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Learner-Community-of-Practice Interaction: Theory

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Overview on Cooperative, Collaborative & Computer Supported Learning. Overview on Theories Supporting Cooperative Learning. Breakdown of Three Types of Cooperative Learning.This lesson is part of the NFLRC Online Language Pedagogy Series, designed for in-service teachers of world languages online.

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Understanding theories within learner-communities of practice that focus on interaction revolve around the type of environment for the interaction, the kind of interactions expected and the use of collaborative/cooperative learning. Collaborative/Cooperative Learning (CL) is an approach to classroom or course design that incorporates social learning into tasks organized around specific content (Johnson & Johnson, 2008). Cooperative learning is often compared against individualistic or competitive learning. For a good overview on cooperative learning, please view this link:

Johnson and Johnson (2008) note that there are at least three theoretical perspectives that support cooperative learning. First, the work of Piaget and Vygotsky posit that knowledge is socially constructed through cooperative efforts to learn, understand and solve problems. Second, communities of practice rely very heavily on group behavior. In many ways, group members/leaders work to provide rewards to encourage participation in ways that are grounded in behaviorist principles. Much of this behaviorist foundation is also present in the computer supported elements of these communities of practice where imitation often works in learning new technology tools. Third, social interdependence can lead to positive elements through the use of cooperation where individuals perceive that they can reach the goals for the community of practice because the other members are linked to and in pursuit of similar goals. These ideas are the underlying principles behind social interdependence theory.

The cooperative learning approach has been successfully used in traditional classroom and many educators have found success in implementing its use in their online communities of practice as well. When used online, the approach is often referred to as computer-supported cooperative learning (CSCL). See this link for an overview on one successful use of CSCL:
One important distinction to keep in mind is that some sources consider cooperative learning to be different from collaborative learning. This distinction rests on the nature of the interaction with cooperative learning being more integrated throughout the process, while collaborative learning involves community members working individually throughout the process and contributing to a shared goal or task.

One way of maximizing the interaction between the students is to construct learning communities with cooperative learning at its core (De Felice & Ortiz Alcocer, 2014). Classroom-based learning communities exist in forms that include the entire classroom within one interaction as seen in the example of an elementary school classroom where the teacher and students are engaged daily in activities and practices as a whole (Saville, Lawrence & Jakobsen, 2012). These learning communities can also occur within a classroom where groups of students work together to complete either problem-based activities or engage in activities designed to bring forth a collective effort for understanding the course content.

Suggested References

De Felice, D. & Ortiz Alcocer, L. M. (2014). Building collaborations between university
pre-service student-teachers and English language students through a socially mediated
network. In Carolyn Stevenson & Joanna Bauer (Eds.), Building online communities in
higher education institutions: Creating collaborative experience. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
Retrieved from

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T. & Holubec, E. J. (1994). The new circles of learning: Cooperation
in the classroom and school. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision &
Curriculum Development (ASCD).

Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. T. (2008). Cooperation and the use of technology. In J. M. Spector,
M. D. Merrill, J. V. Merrienboer, & M. P. Driscoll (Eds.), Handbook of research on
educational communications and technology (pp. 401-418). New York: Routledge.

Millis, B. J. (2010). Cooperative Learning in Higher Education : Across the Disciplines, Across
the Academy. Sterling, Va: Stylus Publishing.

Saville, B. K., Lawrence, N. K. and Jakobsen, K. V. (2012). Creating learning communities in the
classroom. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2012: 57–69.

doi: 10.1002/tl.20036

The Cooperative Learning Institute at the University of Minnesota. Retrieved

Vanderbilt University’s guide to guide to cooperative learning (n.d.).
Retrieved from

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