Cooperative learning methods organize the little groups with the objective of establishing the ties and requirements necessary for cooperation. However, despite having this in common, each method present a different way of managing the teaching and learning activities, which makes some more elevant than others so as to develop certain learning processes in the different curriculum areas.

There is no method which can be regarded as the best and more elevant that the others, it is a matter of using the method which better adapts to our needs taking into account the characteristics of the group of students and the activity to be worked on, in such a way that the factors favouring cooperation and learning are enhanced.

Ovejero (1990) presents a very interesting historical panoramics over the world-wide implementation of the different cooperative work methods. More recently, in Monereo & Duran (2001) you may also find some of the methods explained.

We now provide (leaving peer tutoring aside, since we already talked about it in another section) a brief description of some of the most well known methods.


Jigsaw (Aronson and collaborators, 1978)

Specially useful in knowledge areas where content is susceptible of being “fragmented” in different parts. This method enhances the interdependence among students given that the information is provided to the students in parts (as many as team members), as if they were jigsaw pieces. Each student gets a part of the necessary information to do the task, becoming “expert” in his/her jigsaw piece or knowledge part. The team members are responsible for knowing the corresponding information in depth, for teaching it and for learning the information presented by the rest of the team member .


Student Team Learning (Devries, Edwards and Slavin)

It consists of a series of procedures whose objective is provide special relevance to the use of group objectives. The success of the team can only be truly attained if individual responsibility leads all the members to fulfill their duties. Within such procedures we can distinguish four methods:

– TGT: Team method – games- tournament (De Vries and Edwards, 1973) The classroom organization with this method allows us to create an intergroup procedure so as to compare the degree of performance of the different teams. It consists of creating teams of 4 to 5 students and arrange a competition with the members of the other teams. The teams are the cooperative element of the TGT (Teams-Games-Tournament). The TGT guarantee the implication and participation of each and every member of the group and allow them to compete with the other members of the other teams who have a similar level to their own, which reduces considerably the angst of the competition. As a negative aspect, we can suggest that with this method the interest in the subject may disappear amidst the competitive game and extrinsic motivation may be optimized.

– STAD Student Team-Achievement Divisions (Slavin, 1986). This method shares intergroup cooperation and intergroup comtetition with the previous one. The students are divided into heterogeneous groups of four or five members. The teacher presents a topic to all the class, with all the explanations and exemplifications s/he considers necessary. The students work in teams for different sessions where they discuss, compare, widen, formulate questions, elaborate conceptual maps, basis of orientation, memorize, etc. and make sure all the members of the group have learned what they were asked to.

After that, the teacher assesses each student individually and transforms the individual qualification in group qualification using a system known as “performance in divisions”. This method compares the performance of each student as regards the reference of a group of a similar level. Thus we make sure each student can contribute to the success of his/her team, given his/her possibilities, and it can also be the case that a student with a lower performance level provides a higher score to his/her team than another student with a higher performance level because s/he has been better placed in his/her division.

–  TAI Team Assisted Individualization (Slavin i cols., 1984). This method combines cooperative learning and individuated instruction: all the students work on the same, but each of them follows a specific program. The common learning task is structured in a personalized way for every member of the team, and within the team all the students help so as to attain the personal objectives of each of its members.


Group-Investigation (Sharan and Sharan, 1976).

This is a very similar method to the project work arrangements used in primary school or to the synthesis credits in secondary school in Spain. It follows the following steps:

  1. Choosing and distribution of subtopics: The students choose, according to their aptitude or interests, a subtopic within a general topic suggested by the teacher taking into account the curriculum.
  2. Each team is responsible for a different subtopic, so all the class group works on the same general topic but from different specializations (as the scientific community does).
  3. Planning the study of the subtopic: The team members, together with the teacher, determine the objectives they select and plan the procedures they will deploy to fulfill them, at the same time they distribut the tasks they need to do.
  4. Development of the plan: The students develop, in written form, their work plan. The teacher follos each team’s progress and offers his/her help when necessary.
  5. Analysis and synthesis: The students analyze and assess the information gathered. They summarize it and present it to the rest of the class.
  6. Presentation of the paper: Once presented, they make questions and provide answers to possible questions, doubts or widening of the topic that may be relevant.
  7. Assessment: Teacher and students together assess the paper and the presentation in group. It is not incompatible with a later individual assessment.

This method promotes intrinsic motivation, with the commitment to the chosen subtopic and the work plan of the team members and autonomy.


Jigsaw II (Slavin)

This is the most well known variety of Jigsaw. It needs two types of groupings: the basis or habitual (heterogeneous) team l’equip base o habitual and the group of specialists or experts (homogeneous). The steps are the following:

  1. Divide the classroom in teams (cooperative and heterogeneous). The material which is object of study is divided into as many parts as members are in the teams.
  2. Preparation of the group of “specialists”: each member of the team meets with the rest of the members of the teams which have the same knowledge area (or jigsaw piece) and carry out activities to become “experts” in that topic. Once solved these activities, the students prepare the way they will explain what they have learned to their team members.
  3. Return to the original or basis teams. Each student (expert in on part) is responsible for explaining the part s/he has prepared to the rest of the team, at the same time s/he has to learn what the other members of the team teach him/her.
  4. The learning or assessment activity requires all the information. The assessment may be done in teams or in the most extreme case it can be done individually (even focusing on one only team member), but with a team mark.

This method allows for the contribution of all the students, including those students in most need of help, to be equally valied, because they are all necessary for the attainment of the objectives.

Learning Together. (Johnson i Johnson, 1999)

In heterogeneous teams of 4 or 5 members, the students cooperate to obtain a product in group. The reward is based on the mean of the team which is established from individual progress.


Reciprocal Teaching (Palincsar i Brow, 1984 i Palincsar i Herrenhohl, 1999)

This cooperative learning method was designed to develop reading comprehension. In reciprocal teaching each team member is responsible for developing one of the cognitive operations a good reader would do so as to understand a text. After one of the team members reads and the summarizes a section of the text, another member makes questions, yet another answers the questions and a final student anticipates what will come in the following part of the text.

These operations will rotate among the team members so as to manage all of them appropriate them.


CO-OP CO-OP (Kagan, 1985a, 1985c)

This method consists of structuring the classroom so that all the students work in teams with the objective of fulfilling an objective that helps other students. The students are the ones to choose the topics they consider most relevant and each student works on one of them. Within every team each topic is divided in subtopics which each of the team components must develop. They will later present their knowledge to the rest of the group, in a similar way as it is done in the jigsaw method.

Assessment takes place at three levels: coassessment of the group’s presentation, coassessment of the individual contributions to the team and assessment of the material produced by the group.



Aronson, E. i col (1978). The jigsaw classroom. Beverly Hills: CA Sage

Devries, D. i Edwards, K. (1973). Learning games and student teams: Their effect on classroom process. American Educational Research Journal, 10, pp. 307-318

Johnson, Roger T.; Johnson, David W.; Holubec Edythe, J. (1999): El aprendizaje cooperativo en el aula. Barcelona: Paidós Educador.

Monereo, C. i Duran, D. (2001). Entramats. Mètodes d’aprenentatge cooperatiu i col·laboratiu. Barcelona: Edebé.

Ovejero, A. (1990): El aprendizaje cooperativo. Una alternativa eficaz a la enseñanza tradicional. Barcelona: PPU

Palincsar, A.; Brown, A. (1984). Reciprocal Teaching of comprehension-fodtering and metacognitive strategies. Cognition and Instruction, 1; 117-175

Palincasar, A.; Herrenhohl, R. (1999). Designing Collaborative Contexts: Lessons from three research programs. A: O’DONELL, A; KING, A. Cognitive Prespectives on Peer Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrance Earlbaum Associates, Inc.

Kagan, S. (1985a). Dimensions of cooperative classroom structures, A: R. SLAVIN i cols. (eds), op. cit., pp. 67-96

Kagan, S. (1985b).Learning to cooperative, A: R. SLAVIN i cols. (eds), op. cit., pp. 365-370

Sharan, S i Sharan, I. (1976). Small group teaching. Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Educational Technology Publications.

Slavin, R. i cols. (1984). Combining cooperative learning and individualized instruction: Effects on student mathematics achievement, attitudes, and behaviours. Elementary School J., 84, pp. 409-422.