Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

William H. Green

Second Advisor

Paul S. Brantley

Third Advisor

Bruce Closser


This study uses qualitative methodology to look at the implementation of cooperative learning in three early elementary classrooms. The questions of interest were "What, from a teacher's point of view, happens when cooperative learning methods are implemented?" and "What happens to a cooperative learning model when it is implemented by trained teachers?"

A review of the literature related to cooperative learning identifies three genres of cooperative learning and proposes a theoretical framework. A review of the literature related to qualitative research defines qualitative research in terms of philosophy, perspectives, applications to educational research, and data gathering and analysis techniques. A review of the very limited literature specifically related to the implementation of cooperative learning summarizes the findings of six studies.

Based partly on the differing levels of support anticipated for them as they implemented, three early elementary teachers were selected for study from a group of 35 educators taking four days of training in cooperative learning. Case studies of these three teachers were based on data gathered over eight months through participant observation and ethnographic interviews.

The case studies begin with a description of the teacher and narrative description of a cooperative lesson conducted by the teacher. The remainder of each case study is organized around four major categories seen in the data: (1) configuration, (2) problems, (3) implementation, and (4) teacher thinking.

A cross-case analysis follows the case studies and includes summaries, conclusions, and recommendations related to teacher training, implementation, and further research.

Among the findings: (1) Classroom configuration and the training model differed in social skill instruction, group processing, and the use of group contingencies. (2) A four-step model is suggested for teachers learning to use cooperative groups. (3) Problems specifically related to the use of cooperative groups were seen as less important than other problems. (4) The resolution of grouping issues is an important part of implementation. (5) Further research on teacher thinking during various stages of the implementation process may be valuable. (6) None of the three teachers received support as they sought to implement cooperative learning. Neither the principal nor collegial support groups provided any formal or informal support to the teachers even though this sort of support was anticipated at two of the schools.

Subject Area

Group work in education, Team learning approach in education

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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