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Formal Cooperative Projects

Formal Cooperative Learning

Grading work done in groups

Principles of Formal Cooperative Learning

What separates cooperative learning from "group work" are the roles and interactions student's undertake that make them responsible to each for individual and group success. The facilitators provide two mnemonic devices to aid remembering key elements of cooperative learning.

PIGSFace stands for Positive Interdependence, Individual Accountability, Group Processing, Social Skills and Face to Face Interaction.

There are nine key ways to structure positive interdependence in a learning group, summarized in the mnemonic TIRED FROG: Task, Identity, Resource, Environment, Duty (role), Fantasy, Reward, Outside enemy, Goal.

Positive Interdependence

The files below correspond to the section on elements of positive interdependence.

Types of Positive Interdependence (Describes "TIRED FROG" items)
Positive Interdependence Quiz (Name what "TIRED FROG" element is in each example)

The National Science Foundation provides a summary of three elements of formal cooperative learning (positive interdependence, individual accountability and face to face interaction)

Individual Accountability

Consider these two brief video clips: Birds or People and Remember the Titans. What examples of positive interdependence and individual accountability do you observe?

Practicing positive interdependence, individual accountability and group processing.

Organize into small groups of 3-4 people. Within the group, choose the roles of Reader, Hawk, Eagle and timekeeper. Then do the following group activity with the poem Mother to Son by Langston Hughes.

  1. The Reader reads the poem to the group with all the requisite emotion and drama
  2. The Group identifies the three most important words in the poem and why they chose those three words
  3. Hawks fly to another group, share, then return to the nest
  4. Eagles fly to a different group, share, then return to the nest
  5. The Group refines their choice of three words

Discussing the group interaction.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

 Social Skills

What do we mean by "social skills?"

"Structured Academic Controversy"

Is it our job as faculty to teach social skills? Using a cooperative activity called “Structured Academic Controversy” (SAC) participants took turns taking opposing positions then synthesized their arguments into a group position. What did the participants decide about social skills? Watch their responses below and look below for resources on structured academic controversy:


See the template for structuring the social skills academic controversy exercise.

See this description of SAC and sample activity for a history lesson

Example activity for a chemistry lesson

Key Principles and Guidelines for Structured Academic Controversy

Excerpt from Johnson and Johnson on benefits of evidence supporting the academic controversy method.

Further brief description and sample provided by WNET public television