Teacher Intervention Strategy During Cooperative Learning and Individual Activities

Description of the Strategy

The article describes Teacher Intervention (TI) and its implementation during Cooperative Learning (CL) tasks. TI generally occurs when students are off-task or confused about the problem at hand. The study showed that significant increase in student productiveness occurred when teachers intervened and specifically monitored their class “to identify those who were off-task” (Chiu, 393). Specifically, evaluating students’ work, providing minimal/high-content help, and using few commands were the best strategies used by teachers during a TI (393).

Overall, the study shows what most teachers already know: intervening during group work increases productiveness. The study also demonstrates TI is beneficial, but it fades over time (391). The study also demonstrates effective methods of intervening , such as offering an evaluation and challenging students, and less effective methods of intervening, such as introducing “unrelated solution methods” (370). However, the study fails to address how often a teacher should intervene. Considering the benefits of TI’s fade over time, this would be useful information for teachers.

Implementation of the Teacher Intervention Strategy

  • During observation periods, I made a mental note of the students who have difficulty getting on-task. I decided to test different TI strategies, rather than to implement a single strategy.
  • Group work was too difficult to implement for the most challenging class I was teaching (Grade 9 Applied English), so I decided to open up the strategy to include TI during individual work. The Grade 10 Academic English class that I was teaching, on the other hand, included many CL activities, so I could also apply the original strategy to them quite easily. They were generally very well-behaved and on-task, however, so the results were not as obvious as they were with the Grade 9 Applied class.
  • I would circulate and try different techniques (different opening lines, different times to approach groups/individuals, different types of students to intervene upon). I wanted to purposefully use ineffective TI strategies to see how the students reacted.

Examples of hypothesized effective TI strategies:

Opening Lines

“How are you doing here? Do you need help with the first question?”
“Are you having trouble understanding the first question? Do you want me to elaborate?”
Explain the question in new terms without prompt from student.
Do you need a pen or a pencil? Do you need a piece of paper?

Effective Responses to Student Questions/Corrections to Student Work

“How did you come up with your response to the first question? It’s a very good answer! Follow the same steps for the second question.”
“Why do you think _____? What other details can you add to make your response stronger?”
Directing student to text where they can find the response (ex. “Rereading Act 4, Scene 4 will help you with answering this question.”)
Relating explanations to relevant examples (ex. “Imagine you are Brutus and your best friend is Caesar, how would you feel about killing him for the greater good?”)
Providing positive feedback for the work they have done to show they are on the right track.

Examples of hypothesized ineffective TI strategies:

Ineffective Opening Lines

“Time to get started!”
“Why haven’t you started working?”
“Open your books and start working, please.”

Ineffective Response to Student Questions/Corrections to Student Work:

“Look it up!”
“That’s easy to figure out for yourself.”
“Ask a friend.”
“Sorry I can’t help you, you should know this answer for yourself.”
“If you worked together better as a group, you would be able to answer these questions more easily.”
“The answer is ______.”

Statement of Outcomes

The following outlines the outcomes of the TI strategies with they were implemented and whether or not the results matched with the hypotheses.

Student response to effective TI strategies

Intended (matched with hypothesis)

  • Students began working, and worked for at least a few minutes or until they had completed the question associated with the TI.
  • Students responded positively and demonstrated excitement to complete the work
  • Students related work to their own experience and therefore felt more connected and interested in the task.

Unintended (did not match with hypothesis)

  • Some students just “were not in the mood” to work, and no TI could get them on-task
  • Some students worked better without TI (students with a mild case of ODD, especially).

Student response to ineffective TI strategies

Intended (matched with hypothesis)

  • Students ignored TI.
  • Students seemed to feel discouraged and “gave-up” on the task.
  • Students rebelled and drew on their notebooks instead of working.
  • Students watched videos on their iPods or slept.

Unintended (did not match with hypothesis)

  • Students would pry until they got the response that they needed.
  • Students would work hard without a TI.
  • Students would response well to TI strategies that were meant to be ineffective.


Throughout my experience teaching, I’ve had the opportunity to test the TI strategy to the point where I could let the classes get out of control a little bit before intervening or I could closely monitor each group/individual and TI consistently. Deciding when to implement the strategy and with whom is the most challenging part about TI. I discovered that there always needs to be a balance and a strong understanding of each individual student’s needs and their relationship with me, as the teacher.


Overall, TI is necessary and should be used by all teachers during CL activities and even during individual assignments. Based on my implementation of the strategy and my analysis of which approaches work better than others, there are three things that teachers should keep in mind:

  • Do not intervene too often or too little.
  • Do not intervene if students will be less motivated to work as a result.
  • Use positive support and allow students to develop their own understanding.
  • Ask questions to the students that do not seem to understand the activity.
  • Most importantly, know your students and know what they need from you.

Teachers must be careful when they should to intervene, however, and they should know which students will benefit from their intervention. The main critique of the article and the strategy as it is discussed in the article is that intervention strategies differ for each individual student and the article fails to address this. The article does provide a framework for basic TI, and the benefits involved in intervening during CL activities are rendered clear, however more detail is needed to demonstrate how teachers can effectively implement this strategy.

Future Implementation

In the future, I will follow my instincts and use only what I have been referring to as “effective TI strategies.” As I hypothesized, the “ineffective TI strategies” did not promote student learning nor a productive working environment. I will also time interventions appropriately, because students need enough time to “get the ball rolling” so to speak, but not too much time that they get too far off-task.


Chiu, Ming Ming. “Adapting Teacher Interventions to Student Needs During Cooperative Learning: How to Improve Student Problem Solving and Time On-Task.” American Educational Research Journal. Chinese University of Hong Kong. Summer 2004, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 365-399

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