Nancy Madden - Cooperative learning in action: strategies that work in the classroom

  • Date 09/12/2015

Debate on Education with Nancy Madden, president, CEO and co-founder of Success for All., #debatseducacio

Nancy Madden is a researcher and creator of educational programmes that seek to improve learning and students' academic performance, with cooperative learning, particularly those in less advantaged environments. She is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education's Center for Research and Reform in Education and also at the University of York's Institute for Effective Education. .Event organized by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia) and the Jaume Bofill Foundation, with the collaboration of MACBA. 


Nancy Madden developed a line of research in the 1980s at John Hopkins University aimed at finding practical actions to increase educational success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have no enthusiasm or commitment. The research led to the creation of Success for All.

Cooperative learning as a way of improving educational success

What is the problem that needs solving?

-In classical learning, there are students who do not take part. For example, they don't answer the teacher's questions because they don't know the answer. They become embittered. They don't reach their full potential and they don't get involved in the class.

-Group work cannot always be considered cooperative because what tends to happen is that a certain member or members of the group do the work of the others. There are students who continue not to demonstrate their potential and who have no commitment or involvement.

 How does cooperative learning work?

-Team work+interaction among all members+commitment+improved results.

-Individual success is the key to collective success. In cooperative work, it is very important that actions used individually to assess all team members are applied so that they can all show that they have understood and internalized the content.

-The individual success of each member of the team is achieved with continuous feedback among all members. Members of the team push each other and encourage each other. There has to be interdependency and commitment among the members of the team.

-Teachers must design rewards to encourage the teams to achieve success. The success of the team must always be celebrated. All teams must achieve success at some point.

-Random reporter. Any member of the team could be the spokesperson who creates the summary of the work completed (chosen by the teacher). They have to learn to listen, convey ideas and explain them. This is a form of active learning.

-All members of the team must be able to explain their ideas and share them with the group. Members of the team must encourage others who have less of a desire to take part.

Training teachers in cooperative learning

-After two months, they can introduce successfully cooperative learning into the classroom

-Skills rather than passion are what is required. The key lies in trainers providing tools that can be put into practice by teachers (files with specific examples) and the introduction process followed. Teachers must be able to share experience, successes and mistakes.

-Coaching based on real experience. Trainers who assess how the teacher introduces the cooperative method through direct observation and assessment (in schools). They provide effective support based on experience.

-Support from most of the school is required during cooperative work. It cannot just be one teacher on their own putting this method into practice.

 The Baltimore example

-Schools with high levels of academic failure and secondary school withdrawal.

-Two aspects required priority attention: reading skills (everyone had to read correctly) and absenteeism.

-Success for All was created in this environment during the 1980s and cooperative learning and the involvement of families as a key to success were first applied.

-Application of the cooperation method achieved proven success. It reduced the number of withdrawals and raised skill levels. Students who followed this method achieved a level equivalent to being one academic year above the students from the same environment who studied at traditional schools.

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