Collaborative, Co-operative or Group?


What constitutes collaborative, cooperative or group work? My understanding of the three spaces began with two readings (Slavin, 2010) (tvoparents, 2010), but finally “clicked” (*aha) when I checked with a dictionary.

New Oxford American Dictionary Definitions:

Group: a number of people or things that are located close together

Collaborative: produced or conducted by two or more parties working together

Cooperative: involving mutual assistance in working toward a common goal: every member has clearly defined tasks in a cooperative enterprise.


Retrieved from

The nuances between group work and collaborative learning are hard to detect; however, in group work, one can be part of a group yet contribute nothing, whereas the definition of collaborative learning suggests that all members are working/contributing something although the contributions may be inequitable.

Co-operative learning takes the concept a step further since it is hallmarked by the presence of structure. In this model, the teacher carefully structures the activity so that each person is accountable and assessed for their part in the task. The task is, therefore more equitable, and demands contributions from all members.

In my mind, the three areas, therefore, fall into a hierarchy, where each learning model is a more refined and defined version of the one below it.


Which delivers the best educational outcomes?

My first response was that cooperative learning was clearly the most sophisticated method for delivering educational outcomes since students were more engaged and the implementation of individual assessment as an added dynamic guaranteed that all students were motivated to learn and participate.

However, the best model for delivering educational outcomes actually depends on the outcomes themselves. My initial response focused on the acquisition of content/knowledge, but if the goal of the task was of a social nature (e.g. learning how to work with other personality types or developing the confidence of reluctant/shy students) then group work would be the far superior framework to use to achieve this aim.

Co-Creation Rubric Task

During the week, the students of EDFD 459 participated in a rubric co-creation task. Whether it evolved past “group work” to either “collaborative” or “cooperative” learning would have depended upon whether or not every person participated (i.e. transcending group work into collaborative learning) and as to whether or not the group autonomously added structure to the task, holding each person accountable (i.e. transcending collaborative learning into cooperative learning). This, I imagine, would have varied greatly between the groups.

To me, the rubric co-creation exercise was “action learning personified” and had multiple outcomes:

  1. Practice in producing of a rubric (a task we will need proficiency for future use in our own classrooms)
  2. Deepening of our understanding of AT2
  3. Experiencing first-hand the dynamics, strengths, drawbacks, frustrations and elations of group work/ collaborative /cooperative learning
  4. A live case-study of definitions
  5. Exposure to another e-learning platform

The exercise was a clever way to highlight the topic while attaining tangible gains and learning applicable to our future as classroom teachers and well as our roles as students of EDFD459.


One thought on “Collaborative, Co-operative or Group?

  1. Pingback: Learning is Messy Business… and Other Reflections | Schooled For Life

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