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An Informal Approach To Cooperative Learning Groups

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.66.1 - 1.66.4



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Paper Authors

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Bruce R. Dewey

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David Whitman

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Sally Steadman

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3253


Sally Steadman, Bruce R. Dewey, David L. Whitman University of Wyoming

Abstract In order to enhance student learning, engineering faculty have utilized formal cooperative learning strategies, which are especially applicable to problem courses, in their classrooms. This requires an extensive knowledge of the five essential components of cooperative learning: positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face promotive interaction, appropriate use of collaborative skills, and group processing. Another option for engineering educators is to informally introduce these cooperative learning techniques in a less structured way. One such example is the implementation of cooperative study groups at the University of Wyoming. The specific techniques utilized and the associated results that have led to improved student academic success are presented in this paper.

Introduction Formal cooperative learning (CL) strategies have been incorporated by engineering faculty members with noted successes.1,2 Felder reports that students have greater intrinsic motivation to learn and achieve and express deeper understanding of course material, they achieve higher grades and greater persistence to graduation, they develop better teamwork and leadership skills, and they enjoy higher self esteem. The methods employed by these educators generally follow a formal, structured approach, involving five essential components: positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face promotive interaction, appropriate use of collaborative skills, and group processing.3,4

In a formal approach, students are organized into groups of generally 3 to 4 students for a semester (or a portion of the semester). The instructor ensures homogeneity of the groups, that is each group has a range of abilities, ethnicity, and gender, and structures positive interdependence and individual accountability by assigning roles and carefully monitoring group functioning. The instructor intercedes to develop teamwork skills and to evaluate learning. He/she also assists with group processing for continuous improvement in the CL experience.

Adapting the elements of cooperative learning to the classroom environment may seem daunting to the typical engineering educator. However, an informal approach that does not necessarily incorporate all five of the elements of CL to the level found in activities led by CL experts will still improve student learning. Students benefit from enhanced learning and from increased teamwork skills.

Cooperative learning strategies can be informally introduced in the classroom by asking students to turn to their neighbor and recall the main points from the previous lecture, to do the next step in a problem solution,

1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings

Dewey, B. R., & Whitman, D., & Steadman, S. (1996, June), An Informal Approach To Cooperative Learning Groups Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6108

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