Deutsche Version

Cooperative Learning in the Classroom - Basic Elements

Johnson and Johnson (see below) have proposed five criteria to describe high-quality cooperative learning.

1. Positive dependency: “We need one another”

Each member of the group has two responsibilities:

  • to fulfil the given task
  • to ensure that others can meet the given task.

The sense of mutual responsibility must be learned by the pupils at first. Specific distribution of roles can be beneficial.

2. Direct support

The group members boost and support each other.

  • They exchange important sources of information and materials.
  • They give feedback to each other and question each solution with the goal of achieving a better result.
  • They explain to each other what they have already learned and help in understanding problems.

3. Obligation: It can be anyone's turn

In group work, some members tend to opt-out from working together. Therefore, obligatory performance is required with regard to both the group as well as each of its members.

  • Each member engages to the extent possible to achieve the common objective.
  • Everyone is responsible for the overall result of the group.
  • Each member is able to understand and explain the work of the group or an area clearly defined within the work.

4. Social skills: Treat each other with consideration

Effective collaborative working requires pupils to learn

  • trust each other
  • communicate with each other in a clear and understandable manner
  • accept and support each other
  • resolve conflicts constructively

5. Own evaluation of group work

The groups reflect upon which activities and methods were helpful and what has hindered their work. According to Johnson and Johnson, Holubec, 1993 (see below), structuring in five steps is possible.

  • First step: Individual reflection on one's own contributions
  • Second step: An observer (teacher or a pupil designated at the start of work) gives feedback on ways of cooperation.
  • Third step: The group sets itself goals for further learning material and the ways of cooperation
  • Fourth step: Learning results and working methods will be discussed with the whole class. Results and findings flow together: An overall picture is formed.
  • Fifth step: Celebration of progress and success of pupils marks the end of work. It creates the feeling of having jointly achieved something which the individual would not have achieved alone.


Johnson, D., Johnson, R. (1999). Learning together and alone: cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon