Cooperative learning techniques

Cooperative learning techniques

In comparison with methods, cooperative learning techniques are simple structures, which do not usually require initial training for students and can be used to create short situations of cooperation. Among the many existing techniques, we offer a selection of twelve of them below, retrieved from:

Duran, D. (2012). Utilizando el trabajo en equipo: Estructurar la interacción a través de métodos y técnicas. In J. C. Torrego & A. Negro (Coords.), Aprendizaje cooperativo en las aulas: Fundamentos y recursos para su implantación (pp. 139-166). Madrid: Alianza Editorial.


This selection of cooperative techniques is organised in four blocks:

Cooperative techniques for dialogue

Cooperative techniques for information processing

Cooperative techniques for joint knowledge construction

Cooperative techniques for problem solving

Cooperative techniques for dialogue

Active Knowledge Sharing. In pairs, students try to answer the initial questions before starting a new topic so that they can share and recall what they already know (Silberman, 1996).

Talking Chips. To encourage dialogue and participation of all students, a small personal item is left in the middle of the table and, as they intervene, it is withdrawn. A new conversation turn cannot start until all students of the team have participated.  Time to reflect on the own and others' contributions should be given (Kagan, 1992).

Three-Step Interview. Mutual interviews between members of a pair. In groups of four, and after introducing the classmate to the others, three of the answers from the interviews are synthesised (Kagan, 1992).

Cooperative techniques for information processing

Think-Pair-Share. During the teacher's explanation, the teacher poses a question and gives time so that students can first answer individually and then discuss about the question with a classmate. At the end, the answers are shared with all students (Lyman, 1992).

Cooperative Note-Taking Pairs. During the teacher's explanation, the teacher gives time so that students share the main ideas of the explanation with a classmate and improve their notes thanks to their classmates' contributions (Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1998).

Scripted Cooperation. In pairs, one student takes the role of synthesiser and the other one becomes the listener. At one point, the teacher stops the explanation. Then, the synthesiser sums up the information and the listener complements it. They will end up creating their own summary of the topic (O’Donnell, 1999).

Cooperative techniques for joint knowledge construction

Teammates Consult. A bunch of activities is handed out to each team. One of the members reads the first activity. They leave the pencils in the middle and discuss how to solve it. Once it is clear, they pick up their pencils again and solve the activity individually. Each time repeats this process until all the tasks are finished (Kagan, 1992).

Numbered Heads Together. Each member of a team is assigned one number from 1 to 4. They solve activities proposed by the teacher and make sure that every member understands and knows how to explain the solution. After that, the teacher says a number and the student with that number assigned has to explain the procedure his/her team followed to find the solution (Kagan, 1992).

Structuring Academic Controversy. Teams of four students. In pairs, students search for information about a topic to argue for a certain position; the other pair of the team does the same for the opposite position. Each pair defends its position. Once this is done, the pairs exchange their positions and choose which of the arguments from the other pair they want to further develop. Finally, a summary of the best arguments for each point of view is done (Johnson & Johnson, 1994).

Cooperative techniques for problem solving

Pair thinking aloud problem solving​. Pairs have several problems with a certain degree of complexity and roles are assigned to students (solvers and listeners). These roles are exchanged after each problem. The solver thinks out loud and speaks while doing the necessary steps to solve the problem. The listener follows the steps, seeks to understand them and suggests solutions if he/she identifies mistakes (Barkley, Cross & Howell, 2005).

Send a problem. Each team receives an envelope with a problem. They solve it, they put the written solution in the envelope, and they pass it to another team. The next team (without looking at the answer) makes its own solution and passes the problem again to another team. When all the teams have already solved the problem, each initial team reviews the answers to 'their problem' and assesses the solution procedures followed by the other teams (Kagan, 1992).

Team-Pair-Solo. Students receive three problems: the first one is solved in teams of four; the second one, in pairs; the third one, individually. Progressive withdrawal of support, similar problems (Cuseo, 2002).



Barkley, E., Cross, P., & Howell, C. (2005). Collaborative learning techniques. New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons. 

Cuseo, J. (2002). Igniting student involvement, peer interaction and teamwork. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press. 

Duran, D., & Monereo, C. (2012). Entramado: Métodos de aprendizaje cooperativo y colaborativo. Barcelona: Horsori. 

Johnson, D., & Johnson, R. (1994). Structuring academic controversy. In S. Sharan (Ed.), Handbook of cooperative learning methods (pp. 51-65). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

Johnson, D., Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (1998). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Kagan, S. (1992). Cooperative learning. San Juan Capistrano, CA: Resources for teachers, Inc.

Lyman, F. (1992). Think-Pair-Share, Thinktrix, Thinklinks, and weird facts: An interactive system for cooperative learning. In N. Davidson & T. Worsham (Eds.), Enhancing thinking through cooperative learning (pp. 169-181). Nova York, NY: Teachers Collage Press.

O’Donnell, A. M. (1999). Structuring dyadic interaction through scripted cooperation. In A. M. O’Donnell & A. King (Eds.), Cognitive perspectives on peer learning (pp. 179-196). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Publishers.

Silberman, M. (1996). The use of pairs in cooperative learning. Cooperative Learning and College Teaching, 7(1), 2-12.

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