Reflective Article #5

The Group Learning Space

Group learning encourages learning as an active process where knowledge is constructed through interpersonal experiences (Slavin, 2010; O’Donnell et al., 2016). Collaborative and cooperative learning are group-learning approaches which prompt students to achieve more and think critically (Killen, 2014).

Collaborative learning involves students working IN a group towards a common goal, constructing deeper knowledge in the process (i.e. group posters), whereas cooperative learning involves students working AS a group to enhance their own and each others’ learning (i.e. jigsaw groups) (Davidson & Major, 2014).

iStockPhoto. (2021). Teamwork makes the dream work illustration

Cooperative learning:

  • Scaffolded
  • Underpinned by positive interdependence
  • Students assigned specific roles by teacher
  • Students accountable for their individual achievement (Primary Professional Development Service, n.d)
  • Group success dependent on how each member applies themselves (Johnson, et al., 2014)
  • Better performance by each student produces greater results by the whole group (Brame & Biel, 2015). 

Royal Society of Chemistry. (2008). Working together as part of a group

Collaborative learning:

  • Teacher-instruction is limited granting students autonomy
  • Students free to decide how to collectively achieve tasks
  • Successful collaboration leads to higher-order thinking, improved self-efficacy and increased achievement (Concept to Classroom, 2004).

However, group learning is challenging when classroom dynamics are not carefully planned. For example, learning spaces may be too small and students with dominant personalities may lead whilst others become complacent or reluctant to participate.

So, classrooms must be modified to facilitate active participation, such as arranging furniture for groups to work in their own space with limited distractions (Williams, 2015; Rands & Gansemer-Topf, 2017). 

Open-learning classrooms are an example of how this is facilitated through flexibility in space and seating, granting students ownership over how they collaborate (Victorian School Building Authority, 2021). I was fortunate in recent professional experience to teach in an open-learning space which successfully enhanced my implementation of group work as students had ample space to meaningfully collaborate with their peers.  

Overall, student achievement is excelled and supportive CoP’s are established through group learning but, to be successful, as educators we must consider the group allocations we make and how well our learning space supports collaboration (Johnson et al., 1994). 

For an overview of the benefits and challenges of group learning, click here.

Click here to explore ten helpful cooperative learning activities for the classroom.



Brame, C.J. & Biel, R. (2015). Setting up and facilitating group work: Using cooperative learning groups effectively. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.

Concept to Classroom. (2004). Cooperative and Collaborative Learning.

Davidson, N., & Major, C. H. (2014). Boundary crossings: Cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and problem-based learning. Journal on excellence in college teaching, 25.

iStockPhoto. (2021). Teamwork makes the dream work illustration (image).

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T. & Holubec, E. J. (1994). Cooperative learning in the classroom. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Killen, R. (2016). Effective teaching strategies : lessons from research and practice (Seventh edition.). Cengage Learning Australia. 

O’Donnell, A. M., Dobozy, E., Bartlett, B., Nagel, M. C., Spooner-Lane, R., Youssef-Shalala, A., Reeve, J., & Smith, J. K. (2016). Educational psychology (second Australian edition). John Wiley & Sons. 

Primary Professional Development Service. (n.d.). Promoting group work, collaborative and cooperative learning in the primary school. [Ebook]. Retrieved 22 August 2022, from  

Rands, M. L., & Gansemer-Topf, A. (2017). “The room itself is active”: How classroom design impacts student engagement. Journal of Learning Spaces, 6(1): 26-33.

Royal Society of Chemistry. (2008). Working together as part of a group (image).

Slavin, R. (2010). Co-operative learning: what makes group-work work? (pp. 161 – 178). In The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Publishing.

Victorian School Building Authority. (2021). Flexible learning classrooms.

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