Why Does Cooperative Learning Work?

Initial Publication Date: December 14, 2009

Teaching involves more than covering the material for the students, but rather uncovering the material with the students (Redish, 2000). An extensive body of research emphasizes two forms of interaction most important for enhancing student academic development, personal development and satisfaction:

  • student - student interactions
  • student - faculty interactions

Pascarella and Terenzini's summary of twenty years of research on the impact college has on student development supports the importance of this engagement. Cooperative learning is a way to facilitate student-student, student-faculty interactions efficiently and systematically.

Cooperative learning exercises enhance important skills including (Barkley, Cross and Major, 2005):

  • using the language of the discipline
  • explaining, providing feedback, understanding alternative perspectives
  • discovering patterns and relationships
  • organizing and synthesizing information
  • developing strategies and analysis