Three Evidence-Based Approaches for Small Group Work

Cooperative learning entails students dents working together on the same task (Cohen, 1994.) One example of this approach is “Think-Pair-Share (Barkley et al,
2014).” The teacher assigns a question, students think for a minute independently, form a pair to discuss their answers, and share their answers with a larger group. This approach allows all students to achieve similar outcomes by considering the same question and performing the same tasks –thinking, pairing, and sharing.

Collaborative learning fosters an environment where students generate knowledge together, such as writing a collaborative paper (Barkley et al, 2014) and creating a product greater than what a student would create individually. Students most often divide the work according to their interests and skills. The goal is not for “the same learning” but for “meaningful learning” to occur.

Reciprocal peer teaching is when one student teaches others who then reciprocate in kind. Leaning toward cooperative learning is the jigsaw; base groups study together to become experts (Barkley et al, 2014). The base groups split, new groups are formed with a member of each base group serving as an expert in an area. Leaning toward collaborative learning is microteaching where individual students take turns teaching the entire class (Major et al, 2015).

Adapted from Claire Howell Major, a professor of higher education at the University of Alabama.