Laura McNeill

Primary Teacher

St. Timothy's Primary

  • Cooperative Learning

What Happens When We Explicitly Set Social Learning Intentions in a Classroom?


Curriculum for Excellence strives to provide children with the knowledge, skills and attributes required to progress towards positive outcomes in life. Individuals should be equipped at an early age with the necessary skills to thrive in modern society. As well as intellectual skills, social skills hold essential value, providing young people with the ability to communicate and interact effectively, adopt new opportunities readily and demonstrate resilience towards the challenges of life and work in the 21st century (Scottish Government, 2009).

In a classroom context, well-established social skills facilitate effective cooperative learning, which, within Scottish education and beyond, is considered to be a highly successful pedagogical approach for raising improving pupil engagement and interaction (McAlister, 2009). Cooperative learning is a pivotal aspect of Curriculum for Excellence; therefore, it is important that appropriate social skills are fostered through learning and teaching approaches in classrooms if children are to meet the four capacities of the curriculum (successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens). Well-developed social skills can also aid problem-solving and children’s construction of new understandings in a variety of contexts (Mercer, Wegerif, & Dawes, 1999; Webb & Mastergeorge, 2003). Furthermore, children with well-established social skills are more likely to become critical thinkers due to their sharing of learning processes (Totten, Sills, Digby, & Russ, 1991). Critical thinking is a fundamental skill to possess in order to overcome the social, scientific and practical problems that life introduces (Shakirova, 2007). According to Curriculum for Excellence, progression of social skills should be embedded across all curricular areas and learning contexts, including interdisciplinary learning.


To investigate the impact that a social learning intention has on pupils’ ability to display pre-determined social skills during lessons, including:

  • Good listening
  • Making valuable verbal contributions
  • Kindness
Download Practitioner Enquiry