Chap 2. The Teacher's Role

Make Preinstructional Decisions

The teacher needs to specify objectives, both academic and social skills.Group size is another decision the teacher must make.  Factors to consider are time limits, students’ experience in working in groups, students’ age, and the availability of the appropriate materials available (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec 1998).

Assigning students to groups: The teacher can assign students to groups using a random or stratified random procedure to make groups heterogeneous. When students select their own groups, they usually form homogeneous groups.

Woolfolk (2001) notes that the size of the cooperative group depends on the learning goals. If the purpose is for the group members to review, rehearse information, or practice, 4 to 5 or 6 students is about the right size. But if the goal is to encourage each student to participate in discussions, problem solving, or computer learning, then groups of 2 to 4 members work best. Also, in setting up cooperative groups, it often makes sense to balance the number of boys and girls.” (Woolfolk 2001, p.343).

When assigning group roles, the teacher needs to be sure each group includes students that possess four types of skills: forming skills, functioning skills, formulating skills, and fermenting skills.       

The student with forming skills will be the one to monitor turn-taking in the group.  The roles for the group member with functioning skills group member will be to record the discussion, encourage all to participate, clarify/paraphrase the group discussion, and work to seek a group consensus. Formulating skills require a student to generate discussion  and to summarize the group’s work. Finally, the student with the fermenting role works to ask for justification of the group’s outcome and also helps to give a rationale for the group’s activities  (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998).  

Arrange the Room: The room arrangement is very important for lesson development. Teachers can use different strategies to define the workspace boundaries in a classroom. For instance a teacher could define boundaries by:

  • Using labels and signs that designate areas

  • Using colors to attract visual attention and define group and individual spaces.

  • Taping lines on the floor to define the different work areas.

  • Using mobiles and forms, such as arrows

  • Using lighting

  • Moving furniture

  • Displaying group work (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec 1998).

Planning the instructional materials: The teacher also decides how materials need to be arranged and distributed among group members to maximize their participation and achievement.  The teacher creates material interdependence by giving each group only one copy of the materials; information interdependence by arranging materials like a jigsaw puzzle so that each student has part of the materials needed to complete the assignment; and interdependence from outside enemies by structuring materials into an intergroup competition and having groups compete to see who has learned the most (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec 1998).


           Johnson, D., Johnson, R.& Holubec, E. (1998).Cooperation in the classroom. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


           Woolfolk, A. (2001). Educational psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.