Scaffolding Cooperative Learning

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Human interactions don’t lack technical but rather cooperative communication skills. The good news is that pro-social behavior can be learned. Collective argumentation is one means to scaffold learners’ engagement in group work. Also, the negotiation of values is vital for achieving a shared sense of agency and accountability between teachers and students. In computer-enabled learning, consequential engagement in the form of enabling equitability and showing the benefits beyond single contributions, as well as using game formats are promising pathways to progress cooperation in learning environments.

Need and possibility for cooperation

Human interactions don’t lack technical but rather cooperative communication skills. Instead of being taught how to be a collaborative and compassionate person, students learn how to compete. For the future of peaceful thriving of society, the understanding of how to cooperate, however, is crucial (Laurian-Fitzgerald & Roman, 2016). Flexible and diverse teams are necessary for problem-solving (Antonenko, Jahanzad, & Greenwood, 2014). Pro-social behavior for good teamwork can be learned by students of any age (Laurian-Fitzgerald & Roman, 2016).

Collective argumentation and the negotiation of values

One sociocultural approach (in the sense of Vygotsky) for constructive and engaging teaching is the so-called collective argumentation (CA) format. CA uses scaffolding techniques such as comparison, justification, agreement, and validation to engage students actively in group work. The formal negotiation of a code of conduct enables a teacher-student relationship on eye-level with a shared sense of agency and accountability for the learning process (Brown, Redmond, & Mathematics Education Research Group, 2016), putting the student more in a driver and the teacher more in a co-driver position. In contrast to one-to-one competition, an activity-oriented team-based competition was found to be supportive of higher learning motivation and performance, especially as it involves real-world decision practices (Kilburn & Kilburn, 2012).

Equitability and being part of something bigger

From the study of designing Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) environments, it is known that consequential engagement, i.e., the conscious relation to a higher purpose, and involvement, in general, is moderating motivation and learning. For example, in a multi-user online environment, the quality of the interactions needs to go beyond mere knowledge acquisition (Sinha, Rogat, Adams-Wiggins, & Hmelo-Silver, 2015). The study of a learner-created design project revealed that equitability (not equality) in participation was a fundamental characteristic of the interest-driven youth community to see the benefit of being part of something bigger. The participatory social aspect of joint media and knowledge creation is utterly essential but remains difficult to implement in still mostly traditional classroom structures (Fields, Vasudevan, & Kafai, 2015). The Knowledge-Building Communities model (KBC model) suggests the use of socializing knowledge community-space games and may provide a promising means for advancing the understanding of collective cooperation for better results (Bielaczyc & Ow, 2014).


Antonenko, P. D., Jahanzad, F., & Greenwood, C. (2014). Research and Teaching: Fostering Collaborative Problem Solving and 21st Century Skills Using the DEEPER Scaffolding Framework. Journal Of College Science Teaching, 43(6), 79-88.

Bielaczyc, K., & Ow, J. (2014). Multi-Player Epistemic Games: Guiding the Enactment of Classroom Knowledge-Building Communities. International Journal Of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 9(1), 33-62.

Brown, R., Redmond, T., & Mathematics Education Research Group of, A. (2016). Constructing Classroom Contexts That Engage Students in the Learning of Mathematics: A Teacher’s Perspective.

Fields, D., Vasudevan, V., & Kafai, Y. B. (2015). The Programmers’ Collective: Fostering Participatory Culture by Making Music Videos in a High School Scratch Coding Workshop. Interactive Learning Environments, 23(5), 613-633.

Kilburn, B. R., & Kilburn, A. J. (2012). The team vs. the individual: Login acvity as predictor of web-based simulation team success. Academy Of Educational Leadership Journal, 16(3), 15-22.

Lauraian-Fitzgerald, S., & Roman, A. F. (2016). The effect of teaching cooperatwive learning skills on developing young students’ growth mindset. Journal Plus Education / Educatia Plus, 1468-82.

Sinha, S., Rogat, T. K., Adams-Wiggins, K. R., & Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2015). Collaborative Group Engagement in a Computer-Supported Inquiry Learning Environment. International Journal Of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 10(3), 273-307.