Teaching physical education – PEdagogical Model: Cooperative learning

Collaborative learning

Applying effective teaching approaches to the ‘how’ of Physical Education (PE)

In this series, we present six one-page summaries of key Pedagogical Models that should form part of the diet of rich and varied PE delivery.

Each of these models provides a structured framework to guide the teaching and learning process, enhancing the overall effectiveness of physical education programmes.

The benefits of applying PE pedagogical models

Organised and purposeful lesson plans

Pedagogical models help PE educators create learning material and carefully planned lessons designed to address key learning objectives. They also promote a systematic progression of skills and knowledge to meet intended learning outcomes, facilitating a logical and effective learning journey for students.

Lesson content

Differentiated instruction

Moreover, these models contribute to differentiated instruction, allowing teachers to tailor their approach to meet the diverse needs and abilities of students. By incorporating various and effective teaching strategies and styles, pedagogical models enhance engagement and understanding among students with different learning preferences. Variety is the spice of life and all that!

Effective teaching strategies

Incorporation of critical life skills

Additionally, the use of pedagogical models in PE delivery supports the development of critical life skills such as teamwork, communication, creativity and problem-solving. Structured lesson plans enable educators to integrate these skills seamlessly into physical activities, promoting holistic student growth.

Greater responsibility with specific skills

Holistic development

It is widely accepted that PE has the potential to develop physical, cognitive, social and affective domains of learning. By using a rich variety of ‘models’ in your practice it can pave the way to move ‘beyond the physical’ to recognise, develop and celebrate wider skill development that is essential to success in PE, in sport, and in life.

Assessment and evaluation

Furthermore, employing pedagogical models assists in the assessment and evaluation of student progress. The models prompt the incorporation of measurable criteria for evaluating individual and collective achievements in PE, aiding in the identification of areas for improvement and adjustment of instructional strategies.

Assessment evaluation and feedback

Today’s PEdagogical model: cooperative learning

Cooperative student learning involves students collaboratively working in small groups to achieve shared objectives, fostering enhanced learning experiences, crucial group skills and social skill development. Instead of encouraging competitive or individualistic learning, the model nurtures informal cooperative learning so that group members develop positive interdependence that extends beyond the PE class.

Originating from the emphasis on social learning by American philosopher John Dewey in 1916, the concept gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s.

The model encourages students to take responsibility for reciprocal learning and peer coaching, which can boost engagement and learning potential. In this approach, the teacher assumes the role of a facilitator, providing guidance and support while allowing flexibility in lesson delivery. Students are typically divided into formal cooperative learning groups of 4 or 5, are assigned specific tasks or activities, which promotes teamwork, communication, and interdependence.

Cooperative learning spans various activities, encompassing team sports, fitness challenges, choreography in gymnastics or dance, and problem-solving games. Integrating physical, cognitive, social, and emotional learning within the same unit makes it a great solution for PE.

Cooperative learning


  • Social and emotional learning gains are maximised
  • Build class culture, positive ethos and student enjoyment
  • Leadership, teamworking and communication skills developed in an inclusive environment


  • Heterogeneous cooperative learning groups can be challenging to manage
  • Students’ own learning often takes longer but it is ‘stickier’
  • Social loafing can occur if individuals don’t have clear accountability within their group

One-page summary – cooperative learning

Download the attached one-page summary for further information on cooperative learning.

Curriculum development: Why not use it to guide a PE department meeting followed by a period of testing and instructional coaching to help develop your repertoire of approaches to teaching.

It includes a short video available via the QR code to bring it to life along with:

Implementation ideas

Top tips

Common misconceptions

Models based practice - cooperative learning

Coming soon! Next in the series

Look out for the next in our PEdagogical models series:

Games-based approaches

Sport education

Health-based PE (HbPE)

Teaching personal and social responsibility (TPSR)

Previous PEdagogical models in the series

You can also access the previous post and one page summary on

Direct instruction by clicking here

Further information


This insight provides an extended read on the benefits of cooperative learning along with some examples


Adopting a models based practice for physical educators

Book review

Physical education pedagogies for health




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