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Co-operative learning is an instructional approach that involves students working together in pairs or small groups to accomplish shared goals or complete group tasks. It can take a number of forms including informal, formal or long-term structures and programmes.
Co-operative learning is widely recognised as a teaching strategy that promotes socialisation and learning among students from pre-school through to tertiary level and across different subjects and curriculum areas. It is effective because it meets students’ psychological needs for belonging, competence and autonomy.
There is a large body of evidence on co-operative learning approaches and strategies. Several large meta-analyses have found co-operative learning to have a better impact on a range of academic, personal, and social outcomes compared both to more individualistic or competitive learning and to more programmatic approaches involving technology or innovative textbooks. Research has also found that co-operative learning results in greater motivation and achievement than situations where students do not experience positive interdependence.
There are a number of strategies that can be used across the curriculum to incorporate co-operative approaches, from informal sharing exercises in pairs to more formal structured approaches to exploring a topic and making connections between concepts. Co-operative work can be assessed by evaluating the performance of the individual as well as assessing the group’s work in terms of the product of their work and the processes by which they worked together.
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