Are there disadvantages of cooperative learning?
Are you struggling with cooperative learning in your classroom? Sometimes cooperative learning activities aren’t for everyone. When strategies, roles, and groups get in the way cooperative learning can be a big fail. Check out the disadvantages of cooperative learning and how they are far outweighed by what you get out of it!
Disadvantages of Cooperative Learning
Students Must Depend on One Another
By definition cooperative learning is cooperative. Students must collaborate with one another in order to be successful and work towards their common goal. This means they must also depend upon one another to make things happen.
This can be really difficult for students who are more independent and would rather do the work themselves. The way cooperative learning strategies are set up the positive interdependence is built right in. Each student is given a role and must stay in their lane in order to be successful as a group.
To achieve success, model the process for each strategy early and often. If you see students struggling to stay in their role and depend on their teammates take a step back and model the strategy again. These processes don’t come easy to all students, but successful implementation is worth the effort to get them right.
Hogs and Logs
While students must depend on one another within a cooperative group it is easy for some to “hog” all the work with others sit around like “logs.”
As above, taking the time to model each role within a cooperative learning strategy and practice it will correct this diversion. When students understand they must complete their task in order for the group to be successful peer pressure to perform for the group self-corrects.
A gentle reminder to stay in their role can go a long way for “hogs” as a reminder to do their part will take care of “logs.”
A LOT of Talking
A major disadvantage of cooperative learning is the talking. Oh so much talking. If you, as a teacher, need a
quiet classroom then cooperative learning strategies are not for you.
Cooperative learning involves talking, which is really one of the best things about it in my book. Students love to talk to one another, so why not harness this desire to talk for good?
Encouraging students to talk within their roles while keeping the conversation academic can be challenging, but cooperative learning strategies have built-in accountability to the group to make it happen.
Side conversations can happen easily, but this is where you, as the teacher, come in. Since you are already circulating the room to assist and guide students you can be sure all of the conversations are on topic too.
Difficult to Grade
One of the disadvantages of cooperative learning I hear over and over again is where you get grades from. Simple answer, you don’t.
Cooperative learning should be used for varied practice throughout your academic day, much less so for assessment. This way you are not taking grades on what your students are doing collaboratively, instead of their knowledge at the end of it. It is perfectly appropriate to give a short assessment on the topic after cooperative learning practice.
For example, take the cooperative learning strategy of jigsaw. Students will work together to study and teach the class about a topic. All students are responsible for teaching their own content chunk, but they are also responsible for learning the information presented by their classmates. They can demonstrate this knowledge on a short quiz given over all the information. This is where you would get your grade.
While there are several disadvantages of cooperative learning, I personally believe there are far more advantages. For more information on cooperative learning check out this post!
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