How To Use Cooperative Grouping In Science

ALI Staff | Published  July 21, 2023

Working together to accomplish shared goals — Isn’t this what any group project in school is all about?

Well, yes and no, since sometimes the working together part gets a little unbalanced.

Other times, goals are misinterpreted, and students end up disagreeing on what the outcome should be.

For these reasons, it’s best to go into the idea of group work with a clear understanding of just what kind of groups you want to have.

This is where cooperative learning groups can come in handy.


Students working together on class activity


benefits of cooperative grouping

Cooperative learning is a great strategy that allows students to learn how to navigate working with others while learning the class material.

This type of learning happens through cooperative grouping. Being in a cooperative learning group can be a fun and interesting way for students to engage with science. 

Some key benefits of using cooperative grouping in the classroom include:

  • Stronger retention of subject matter
  • Improved critical-thinking skills
  • Development of time management skills
  • Heightened interest in the subject matter and in coming to class
  • An appreciation for teamwork and the collaborative environment

This type of group strategy opens students up to learning science and building essential skills.


Creating cooperative learning groups in Science

Introducing cooperative group activities into your classroom creates an environment that is ideal for building soft skills that can translate into success throughout a student’s life.

They can learn how to speak up, communicate, and collaborate. They’ll learn how to address conflict and, at the same time, understand how not to be the driving force that causes it.

This development occurs only when the activities have structure, complete with clear objectives and easy-to-understand goals.

The suitable materials and tools should also be readily available.

To create an effective cooperative learning group, it’s important to:

  • Provide a clear objective and set tasks
  • Establish individual and group accountability
  • Promote interaction through the framework of the activity itself
  • Give students the ability to practice and develop interpersonal skills
  • Factor in time for reflection on what’s working and what isn’t

Cooperative grouping can also be more effective if activities lean into student interests or allow them to use past experiences to help shape their participation.

Incorporating science-in-the-real-world scenarios into cooperative group activities can increase engagement and help students identify with the problem or activity they are working through.


Tips for creating groups

One of the great things about cooperative group activities is that there are no rules related to time-on-task. You can set up an activity that takes just a few minutes, solidifying objectives you’ve just covered.

You can also create something more involved, like having groups draw their own city and show where there are different types of energy. This type of elaborate project is also great because it enables students to use their creativity as well.

You also can control many of the moving parts of the group work for better outcomes.

You can ensure the criteria for success to go beyond just the science and define the behaviors you expect to see during group work. You can even assign roles for group members to encourage full participation. 

A few ideas for roles include:

  • Leader - the person who keeps an eye on the objectives and keeps students on task
  • Recorder - the notetaker
  • Encourager - the person who keeps discussion going and provides positive feedback
  • Checker - the person who checks the work once it’s ready
  • Presenter - the person who shares with the rest of the class


How to build a cooperative group activity

Strong cooperative group activities typically have a few standard criteria, regardless of discipline. They’re better if there’s more than one answer or more than one way to solve the problem the activity presents. This way, discussion can occur.

Cooperative grouping can be particularly beneficial for learning science because many science-in-the-real-world examples can allow for creative thinking with more than one answer. For instance, an activity about climate change can have students thinking about many different ways to help alleviate the issue. 

Cooperative activities should also have opportunities for each member of the group to shine, whether that’s in the number of roles available or the structure of the activity itself. Everyone needs a chance to participate.

It’s also a good idea to factor in how you’ll monitor the groups during the activity. You’ll want to ensure students are getting the work done and doing so in a way that has everyone playing an active part.

When it comes to science-specific activities, focus on open-ended problem-solving so students can generate ideas together and compare different approaches to solving a problem while working with each other. Someone in the group may see a new perspective they hadn't considered before, while someone unclear about the concept may finally catch on.

Although this may have groups discussing science more than doing it, they’re still learning and engaging with the right subject matter. All you have to do is ask the right question and then set the parameters for how the group gets to their communal answer.

For activities like this, you may also want to bring in science occurring in the real world, so students aren’t being asked to memorize facts but to think about how science impacts a specific part of life. Allow the groups to discuss and reach a consensus that they’ll then present.


What cooperative Grouping can do for students

Cooperative learning doesn’t have to take up a large amount of class time to have a profound effect on students. It could just be something you do for five minutes every class period. You’ll still see results, and many students who may not have loved science in the past might develop more of a liking for the subject. This is because cooperative grouping helps up one’s comfort level with the subject.

Work like this also allows students to learn from each other, which can sometimes be quite powerful. They learn that looking to their peers for help can have a positive impact; they don’t always have to wait for their teacher to come over and check their work.

Cooperative learning also empowers students. By turning over a project’s objectives to the students directly, they’re suddenly responsible for resolving conflict within the group and assessing problem-solving techniques. They learn to talk it out with each other rather than argue or come to you as the tiebreaker. Cooperative grouping can help them deepen their understanding of science and learn valuable skills they can carry with them forever.


Make that group work meaningful

With the proper planning and structure, you can turn group work into something cooperative, benefiting students in ways that go beyond concept comprehension. You can make projects more engaging, bring in science, and ensure that students develop skills that will benefit them for years to come. It’s a great way to vary class time and make a positive impact.


Which STEM subjects are of interest to you?

Ensuring your privacy is our priority. By submitting this form, you confirm that you are over the age of 18 and agree to abide by our terms and conditions and privacy policy. Accelerate Learning uses your information to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You can opt-out at any time.