First of all, let me just start by defining one often-overlooked point regarding Cooperative Learning:
- Group Work = pushing a few kids together and assigning a task to be completed together, assuming that kids already know how to work together.
- Cooperative Learning = teaching students to perform specific functions/roles within a carefully-selected assemblage of students whose collective mission is to complete an instructional activity, learning important social skills at the same time.
There is very little research that supports the validity of using “group work” (as defined above) in a classroom. Mountains of research supports cooperative learning. You’ll find much of it – along with ideas for implementing true cooperative learning in your daily activities – in this excellent post by Larry Ferlazzo: The Best Sites for Cooperative Learning Ideas.