Social Learning Theory and Cooperative Learning

The 21st century world is becoming more connected through technology.  I am able to keep in touch with my family members in Pennsylvania while teaching and living in Maryland.  We text, send messages through Facebook, and email each other pretty frequently.  These connections help keep me informed of what is going on as well as allowing my family to keep up with my hectic life.  All of this is done without spending money on gas or sitting in a car for four hours.


This week’s instructional strategy, cooperative learning, applies a similar focus to learning and social interaction.  The main focus of cooperative learning is to allow students to “interact with each other in groups in ways that enhance their learning.”  (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, Malenoski, 2007, p. 139)  Students are able to talk to one another about their thoughts and understandings of the content, which allows them to develop or enhance their own individual understanding of the material.  Today’s students will need these types of skills in order to be successful in the 21st century workplace.  They will need to think critically, make decisions, and develop understandings based on collaborations with their peers.  This is the foundation for social learning theory as well.  According to Dr. Michael Orey, social learning theory is based on students actively engaging with one another in carrying on educational conversations and constructing artifacts.  (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010)


There are many technology tools that can be used to engage students in cooperative learning.  One way is to have students create a multimedia presentation.  Students are
able to work within small groups with specifically assigned roles in order to create a Power Point or wiki that teaches their classmates about a particular topic.  While they are completing their individual portions of the group project, they are also encouraged to talk to one another about what they have learned as well as some further questions they
may have about their topic.  They can then work together as a group to put their information together and pose those same questions to their classmates as they are presenting.  Through this process, students are learning from each other rather than the teacher presenting information, leading to a greater understanding of the content.


Many web resources are also available for students to use for cooperative learning.  WebQuests are a great way for students to explore a particular topic without ever leaving the classroom.  In a WebQuest, students are able to create a solution to a particular problem through exploring various resources online.  By having the students complete different parts of a WebQuest within a class, each student can then become knowledgeable in a certain area and use their knowledge to educate their classmates.  They can then develop a solution as a class, allowing them to use each other’s thoughts and insights to enhance their learning.  Students can also use collaborative organizing tools such as Google Calendar or to share events or resources with their classmates.  This information can be used within projects, individual lessons, or for enrichment with struggling students.  Overall, the students are building their knowledge by sharing their resources with their peers.


With the shift to the Common Core Curriculum fast approaching, it is a good idea to get kids in the habit of collaborating to solve problems and think critically now.  I have always believed in the old saying, “Two heads are better than one.”  Through many different strategies in cooperative learning, students can see that they are not alone in the learning process and enhance their knowledge by working together.



Laureate Education, Inc.  (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories.  [Video webcast].  Bridging learning theory, instruction, and technology.  Retrieved from


Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


5 thoughts on “Social Learning Theory and Cooperative Learning

  1. you are so right I communicate with cousins I have not seen in years through facebook, e-mail and texting and I do enjoy it. as you said, students need to learn to work together to solve problems, make decisions and help each other learn and what is so good about it they do not even have to be in the same room or house because of the technology available right at their finger tips. Students can and do learn sao much from each other they just have to be trained to recognize how much they learn from each other and that is our job, ofcourse.

  2. You are so right about the importance of using these tools in the workplace, today–recent graduates are always returning and telling me that they use GoogleDocs, Skype, and other tech tools on a daily basis.

    WebQuests are an important tool, too–my computer students use them to research security issues, for example, and I find them to be a very efficient way for students to learn about a topic.

    P. S. I have family members in New York and Maryland and we use Skype, by the way–I have to admit, it was my 12-yr.old nephew who got everyone excited about using it, and now we all just have a ball with it. It’s so nice.

  3. My students love webquests. In fact, they like anything to do with technology. I usually have my students work in partners, since I teach special needs students with varying learning disabilities. They tend to be more engaged in the tasks that involve technology and produce much better work.

  4. Amanda,

    Do you have any suggestions of other technology programs that would benefit students with special needs? I have one class now of primarily special education students and would love any suggestions you may have.


  5. Susan,

    Have you used Skype in your classroom? I would love to try it but would like to know others’ experiences with it first.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *