Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Patricia L. Reeves

Second Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Third Advisor

Dr. Gary Marx


Cooperative learning, urban education, middle school instruction, critical thinking, teacher implementation of cooperative learning strategies, middle school core content teachers


This action research case study describes how content area teachers in a middle school with low reading achievement levels utilize cooperative learning and curriculum integration (with a focus on the integration of literacy skills and thinking skills) in their content area given the current context of accountability for student mastery of tested core content outcomes. The participants were four urban middle school teachers from the core areas of science, social studies, mathematics, and language arts who had varying levels of training and experience with cooperative learning and curriculum integration. Data sources included audio-recorded pre-conferences, video-taped classroom observations, audio-recorded post-conferences, and the researcher’s field notes. The author used in vivo coding for data initial reduction and template analysis for further data reduction and categorization leading to patterns of findings related to the use of cooperative learning and curriculum integration.

Social constructivism provided the theoretical groundwork for the study on the belief that learning is socially constructed. All four of the participants utilized cooperative learning to some extent; however, group processing, an essential element of cooperative learning as advocated by Johnson and Johnson, was not evident in any of the classrooms. Cooperative learning is an instructional approach that provides adolescents with the opportunity to discuss, analyze, give opinions and get feedback from their peers and has been shown to be effective, particularly at the middle school level. This study provides an extensive look into the ways that middle school core content teachers think about and apply the instructional model of cooperative learning to the competing demands of serving their students in a context of high academic expectations, persistently low academic performance, and multiple student characteristics that associate with academic challenge.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access