COOPERATIVE LEARNING: THEORY, PRINCIPLES, AND TECHNIQUES
JF New Paradigm Education
This paper discusses the use of cooperative learning (CL) in second language (L2)
instruction. Aftre two brief definitions of CL, key areas discussed in the paper are: a)
how CL relates to theories of L2 acquisition, b) CL principles, and c) some CL
techniques and lesson plan considerations when using CL in L2 instruction. An appendix
provides a list of websites on CL.
Definitions of Cooperative Learning
First, here are some definitions of cooperative learning (also known as collaborative
1. [T]he instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize
their own and each other’s learning (Johnson & Johnson, 1993, p. 9).
2. Principles and techniques for helping students work together more effectively (Jacobs,
Power, & Loh, 2002, p. 1).
The point is that cooperative learning involves more than just asking students to work
together in groups. Instead, conscious thought goes in to helping students make the
experience as successful as possible.
SLA Theories and CL
Many theories of SLA (Second Language Acquisition) and general education can be seen
as supportive of the use of CL in L2 instruction. Below are some theoretical
considerations often found in the literature on L2 instruction.
The Input Hypothesis
The Input Hypothesis posits that SLA is driven by comprehensible input (Krashen &
Terrell, 1983). In other words, we acquire language when we understand input that we hear
or read. In contrast, when the input is so far above our current level of L2 proficiency that it
is not comprehensible, that input doesn’t contribute to SLA.
Input from groupmates may be more likely to be comprehensible, as group members’
language levels may be roughly equal. However, the question arises as to whether this often
imperfect peer input will lead to students picking up each other’s errors.