Research - Cooperative Learning

The key features of Cooperative Learning enhance the classroom environment for ELLs. (Cochran, 1989; Johnson & Johnson, 1999)

  • Heterogeneous grouping (ELLs and dominant English speakers together)
  • Positive interdependence (accountable for learning as a group)
  • Face-to-face interaction (helping and encouraging each other)
  • Interpersonal and group skills (making decisions, communicating, conflict resolution.)
  • Group reflection (what went well and how to improve).

Cooperative Learning fosters language acquisition in ways that whole class instruction cannot.

  • Language acquisition occurs as a result of interaction with others (Lightbown & Spada, 1999)
  • Small groups create more opportunities to interact in the target language (Zehler, 1994).
  • Interdependent roles require students to speak purposefully (Alanis, 2004).
  • Group members must use language appropriately to comprehend each other (Englander, 2002; Calderon, 2001).
  • Small groups allow for repetition of key vocabulary, real world language usage, and includes opportunities for feedback and correction (Kagan, 1995).
  • Cooperative Learning involves all students in collaborative dialogue which connects talking with thinking, doing reading, and writing (Wells, 1989).
  • Organizing students in heterogeneous cooperative learning groups at least once a week has a significant effect on learning (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).

Heterogeneous small group learning reduces student anxiety for ELLs.

  • Small groups are supportive and interdependent creating a safe environment for ELLs (Hill and Flynn, 2006).
  • Low-ability students perform worse when grouped in homogeneous ability groups (Kulik & Kulik, 1991, 1997; Lou et al, 1996).

Reflection and feedback time during cooperative learning is an opportunity to address issues of status which arise in group settings and to highlight the contributions of each member of the learning community.

  • Complex Instruction is a system of cooperative grouping and instruction in which teachers elevate the status of low achieving students, highlight the multiple abilities required for a task and emphasize the variety of real world skills students are developing through classroom activities (Cohen & Lotan, 1997).

Cooperative learning provides additional wait time necessary for ELL students to respond to academic activities.

  • Waiting longer for an answer conveys the message that the teacher believes the student can answer the question (Slavin, 2006).
  • ELLs may need more wait time because they need extra time to translate the question into Spanish, think of an answer, and then translate the answer back into English (Lacina and Newman 2005).