Cooperative learning: educational characteristics and implications

Learning is a lifelong process. With each step of it, we are learning certain things. At school, for example, the knowledge imparted is generally general for everyone. But how do you work to improve learning?

There are many forms of education; in this article we will talk about one of them: cooperative learning. We will know what it consists of, what are its objectives and its foundations, and how it differs from the classic methodology of “group work”.

    The learning process

    Learning is that process by which we acquire new knowledge, skills or abilities. It is a process that lasts a lifetime, as one learns in children’s school, but also in high school, university and throughout life, through different experiences and personal experiences.

    When we talk about learning at school, we are talking about a more circumscribed and concrete type of learning; this type of learning is acquired through the teachings or instructions provided by the teacher in the classroom. We learn in different ways and through different activities, tasks and exercises. Outraged, each person learns at their own pace and according to their personal characteristics.

    Cooperative learning: what is it?

    As we have seen, the learning that takes place in the school context is a fairly specific type of learning, but at the same time it can be divided into different types of learning. One of them is cooperative learning, which consists of a set of teaching procedures and methods based on dividing the students of the class into small groups.

    This procedure, however, is not based on the classic formation of working groups, and we will see the differences later.

    The groups formed by cooperative learning are generally mixed (bringing together both boys and girls) and heterogeneous (the characteristics of the pupils are different from each other); Through these groups, the students work in cooperation, that is to say in a joint and coordinated manner.

    In these small working groups or “teams”, each member of the group brings their own knowledge. and use their own abilities to be able to work cooperatively together.


      The main goal of cooperative learning is to provide students with deep learning, thanks to the contributions and differences of each member that makes up the small group. Thus, thanks to cooperative learning, the objective is that students can solve the tasks offered to them in groups and be able to deepen their own learning.

      On the other hand, in cooperative learning there are a number of learning situations where the objectives of the group members are linked; that is, individual goals end up being group goals, because in order to achieve the goals individually, other members must also meet theirs (this is the only way to go beyond the goals) .


      Some of the advantages or advantages of cooperative learning, over other types of learning, are as follows.

      On the one hand, students may be more motivated to solve tasks, As they have the support of others and work in groups. Additionally, cooperative learning encourages attitudes of initiative and involvement. The quality of work or tasks may increase relative to individual work, and the degree of mastery of the concepts and knowledge acquired may also increase.

      finally socialization can also be beneficial for student learningNot only academically, but also personally and emotionally.


      Cooperative learning, as a method of learning, is based on a number of values ​​and foundations. Some of the most important are:

      1. Improved academic performance

      One of the goals of this kind of learning (and that’s why it builds on it) is to improve students’ academic performance. This is achieved with the help of the different members of the group. Everyone brings what they know, want or can, and this is the basis for cooperative learning, cooperation and mutual aid.

      2. Group work

      In this way, the increase in the academic performance of the student and the achievement of in-depth learning is achieved through support and group and cooperative work. This is why this type of learning is enriched by socialization and interpersonal relationships.

      Thus, cooperative learning considers that, depending on the subjects or aspects to be taught, you will learn more by working in a group (i.e. socially) than individually.

      3. Value of interpersonal relationships

      Regarding the above rationale, this assumption or rationale can be extracted, which states that social or interpersonal relationships are important in improving student learning. In other words, these constitute important educational potentials and are achieved through the formation of groups.

      4. Socialization and integration

      Cooperative learning considers the processes of socialization and integration as key tools in the educational process of children and adolescents. these processes they provide very relevant values ​​for students, Such as the importance of cooperation and teamwork.

      Differences from classic group work

      Cooperative learning, as we have already mentioned, is based on the organization and formation of small working groups; however, this is not classic “group work”. So how do the two types of learning differ? Basically the differences are based on the aforementioned fundamentals and other examples. Let’s see:

      1. Importance of interpersonal relationships

      The main difference between cooperative learning and classic teamwork is that in the first type of methodology, the interpersonal relationships that arise (or already existed) in the group itself are particularly valued. These relationships serve as the basis or source of new forms of learning.

      2. Learning through imbalance

      On the other hand, in cooperative learning imbalanced learning occurs; this implies that one learns through the potentialities and the weaknesses of each member, as in a ladder or a puzzle, where each one brings what he knows and where together he ends up forming the “puzzle”.

      3. Theory of sociocognitive conflicts

      Another of the foundations or peculiarity of cooperative learning, and which differentiates it from classical group work, is that it is based on the so-called “sociocognitive conflict theory”.

      More precisely, the sociocognitive conflict is based on a two-person problem-solving process, And which consists of two moments or stages; in the first step, there is disagreement on how an attempt is made to solve the problem in question (since the procedure used is inefficient). This creates the need to consider the other person’s point of view.

      The second stage consists of the appearance of a cognitive contradiction (“I think one thing, which is not efficient, and the other thinks another”); this contradiction in turn creates the need to build a common path that contains the two perspectives or points of view, in order to obtain a single and joint solution.

      Finally, the benefit (s) obtained (n) are twofold: on the one hand, a resolution of the conflict or problem, and on the other hand, a cognitive restructuring of the two participants.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Rué, J. (1991). Cooperative work. Barcelona: Barcanova.
      • Rué, J. (1994). Cooperative work, in Dader, P., Gairín, J., (eds).
      • Peralta, N. (2012). Application of sociocognitive conflict theory to academic learning. National Council for Scientific and Technical Research.

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