Jennifer Donaldson

Primary Teacher

Woodlands Primary

  • Cooperative Learning

What happens when individual roles are introduced within a group?


Cooperative Learning is one of the key outcomes of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence; with the aim of helping learners develop skills, knowledge and understanding in more depth (The Scottish Government, 2004). When students work in small groups to uncover the answers themselves, they go through a learning process that results in an enriched understanding of the material and a higher retention rate. (Stanford University, 1999). In accordance with this knowledge, teachers strive to facilitate – rather than dominate – the learning process, through cooperative learning activities. However, students do not innately know how to function as an effective group member; this is a skill that can be both taught and learned. (Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 2006). Without this knowledge, students may encounter feelings of frustration and upset when asked to complete group work activities (Jackson, 2015). Wiliam and Leahy (2012) state that cooperative learning in the classroom works when you have two things:

  1. Group goals; in which students are working as a group rather than just working in a group.
  2. Individual accountability; in which every student is individually accountable as well as collectively accountable.

Wiliam and Leahy state that when these two conditions are met, the speed of student learning is approximately doubled and, in addition, students experience a higher level of achievement and greater sustained engagement. He advocates the use of group roles in order to achieve these conditions.


The aims of the following enquiry were to investigate whether the implementation of group roles influences:

  • Group productivity during cooperative learning tasks.
  • Group harmony during cooperative learning tasks.
  • Pupils’ enjoyment of group tasks.
Download Practitioner Enquiry