Skills Needed for Cooperative Learning

  • Forming skills: The basic skills needed for a functioning, cooperative learning group (taking turns, using quiet voices, etc.)
  • Functioning skills: The skills needed to manage the group’s activities to complete a task and to maintain effective working relationships among members
  • Formulating skills: The skills needed to understand the material being studied at a deeper level, to stimulate the use of higher quality reasoning strategies, and to maximize mastery and retention
  • Fermenting skills: The skills needed to rethink the material being studied, manage cognitive conflict, search for more information, and communicate the rationale behind one's conclusion (Johnson, Johnson and Holubec, 1998)
    Forming skills help organize the group and establish minimum norms for appropriate behaviors. The most important rules of this category are noise monitor, participation monitor, voice monitor, and turn-taking monitor. The noise monitor ensures that classmates move into cooperative learning groups quietly. The task of ensuring that group members stay in the group and participate in the group’s work falls to the participation monitor. The voice monitor is needed to remind group members to use quiet voices. The turn-taking monitor ensures that each student has a part in the group effort and assignment.
    Functioning skills help the group manage their efforts and maintain working relationships. To accomplish this goal, students need to share ideas and opinions; ask for facts and reasoning that will ease their interaction and thus their understanding of each other’s work; give direction to the group work to help the group move ahead (“We are supposed to…” or “Why don’t we try this in the time we have left?”); encourage everyone to participate (“Michelle, what is your opinion about this?”); ask for help or clarification (“I don’t think I understand. Can you explain again what you mean?”); express support and acceptance, offer to explain and clarify (“Would you like me to explain this again?”); paraphrase (“So you are saying that…”); energize the group (“Come on, let’s get things moving!”); and describe feelings. 

    Formulating skills maximize students’ learning. They stimulate the use of higher reasoning strategies and enhance mastery and retention. Some of these skills are summarizing out loud from memory; seeking accuracy by correcting a member’s summary (“I am not sure this is correct.. We should check…”); seeking elaboration by relating the material being learned to earlier learned material and to previous knowledge (“How does this relate to…”); helping the group remember (“We should use colors for this table…”); checking for understanding by demanding verbalization, and asking the others to plan out loud (“Here is how I would teach this material…”). 

    Fermenting skills are those close number necessary for becoming involved in academic controversies such as: criticizing ideas without criticizing people (“I respect you, but in this case I don't agree with your approach.”); differentiating between ideas and reasoning of group members (“How we differ in regard to our information and conclusions?”); integrating ideas into single positions (“Would this conclusion summarize everyone’s ideas?”); asking for justification (“Can you explain your answer?”); extending answers (“I have something else I know about this and I want to share with you…”); probing by asking in-depth questions (“Would it work in a different situations?”); generating further answers (“Can we consider another possibility?”); and testing reality by checking the group's work.



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