Cooperative Learning

Ever wondered if and how cooperative learning can influence an employee’s behavior in a corporate environment?

This guide gives you a clear understanding of cooperative learning and how the elements of this educational approach heavily contribute to team development in the workplace.

Most successful employees and entrepreneurs can work cooperatively with others. It does not matter the kind of work you do; whether you are a factory worker, doctor, news reporter, etc., you have to work with others to succeed.


What is cooperative learning?

Cooperative learning is a strategy used within groups of learners and aims to improve their learning experience and understanding of a learning subject.

This type of learning strategy uses small group tasks and activities as a learning experience. Each member is responsible for learning new information and skills, and at the same time, assisting teammates in learning.

Types of cooperative learning

Cooperation among coworkers in an organization will rarely occur naturally. It is up to employers to make an effort by taking steps that bring employees together.

Cooperative learning is divided into three types, with a different implementation of each.

1. Formal cooperative learning

It involves the assignment of tasks and projects to a team by an employer. The team members have a clear structure of what is to be done and stay together until the project is complete. It can range from a few hours to several weeks.

2. Informal cooperative learning

This type of learning involves quickly forming teams for short periods to complete a small task at hand. They require no prior planning and have very little structure. They can help bring closure to a day’s work or a small project.

3. Group-based learning

It is the most common type of cooperative learning implemented in organizations. It involves long-term groups that can last up to a year or more with members giving each other support, encouragement, and assistance.

Some good examples are the different departments in an organization, each with a group of people expected to make productive progress. It also works in long-term organizational projects.

Purpose of cooperative learning

The more employees continue to work cooperatively, the more their corporate environment becomes productively beneficial. The following are some of the primary purposes of implementing cooperative learning culture in an organization:

  • Development and acquisition of necessary life skills
  • Sharing of information
  • Building a team that cooperates
  • Increases tolerance and acceptance of diversity
  • Improving output by employees

Benefits of cooperative learning

Cooperative learning has a massive positive impact on employees and their working environment. It enhances productivity and improves employee knowledge.

Below are the benefits of cooperative learning:

1. Gaining leadership and decision-making skills

For a team to succeed, the individuals in that group need to show some leadership abilities.

In every organization, several tasks need someone to be in charge to run smoothly. Some of them are:

  • Delegating and organizing work
  • Ensuring the company’s set targets are met
  • Supporting team members

Some people may turn out to be natural leaders but are not inclined to lead. The employer can assign leadership roles to different members of the group.

In a corporate setting, there are many decisions to be made among team members. A decision-making process should involve every member airing out their opinion on the matter, but the final say lies with the leader.

2. Acquiring conflict management skills

Conflict management focuses on positive results while minimizing negative ones. This process, by which disputes are solved, can impact an organization positively when done correctly.

There are five conflict management styles that can be applied in every specific situation.

How members of a team handle conflicts remain embedded in their minds. They can implement any of the above styles in another similar situation in the future.

3. Increases employee work engagement

Employees become more satisfied as they continue to get the opportunity to learn new skills. They will become eager to continue learning and growing.

A growth in productive engagement is evident in work hence an increase in efficiency and output.

4. Enhancing communication skills

Members in a cooperative learning group need to learn how to speak productively with one another. Ethical commitment and communication keep the members on track and enhances efficient teamwork.

5. Personal responsibility

Cooperative learning increases individual responsibility in employees. They know that they have a specific task they should perform for the entire team to succeed.

They also gain accountability as they are aware of a backlash from team members if they fail to play their part.

6. Gaining confidence

Some employees find it more comfortable to speak up in small groups. They can express their ideas and ask questions, which enables them to gain confidence. This confidence improves from addressing a few people to a large crowd.

7. Positive attitude towards colleagues

In every organization, there are those few employees that grow a dislike towards each other with or without reason. Cooperative learning creates a more positive attitude towards workmates as they continue working together within a group.

5 key elements of cooperative learning

Five fundamental elements distinguish cooperative learning from other forms of group learning.

When all these elements are present in a learning situation, the result is a cooperative learning group.

1. Positive interdependence

A group achieves this element when all members of a team understand that they sink or swim together. There are various ways in which you can achieve positive interdependence:

  • Division of labor
  • Sharing materials
  • Allocating leadership roles

You should also ensure that each member’s part determines the performance of the entire team. The contribution of a member not only benefits the individual but also all the members of the group.

2. Individual and group accountability

Each team member is accountable for a fair share amount of work towards achieving the group goal.

There is an assessment of every individual performance, and the group receives feedback.

The group also is accountable for achieving the targets set by an organization.

3. Interpersonal and small group skills

In a team working to achieve a specific goal, there are complex but necessary skills all team members need to produce. Some of these are:

  • Decision-making
  • Conflict management
  • Leadership qualities
  • Responsibility
  • Effective communication
  • Trust building

As a team continues to develop these skills, processes between them become smoother and more efficient.

4. Face-to-face interaction

Face to face is an intermediate way of learning.

It reduces the distance or ranks in an organization between team members as they come together to promote one another through support, praise, encouragement, and helping out each other.

It includes oral explanations on how to solve problems and challenges to achieve a common goal.

5. Group processing

Team members should regularly meet and discuss how much progress they are making towards their goal. They should also discuss how to maintain effective working relationships.

There is a need for each member to communicate freely and express concerns as well as compliment achievements.

It also helps members make decisions on issues that need an opinion from a team player.

Cooperative learning strategies

If you are trying to use the same cooperative learning strategies repeatedly with no results, try some of these with clear examples of how you can implement them:

1. Forced debate

This strategy works by having two parties go head-to-head in a debate. During a meeting, an employee can introduce a proposition by writing it on the board or through PowerPoint presentations.

The members form two groups with one opposing and the other one supporting the proposition. The groups are forced to debate by justifying reasons as to why the proposition should be implemented or not.

The employees get to apply critical thinking skills, talking speed, fluency, language, and clarity.

As the saying goes, “a problem solved is a problem halved.” The members are forced to think about the proposition as a group rather than an individual. The proposition can be a current challenge or a new idea.

2. Writearound

This strategy involves groups of 3-5 discussing a topic that each employee has had access to, maybe through watching a video, listening to a speaker during a meeting or reading a memo. This information is made available to every member before going into groups.

All members participate where a paper with the topic written on it goes around to everyone in the group.

Each member gets some time to write a comment before passing on the paper. This process is repeated so that every member gets to read what the other writes. The points indicated by the members are then discussed among the group.

This strategy mainly focuses on topics or issues that can be solved through multiple solutions. It also gives an employer a chance to detect any misunderstandings among employees.

This strategy can be used to bring in new ideas and efficiently solve ongoing challenges in an organization. These include salary, coordination of duties, security issues, etc., and how to make the necessary improvements.

3. Build a cooperative community

An organization should provide many opportunities for employees to teach and learn from. A cooperative community creates an environment that enhances working together to solve problems.

Employees are interested in platforms that see their ideas listened to in open communication.

A cooperative community will have three to five individuals, goals, and flexible rules each member should adhere to.

Some tasks in an organization may require several bright minds to work together to solve complex challenges such as networking, system security, training, etc.

Other tasks may require a combination of manual laborers for quick completion. A cooperative community gets such jobs done in a short time and effectively.

4. Solve problems across teams

Having a cooperative community enables you to bring a few employees together and provide them with a problem to solve.

You can get a few teams and give each a challenge as to what changes are best for an existing project.

Each team comes up with suggestions for the most suitable solutions in maybe a few days or a week. They provide just reasons for their choices and a plan to implement the change.

As the teams present their ideas, the employer critiques the suggestions brought forward and makes both positive or negative comments.

The changes may be updating existing software, developing features for new products, or implementing a new training program.

5. Share concepts between departments

Every department contains a team that works on different tasks that entirely affect the organization.

The departments should each create a presentation for a question and answer session with other departments to solve ongoing challenges.

Moreover, the different departments can also share some of their concepts, ideas, and best practices with other departments so others can adopt different methods that are already working.

This can be anything from software, to ways of working, and collaborations.

It enables employees to understand how the organization works as a whole and a chance to contribute to changes or upgrades they feel necessary.

The IT department may be working on something that interrupts the finance department. Sharing concepts gives the IT team a chance to explain how their activities affect other departments and how long it will take.

It enables the departments to understand each other and work cooperatively despite the challenges.

6. Encourage informal social events

In informal surroundings, team members can get to know each other personally and build relationships. They can form bonds that will carry over to the office and work better as a team.

For examples, colleagues across the same or different departments can come together and attend corporate events, sports activities, company competitions and so on.

During unfortunate times such as Covid-19, such events may be unavailable. Thus, many people have begun to hand out and have coffee breaks over a video call with their colleagues.

Such events will not only create long-lasting friendships in and out of work, but also bring the people that work together towards a company goal even closer.

This will make their time at work significantly more enjoyable.