Cooperative learning

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Cooperative learning is an educational approach that promotes students working in small groups in order to collectively learn. This approach is considered an experiential learning approach and has shown to improve student's test scores, improve the achievements of female and African American students, and improve retention rates. This approach is also highly similar to collaborative learning.

Examples of Cooperative Learning

All Utah Libraries  Link:

Who: Steven Yamarik, a associate professor of economics at California State University at Long Beach.

What: Conducted a trial study demonstrating that cooperative learning exercises resulted in students achieving higher test scores.

When: 2007

How: First, in his intermediate macroeconomics course Yamarick established groups of three to four students which he called "base groups." These students remained in the same "base group" for the entire course. Then, Yamarick had students work with one another both inside as well as outside of the classroom. Finally, rather than use a teaching assistant, Yamarick personally facilitated the group cooperative learning exercises and assessed the results. The academic work which the students were assigned included handouts as well as additional readings. In class, groups typically reviewed the questions in a given handout, came to a group consensus concerning answers, and presented one solution to the class.

How to Incorporate Cooperative Learning

For the small classroom


For the large classroom

Cooperative learning groups

Neighbor sharing


Earlham College   Link:

Cooperative learning has been shown to increase test performance (Slavin 1991, Yamarik 2007), aid the performance of underrepresented students (Treisman 1985), increase student engagement (Johnson and Johnson, 1989), and increase the retention rate of students (Treisman 1985, Williamson and Rowe 2002).

Uri Treisman, a professor of calculus at the University of California, Berkley, conducted a study comparing the difference in achievement between Chinese students, a group which typically performed well in his calculus course, and African American students, a group which typically underperformed in his calculus course. After observing the study habits of both groups, Treisman discovered that African American students typically worked alone for assignments where areas Chinese students regularly worked in groups for assignments. Once Treisman established study groups for the African American students their performance significantly improved. More evidence of the positive impact of cooperative learning can be found here


By incorporating cooperative learning into the economics classroom, student performance and engagement in the classroom can increase significantly. Cooperative learning techniques can be used in both small and large classrooms and have shown to increase the performance of underrepresented students.

An excellent resource for more information concerning cooperative learning can be found here


Ebert-May, Diane, Carol Brewer, and Sylvester Allred. "Innovation in Large Lectures: Teaching for Active Learning." BioScience 48.7 (1997): 601-07. JSTOR. University of California Press on Behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Web. 18 June 2011. <>.

Herreid, Clyde F. "Why Isn't Cooperative Learning Used to Teach Science?" BioScience 48.7 (1998): 553-59. JSTOR. University of California Press on Behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Web. 18 June 2011. <>.

Johnson, David W, and Roger T. Johnson. Cooperation and Competition: Theory and Research. Edina, Minn: Interaction Book Co, 1989. Print.

McGoldrick, KimMarie. "Where Do I Begin? Using Think-Pair-Share to Initiate the Problem Solving Process." SERC. Natural Science Foundation. Web. 16 June 2011. <>.

Slavin, Robert E. Student Team Learning: A Practical Guide to Cooperative Learning. Washington, D.C: NEA Professional Library, National Education Association, 1991. Print.

Treisman, Uri. "Studying Students Studying Calculus: A Look at the Lives of Minority Mathematics Students in College." The College Mathematics Journal 25.5 (1992): 362-72. JSTOR. Mathematical Association of America. Web. 15 June 2011. <>.

Williamson, Vickie M. "Group Problem-Solving versus Lecture in College-Level Quantitative Analysis: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Journal of Chemical Education 79.9 (2002): 1131. Journal of Chemical Education. Journal of Chemical Education. Web. 10 June 2011. <>.

Yamarik, S.. (2007). Does Cooperative Learning Improve Student Learning Outcomes? Journal of Economic Education, 38(3), 259-265,268-269,273,275-277. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1362844731).