Middle school students' perceptions of cooperative learning

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Luanna Meyer


Cooperative learning, Middle school students

Subject Categories



This qualitative study examined middle school students' perceptions of, and experiences with, cooperative learning in the classroom. The research was conducted in two schools: one suburban and one urban. Two teachers were identified by university and district personnel as delivering quality cooperative learning. Both teachers had training in cooperative learning and had implemented cooperative learning within their classrooms for at least three years.

Data were gathered during the second half of the school year. Participant observation, in-depth student and teacher interviews, classroom observations of structured cooperative learning activities, and transcriptions of group members, involvement during cooperative learning activities served as data sources.

Twenty-seven high, middle and low achieving students were interviewed for this study. Students' semester grades served as a basis to determine achievement levels. Students participated in cooperative learning activities as part of their regular classroom instruction.

The findings of this study suggest that cooperative learning instructional methods created opportunities that encouraged interactive learning among group members. This interactive teaching and learning process was beneficial to student content understanding, interpersonal skill development, self-reliance and self-esteem. Students benefited from peer explanation, a shared vocabulary, and giving and receiving specific and relevant information to enhance content understanding.

This study also found several negative, unintended consequences of cooperative learning. These difficulties were related to the role of the classroom teacher, students, behavior and roles within cooperative group work, level of content understanding, teacher imposed time limits, and cooperative group grades.

Implications for practice suggest the importance of the classroom teacher's role in modeling and implementing effective cooperative learning principles. Conflict resolution skills development is critical for all students in order to engage in more beneficial cooperative learning experiences.


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