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Chapter 20 – Small groups in the collaborative classroom

Chapter Summary

Cooperative learning helps those who struggle and need more support, but only if the whole group or class understands that we all have different skills and resources to use for mutual benefit. Cooperative learning underpins all that occurs in the classroom and is based on the idea that cooperative skills have to be made explicit, learnt and practised and that positive feedback is necessary. 

Small-group work takes time to establish, and there are different kinds of groups. Sometimes children will work with those at the same level of achievement and at other times random groups should be selected so that children with different strengths learn to work together and develop leadership skills. 

It is important to establish rules and ensure that activities are part of the lesson routine. Teachers must expect each group to work well.

Study Questions

Main ideas

What are the main differences between collaborative and competitive learning?
What are the main cooperative skills?
What is the purpose of a Y chart?

Application to a developmental stage

Is learning to cooperate a skill just for older children? Why or why not?

Diverse learners

How can children with different abilities be included safely in a group?


How could you use the list of cooperative skills to assess children’s collaboration in group work?

Teaching plans

Explore the teaching activities. Which activities could you use in the courses you are studying?