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Collaborative Learning Strategies

| Inside/outside circles | Four corners | Three step interview | Jigsaw | Fishbowl | Debate | Discussion | Role play | Code of cooperation | Action planning | Classroom meetings | Multiple voting | Show all

Inside/outside circles

Students are placed in two circles. Students in the inner circle face outwards, directly facing another student in the outer circle. This strategy enables discussion between students while encouraging movement and interaction.


Four corners

Four corners is a strategy for developing students' collaborative skills, encourage reflection and for developing empathy for other people's points of view.

The corners of the classroom represent strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. Students reflect on their response to an issue, statement or questions and which of the corners best captures their perspective and opinion. Students move to the relevant corner and pair up with another student in that corner to discuss their perspective on the issue. Students can also be paired with a student from the opposite perspective to discuss the issue with their partner.


Three step interview

Students are encouraged to interview class members, share their thinking and ask questions on an interview topic. Students are divided into teams of three and are assigned a role as an interviewer, reporter or interviewee. The roles rotate after each interview. At the completion of a unit of work students can use this process to share and learn more about each others' topics. Students might, for example, interview each other about their thoughts on a book they have just read.



The jigsaw strategy is used as a random and socially sensitive way of forming students into groups. For example, a group of 28 students is to be divided into groups of 4 in order to conduct different aspects of an investigation:

The jigsaw strategy provides teachers with an equitable way of dividing and changing group roles and dynamics, and gives students the opportunity to work in different groups. Teachers can work with small and larger groups according to the requirements of the activity, observing students and facilitating progress.



Fishbowl is a strategy for discussion. A number of students are engaged in the discussion, debate or activity with 'observers' (the rest of the class) sitting behind and around in a fishbowl arrangement. They observe, think about and feedback on the progress of the participants.



This strategy lends itself particularly to analysing issues and expressing different points of view. Students need to be aware of the rules of debating and to cooperate in establishing a respectful environment.

For further information on the rules and roles in debating: Your own Debate



Discussion provides opportunities for students to discuss in pairs, small groups, teams or as a whole class helps clarify their understanding. As with debate, protocols, norms or agreements need to be established by the class to ensure discussions progress in a focused way.


Role play and drama

Role play and drama can be a positive way for students to work collaboratively to research and express their ideas. Role-playing scenarios and strategies, for example, can help students develop collaborative skills and deeper understanding.


Code of cooperation

To ensure that groups and teams are effective, students begin an activity by discussing the task to be undertaken, setting goals to achieve the task successfully and norms or agreements for how they will cooperate within the group.


Action Planning

To assist groups with planning and staying on task during cooperative learning tasks, groups can develop an action plan which outlines the following areas:

Simple action plan


Time (dates)

What has to be done?

Whose responsibility?

Resources needed?


Review/ check point


Monitor progress



Final review






Classroom meetings

Classroom meetings are a democratic process where the whole class meets on a regular basis to discuss and develop solutions for problems and issues which may be occurring within groups. Students can also share and reflect on learning tasks or discuss social issues that may be occurring in the classroom or school ground. Students are actively engaged in the process of running, organising and developing strategies in the meetings and assume the different roles required to run a meeting.

Classroom meetings should be run in a circle with students sitting facing each other to facilitate discussion. There are different types of classroom meetings and the type of meeting to be run is influenced by the topic to be addressed. Teachers can use the meeting to evaluate students' progress, understanding and engagement with a task. An open-ended meeting allows students to agenda items to be discussed as they see fit. The meeting may focus on one particular problem or issue that is to be addressed. 

Further information can be found at:
CanTeach: Classroom Meetings
Discipline without stress punishments or rewards: Classroom meetings (PDF)


Multi-voting technique

This strategy is designed for groups and whole classes to vote on a particular topic to eliminate the least supported ideas. Brainstorm to compile a list of options or ideas under the topic heading. Students are given a number of coloured sticky dots. Each dot is worth a diminishing number of votes. The first vote may be a red sticker worth 5 points. Students decide which item they would like to give the most points to down to the least and place the relevant dot next to that item. The number of votes are then tallied and the most popular idea revealed.

Nominal Group Technique

This is another strategy for groups to vote on and explore issues and ways to make improvements. Students are asked to list their views on a topic or issue. These are then collected and listed on the board with similar items being clustered together. Each participant is then allowed six votes and may choose to place all of the votes in one place if they feel strongly about it.

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