
if every member helps and supports each other to fulfil the task. In other words they
sink or swim together. Integral to this is the notion of individual accountability,
where each person in a team must be accountable for his or her share of the work.
As Johnson and Johnson succinctly point out: Simply placing students near each
other and allowing interaction to take place does not mean that learning will be
maximised (1999, p. 196). Successful interaction requires teachers first to ensure
that an ethos of trust is established and secondly, that the skills to cooperate are
explicitly taught. This level of sophisticated group work takes time to be effective, but
results show the gains far outweigh the effort involved (Brown, 1992).
The aim of this research was to elicit key factors in the effective implementation of
CL, as well as to gain an accurate picture of the extent of use. Extensive research
exists into the benefits of CL (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Slavin, 1995, 1996). Results
of these have shown three main categories of advantages: achievement, interpersonal
6 W. Jolliffe and H. Hutchinson
relationships, and psychological health and social competence. Research into how to
put CL into practice is more limited, however, as Bennett notes:
Although co-operative grouping has a respectable theoretical pedigree, the effectiveness of
which is backed up by the systematic research, very few studies have considered how best
to put it into practice in classrooms. (Bennett, 1994, p. 60)
Bennett and Dunnes research (1992) emphasized three factors that impact on
implementation: first designing suitable tasks, secondly enabling the teacher to
successfully manage group work, and thirdly providing training for pupils in group
work skills. More recently, work by Blatchford et al. (2003) on the Social Pedagogic
Research into Grouping (SPRinG) project looked at an approach to group work that
could be used in primary and secondary schools. This year-long collaboration set up a
framework that incorporated four key dimensions:
1. Classroom context, including pupil seating, group size, number, composition
and stability of groups.
2. Pupil interactions, which involved developing social and group work skills.
3. Teachers role, with support in the changing role of the teacher.
4. Tasks, including planning lessons with group work activities across the
Other research in Australia by Robyn Gillies (2003) has also examined factors that
impact on implementation and particularly the importance of structuring small-group
work and providing training in the social skills necessary.
The research set out in this article aimed to build on the findings of Blatchford et al.
(2003) to analyse the most effective support for a network of schools to implement
CL in the classroom in the UK.
Context of the research
The two secondary and twelve primary schools involved in this research all came
from an area of high social and economic deprivation in an inner-city area of the
north of England. They had previously been part of an Education Action Zone,
which was set up with a clear aim of raising standards and providing additional
support. The necessity to look for innovative approaches had led schools to
experiment with cooperative learning. The Education Action Zone later evolved into
a Networked Learning Community. What was particularly apparent were the strong
links that were established across the schools with a clear ethos of sharing good
The use of CL began with four primary schools in 2000, as part of the Success for All
strategy for the teaching of literacy, based on Slavins model of team incentives.
Following this some staff began to research the use of cooperative learning, and
further training, led by Don Brown and Charlotte Thomson from New Zealand,
Implementing cooperative learning 7
fuelled a desire to extend its use across the curriculum. Training in the rest of the
primary and secondary schools began in 20022003 and consisted of an initial two
days of whole-school training led by staff from a local university and from the Edu-
cation Action Zone/Networked Learning Community. The model of CL incorpo-
rated Johnson and Johnsons five principles (1987), known by the acronym PIGSF:
. Positive interdependence
. Individual accountability
. Group reflection
. Small-group skills
. Face-to-face interaction.
Training involved a range of teaching structures or techniques derived from
Kagan (1994), which were modelled together with methods of teaching small-group
skills, such as active listening and helping and supporting each other. Following
externally delivered training, all of these schools appointed a dedicated facilitator to
support the use of CL. Facilitators from the different schools and the university met
regularly to share progress and provide mutual support. Several facilitators carried
out action research projects in their schools. The results of one of these projects are
incorporated in this article.
In order to ascertain which aspects of the implementation had been particularly
successful and the extent of use of CL, questionnaires were sent to all head teachers
and facilitators at each of the twelve primary and two secondary schools. The survey
received 21 responses, one from each of the schools, although not all schools returned
separate responses from head teachers and facilitators. These were analysed using
Excel to record data and provide a range of graphical comparative data, and the
Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) to determine frequencies and valid
percentages. Analysis was conducted to focus on the following aspects:
1. Length of time the school has used CL strategies.
2. Extent to which the school is positive about the benefits.
3. Extent of the training received.
4. Extent and frequency of use of CL.
5. Most effective type of professional development.
6. Further support needed.
In addition, semi-structured interviews were held with headteachers and/or
facilitators to probe in further depth the schools use of CL, and these were analysed
using a conceptual framework. As a further example of methods of implementation, a
detailed case study of one secondary school was carried out in the form of action
research by the facilitator to explore features of successful practice.
8 W. Jolliffe and H. Hutchinson
Table 1 summarizes responses from the questionnaires using the six aspects set out
Semi-structured interviews with head teachers and facilitators provided supporting
information and were analysed as follows according to the following key aspects.
1. Views on the success of CL
Schools had paired work embedded and needed to move to implementing effective
group work more consistently. Schools were making links with other initiatives such
as supporting effective speaking and listening and were seeing benefits in childrens
confidence and oral skills.
2. Factors viewed as helping in successful implementation
A mixture of monitoring and support was seen as helpful, and all schools verified the
key importance of the...