This blog has gained many new readers over the past year. Because of that, I thought it might be worth sharing a daily “A Look Back” where I share a best post from the past twelve years. You can also see all of my choices for “Best” posts here.

This post appeared in August, 2018.


I’ve written extensively in some of my books about the difference between cooperative learning and collaborative learning.

An example of cooperative learning is what teachers often do (I’ve been no exception in the past) – give a small groups of students an assignment and tell them to get to work on it.

Collaborative learning, on the other hand, can mean students do some work on their own, share with classmates to get ideas on how to improve it, and then return to individual work.

The Common Core Standards don’t mention anything about cooperative learning. However, they do often talk about collaborative learning.

You can read more about that perspective at some of my previous posts:

Collaborative Writing, Common Core, and ELLs is in Edutopia.

‘A Powerful Purpose Propels Effective Student Collaboration’ appeared in Ed Week.

A new study has come out reinforcing the value of collaboration over cooperation. TIME Magazine provides a good summary at This Habit Will Make You Better At Your Job.

In it researchers compared results from: people who worked together on a project all the time; those who worked individually all the time; and those who did a some of both.

Here’s what they found (note that they use the word “collaboration” to define working together all the time, and don’t use a word to describe the group that did both – I and others define that as collaboration):

In the final group, people were allowed to interact with their colleagues only some of the time. “The intermittence allowed us to get the best of both worlds: getting lots of good solutions and, at the same time, raising the mean,” Bernstein says. That’s because — unlike in the collaboration condition, in which talented workers were immediately copied — those in the intermittent communication group had to puzzle through the task on their own at least some of the time, producing more variety. And — unlike in the solitude group, where ideas couldn’t be shared at all — even high-performers benefitted from that diversity, Bernstein says.

I’m adding this info to The Best Sites For Cooperative Learning Ideas.


Collaborate, but only intermittently, says new study from Science Daily is an article about the same study.

Problem-solving techniques take on new twist is from The Harvard Gazette.