What Are the Pros & Cons?

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What Will We See in This Lesson?

This lesson is going to focus on the pros & cons of cooperative learning. While we would love to think that everything we do is going to turn out exactly as expected, as an educator, we know that isn't always the case. So in this lesson, we are going to prepare ourselves for what could go wrong in our lessons. Knowing this, we will be able to start to work towards strategies to prevent these issues before they arise.

By the end of this lesson you should be able to list pros and cons of cooperative learning, and begin analyzing them in regards to the cooperative learning strategies we have learned in the previous unit.

Once again, please have the google doc open in a separate window to be prepared to add to it as we go through the lesson.

Link to Google Doc

What Are the Pros & Cons?

To start, please read the following article from Spencer Kagan detailing 17 Pros & Cons of Cooperative Learning. While you are reading this, please starting thinking about the pros & cons in regards what we have already learned. This will allow you to start thinking of ways to overcome the cons. Additionally, think of the items on this list in association with the learning strategies we have learned about.

Kagan- Pros & Cons to Cooperative Learning

As seen in the article, many of the cons associated with cooperative learning come from lack of social skills or lack of knowledge associated with how to learn cooperatively and work with one another. Please take a minute to think about how lack of social skills or knowledge of how to work together cooperatively would affect students when utilizing the cooperative learning strategies we learned about in Unit 2. Please refer to the google doc and fill out your responses.

Let's Talk About the Positives!

To continue our lesson on the pros & cons of cooperative learning, we are going to start with the positives. In this section, we are going to discuss some of the positive aspects of cooperative learning and why they are positive. Think: why it is useful to utilize cooperative learning strategies in your lessons, how it can help your students, and how it can help you.

Some benefits to cooperative learning include:

  • Promotes Critical Thinking- students are being asked to come up with the answers to questions through discussion and collaboration, necessitating them to think deeply about the questions being asked and look at them in a new light.
  • Students are actively involved in their learning- students are the ones being asked to come up with the answers to the questions and they are learning by working with one another. The teacher isn't the only one delivering information to the students; they are learning through working together and investigating around the classroom.
  • Deep learning can occur- learning is occurring at a deeper level because students are actively reflecting on their learning as it is occurring. Since frequently they are being asked to engage others and teach what they learned, the knowledge has to be learned at a deep enough level that they can, in turn, teach it to another group member.
  • Learning communities are developed- students get used to working in pairs or in groups, which helps to develop a sense of unity in the classroom. Learning communities form where students support one another's learning and engage each other in the learning process. Students become aware that they can support and help out their group members, and students begin to feel comfortable working in these groups.
  • Students learn appropriate problem solving techniques- since students are placed in situations where they are responsible for their learning, there may be times where they have to problem solve within their group. Students are taught how to problem solve within their group, and with practice, they are able to see what works and what helps them to have the most success.
  • Students gain from each other's efforts- students begin to realize the benefits of working together and being held accountable. If a group member isn't doing their part, than the whole group suffers. On the opposite end, students who work hard within their group can see the group progress and how much they can learn and grow from their group members.

(List adapted from Teacher to Teacher UK)

While this list only contained a few examples of the positives of cooperative learning, you can refer to the following website which lists other benefits to cooperative learning. While you are looking at this list, think of why these benefits are in fact, beneficial to the student.

Cooperative Learning Benefits

Let's Think About the Potential Bumps

Now that we've talked about the positives and read about some potential bumps in the road, we are going to use this part of the lesson to engage deeper as to what are some potential bumps we might face, and why they may occur. The next lesson in this unit is going to focus more on methods to overcome these bumps that can lead to successful integration of cooperative learning into the classroom.

List adapted from Christine Bartsch (2016) and Instructional Innovation Network (2008).

  • This group does not work well together- if the students in your groups are not working well together, there is a good chance that nothing is getting done. Students may be unfocused and distracted, or arguing over who is going to what parts of the lesson. Students may end up spending so much time arguing- or socializing- that nothing gets done. This could occur if there was a lack of instruction or knowledge about the task, or, if students are new to cooperative learning and don't know how to work together.
  • The work isn't being evenly shared/students are not pulling their weight- students are seeing the work like group work and are expected their group members to pick up the slack and do their part. There is a struggle in regards to who is supposed to do what, and another group member gets frustrated and does the work of the student who is slacking. Or worse- students completely fail to complete the assignment and gain all the knowledge they were supposed to. Again, this could occur because students are unaware of what cooperative learning is and how they should be working together.
  • The classroom is out of control- if students are unaware of what they are supposed to be doing, did not received adequate directions, or were not given an overview of what cooperative learning and how to work together, there is a very good chance that the classroom will get out of control. If students aren't aware of what they are supposed to be doing, there is a good chance the class will get out of control. Students main begin arguing, or just lose focus on the task if there was not proper guidance.
  • I can't cover all the material that I wanted to- teachers may feel like they are missing out on valuable teaching time during cooperative learning. Moving from a traditional, teacher centered classroom can lead to chaos at first, and it might look like students aren't learning everything that the teachers want them to. While it might be true that students aren't learning in the identical path they would be in a traditional setting, that doesn't mean that there isn't learning occurring. This issue could go hand in hand with the class being out of control. If they class looks and sounds like it is out of control, then the students may not be learning everything as the teacher had hoped.
  • I don't have enough time- teachers may feel like they don't have even time to do cooperative learning because in fact, it may take more time to get the same material covered. If teachers are on a deadline, attempts at cooperative learning might become rushed and inadequate, leaving teachers to have to reteach the material. In these instances, teachers truly may feel that there isn't enough time and that cooperative learning is unsuccessful in their classroom with their students

The following article lists student stories who share some accounts of the disadvantages to cooperative learning. Please browse through this article below:

Disadvantages to Cooperative Learning

Before Moving On...

This lesson introduced us to advantages and disadvantages to cooperative learning and reasons why issues might arise during these lessons. Frequently, when a teacher introduces cooperative learning strategies, students are seeing these ideas put in place for the first time. Because of that, there may be a bit of growing pains until you get the class where you want them to be. In lesson 2 of this unit, we are going to learning some methods to overcome the barriers to cooperative learning, as well as see what we can to do avoid them.

Before moving on to lesson 2, please complete the exit ticket below:

Exit Ticket

Return to Unit Homepage or Click to go to Lesson 2: How Can I Avoid & Overcome the Barriers?

Return to Mini course homepage


Bartsch, C. (2016). Three disadvantages of using cooperative learning. Retrieved from: http://oureverydaylife.com/three-disadvantages-using-cooperative-learning-6470.html

Benefits of Using... (2014, November 4). Benefits of cooperative learning. Retrieved from: http://tutorials.istudy.psu.edu/cooperativelearning/cooperativelearning6.html

Instructional Innovation Network. (2008, May 19). Fifteen common mistakes in using cooperative learning- and what to do about them. Retrieved from: http://cpd.suny.edu/files/mistakes.htm

Kagan, S. (1999, Winter). Cooperative learning: Seventeen pros and seventeen cons plus ten tips for success. Retrieved from: http://www.kaganonline.com/free_articles/dr_spencer_kagan/259/Cooperative-Learning-Seventeen-Pros-and-Seventeen-Cons-Plus-Ten-Tips-for-Success

Middlecamp, C. (1997, November 1). Students speak out on cooperative learning. Retrieved from: http://archive.wceruw.org/cl1/cl/story/middlecc/TSCMD.htm

Teacher to Teacher. (2016). Benefits of kagan cooperative learning. Retrieved from: http://www.t2tuk.co.uk/StudentTeacher2.aspx