5 Elements of Cooperative Learning | Help Your Team Learn Considerably More

Results are very important to companies and team leaders, but how team members interact with each other to achieve results is often a neglected aspect of managing a team.

Cooperative learning is an educational approach that provides a social structure for learning experiences in academia. However, team development in the workplace also relies heavily on the elements of cooperative learning. The approach differs from group work with the intention of “structuring positive interdependence” – participation and accountability.

Cooperative Learning Activities: Three Essential ElementsUnlike individual learning, which can be competitive in nature, participants learn cooperatively in groups working toward a shared goal and capitalizing on one another’s resources and skills. Sounds a lot like working as a team around the office, right? As you know, successful collaboration takes effort.

Cooperative Learning Boosts Collaboration & Team Success

Cooperative learning activities are effective for tackling complex projects and concepts over the course of time and establishes caring, supportive peer relationships. The bonds between team members motivate and strengthen your team’s commitment to the group’s goals while increasing self-esteem and self-worth.

Cooperative learning also encourages team members to keep each other “in the loop” as projects move along. Plus, this approach is relatively easy to implement and is inexpensive

5 elements to successful cooperative learning activities and approaches:

#1 Positive interdependence:

Everyone must fully participate (that means you) and put forth effort within their group. Individual responsibility and accountability must be identified – group members must know exactly what their responsibilities are and that they are accountable.

How? Define roles.

Simple, right? Not so much. It’s very difficult to lose track of individual roles, overlap and strategies for accountability when goals are complex. As a leader, you should work to keep this as clear as possible. Revisit roles and responsibilities throughout the project and make sure you have a reasonable understanding of them. If you don’t, your team probably doesn’t either.

cooperative learning activities: tips for team building roles

#2 Face-to-face promotive interaction:

As a leader, you do not need to do all of the rewarding. Team members actually feel more valuable when their contributions are recognized by others, not just leaders.

How? Position team members to promote each other’s work.

During team meetings, provide time and a format for peers to explain to one another what they are learning and assist one another with understanding and completing tasks.

#3 Individual and group accountability:

Each team member must demonstrate mastery of their subject matter and be held accountable for their learning and work to eliminate “social loafing“.

How? Accountability isn’t about punishment.

Punishment often fails to stop – sometimes even increases – the occurrence of undesired behavior. Strategies for positive interdependence will help boost accountability, but methods like rewarding failure can also lead to significant results.

The #1 reason employees are hesitant to admit mistakes is the fear of reprisal or punishment. However, it is important to know what your challenges are in order to tackle them. Host fun activities like a dinner theater event or team mixer to celebrate successes, especially the small ones.

#4 Social skills:

Effective communication, interpersonal and group skills must be cultivated, identified and encouraged.

How? Develop strategies to boost team skills.

Work to enhance leadership skills, work on building trust and develop communication and conflict-management skills as a group through team building and corporate training programs.

#5 Group processing:

Assess your effectiveness as a group and decide how it can be improved.

How? Learn to make decisions as a team.

team decision making is a cooperative learning activityTeam decision making can be tricky, but it’s key for each team member to feel his or her ownership in the final decision regarding an issue that needs everyone’s support. This approach can also help you make a better decision by reducing bias, which can lead your team astray. The more your team members feel personal ownership of a problem or challenge, the more likely they are to agree with and commit to the decided line of action.

Ross and Smyth (1995) describe successful cooperative learning tasks as intellectually demanding, creative, open-ended, and involve higher order thinking tasks. These team building programs incorporate the power of play and provide a powerful context for cooperative learning approaches:

Chain Reaction position teams to find the perfect balance between uniqueness, functionality, and attention to detail.

Through Make A Movie, your teams will work in small groups to create the next Hollywood blockbuster.

Charitable team building programs like the Do Good Bus and Cooking for a Cause set your team up to work together towards a very noble goal.

chain reaction challenge - corporate team building and cooperative learning

Participants involved in active learning (doing a real job, a simulation, a training game, etc.) retain 90% of the information. Through cooperative learning activities the expert’s or instructor’s role changes from giving information to facilitating learning. Everyone – including the facilitator – succeeds when the group succeeds.

How many cooperative learning activities can you identify around your workplace? Are they successful? What would you do differently?

Samantha McDuffee

Team Contributor


Sign up for tips on crafting the perfect team.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



around the world podcast logo

Get ideas, inspiration and best practices from across the globe.

apple podcast logo spotify podcast logo

Be a Guest Blogger

Do you have any useful tips, tricks, guides, or valuable insights about company culture?

Learn more  

Sign up for tips on crafting the perfect team.

Less drama? Greater productivity and job satisfaction? Yes, you really can make an impact, and TeamBonding is here to help. Subscribe to our blog for useful tips, tricks and insights.

More great content based on your likes.

TeamBonding’s Guide to the Five Stages of Team Development

Developing strong and cohesive teams is essential for every business or organization, but team development doesn’t happen overnight. There are numerous stages of team development that can ultimately lead to a synergistic team, which carries with it many benefits. 

Read More  

Why Team Building Doesn’t Work

As a leader in your organization, you’re likely always looking for innovative ways to strengthen employee relationships. Creating a strong workplace culture that encourages teamwork is essential for increasing productivity and improving employee engagement. However, your workforce might not always see eye to eye with leadership when it comes to team building. Some employees may feel it’s nothing more than a chore while others might think that team building will not solve the underlying issues that are affecting workplace relationships. It may lead them to really question “does team building work”?

Read More  

6 DIY Team Building Activities That Work

It’s easy… right? You just need to find the right people with the right skills, put them in a room together, and you have a well-oiled team. They’re smart, and they know their stuff: they’ll figure out how to get the work done…except it doesn’t always work out that way. We provide a foundation for team building that lasts beyond your TeamBonding event; however, you’ll have the most success after your event by incorporating team bonding activities into your company culture throughout the year. And if the budget is tight, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. Here are 6 DIY team building activities guaranteed to help your team build those lasting connections!

Read More  

5 Ideas for Motivational Team Building Activities for Employees in 2024

For decades now, there has been an acute issue plaguing HR workers and managers around motivational team building activities for employees. An unmotivated employee or team can lead to decreased productivity and morale, higher turnover, and a lack of cohesion throughout the organization. There are many theories on how to best motivate employees. Some think that monetary incentives are the only way to truly motivate employees, while others believe motivation can be found through a better work culture or by cultivating motivational activities for employees. Before we can truly understand how to motivate work teams and employees and our favorite motivational activities for employees, we must first understand the different types of workplace motivators.

Read More  

Questions? Need a quote?

Complete this form to get started or call 877-472-2725.

Loading Icon

Create Your Free Account

Get exclusive access to new programs from the TeamBonding Lab, save your favorite ideas, and track your upcoming events.
Already have an account? Login

Please wait...


Don't yet have an account?
Create a Free Account

Forgot Your Password? Password Reset