Using Co-operative Learning and Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces to Enhance 21st Century Learning in Junior Classrooms

Area(s) of Focus: technology, math, well being, curriculum
Division(s): Junior
Level(s): Grade 5, Grade 6
Keyword(s): co-operative, vertical

Using both Peter Liljedahl's thinking classroom framework and the Johnson's co-operative learning structure, we hoped to merge both to create a positive, inclusive learning environment where ALL learners gained relevant new skills.

Over the past year, Upper Thames Elementary School has used the Johnson model of co-operative learning to engage all learners in an equitable and inclusive fashion.

At the ending of the last school year, we began to have discussions in regards to using Peter Liljedahl’s thinking classroom framework, in conjunction with co-operative learning throughout the Junior Division at Upper Thames in conjunction with the Learning Resource Teacher who uses an in-class model of support. The purpose was to further meet the needs of all students with the principles of the Learning For All Ministry Document while also using engaging pedagogical practices and the tenants of co-operative learning.

Our hope is to continue to use both Liljedahl’s model and the Johnson model for this school year so we may refine and enhance our practice. Our inquiry will be based on the belief that we will increase student outcomes through higher engagement, and create a sense of well-being through co-operative interactions; the utilization of 21st century learning strategies inherent in the Liljedahl and Johnson models will enable us to facilitate a learning environment where students are empowered to make their own inquiries and reflect on the work of others.

Team Members

  • Ian Dekker

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Mary Coleman

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Jody Horne

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Emily Agar

    Avon Maitland District School Board

  • Laura Terpstra

    Avon Maitland District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

Our hope was to gain confidence in each educator’s ability to deliver a positive, inclusive learning environment for each student in their classroom. We were able to do this by utilizing the Johnson’s co-operative learning structure and new learning from Peter Liljedahl’s thinking classroom framework.


Activities and Resources

Our team was fortunate to attend the Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators conference in May 2018 where we listened to relevant keynote speakers to our goal, such as Peter Liljedahl, Jo Boaler and other Ontario educators.

Further, we completed small group sessions with our team, focusing on furthering our co-operative learning skills in the classroom and continuing to positively implement Liljedahl’s thinking classroom.

Unexpected Challenges

Our unexpected challenges were quite few. We were fortunate to be a cohesive collaborative crew of teachers focused on the same goals.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Our biggest enhancement in student learning was to further student confidence and voice in mathematics learning.

In co-operative learning groups, each student was given an appropriate entry point to highlight both existing knowledge and showcase new skills they had learned.


We continue to actively share the results of our inquiry. Within our school building, we have shared our knowledge with all teachers from K-6.

We are in the midst of finalizing a website. This website will highlight the important facets of co-operative learning and the thinking classroom, as well as the results of our inquiry.

Project Evaluation

Our project was a complete success. Within each of the classrooms involved in the project, teachers regularly use the five components of co-operative learning and continue to use Liljedahl’s thinking classroom framework. Specifically, each teacher continues to refine each of the 14 components of Liljedahl’s framework and look forward to welcoming students into their classrooms next school year who have previously been taught with co-operative learning and Peter Liljedahl’s model.