Cooperative learning is one among the most innovative and popular strategies of learning for present century students. It is theoretically grounded and extensively researched teaching-learning practice which is believed to foster the achievement of all types of students. Since cooperative learning is in the nascent stage in India and it is not much trendy method of teaching, the investigator carried out the present study. The present study is an experimental investigation that explores the impact of the structured cooperative learning strategy (STAD method) on the achievement of low-achievers, average-achievers, and high-achievers students in biology at the secondary level. The pretest and posttest experimental design was used, and control and experimental groups are equated on the basis of pretest scores. The sample consisted a total of 63 students of ninth class students from Varanasi city. Data were collected and analyzed with t-test, and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was performed to test the hypotheses at 0.05 levels of significance with the use of the biology achievement test (BAT). The results revealed that students taught by the cooperative learning strategy perform better on the BAT at three levels of the cognitive domain of knowledge, understanding, and applying, than those taught using the conventional method of instruction. The study revealed that low-achievers, average-achievers, and high-achievers students of the experimental group outperform the control group. So, it can be concluded from this study that the STAD method of structured cooperative learning fosters the achievement of low-, average-, and high-achievers students in Indian context. It was therefore recommended that teachers should be encouraged to use the cooperative instructional strategy to teach biology and other subjects in secondary schools to facilitate learning of higher levels of cognitive domains to meet challenges of the twenty-first century.

1. Introduction

The knowledge of biological science is very essential for the betterment of life as it educates us about the living organisms and their interaction with the nonliving things. An individual learns about the environment only by studying the biological sciences and therefore may improve their quality of life. In most of the secondary schools, the syllabus of biology is generally overloaded, and therefore, the teachers used the lecture method which they feel helps them to convey the large amount of information to the students within a short period of time [1, 2]. Most of the schools in India promote competitive learning among students where students always struggle hard for getting better position from others [3]. The objectives of science education for secondary students emphasized that the students should be engaged in learning science as a composite discipline and stress should be given on working with hands and experimenting with tools to verify the principles and facts given in textbooks and engaged them in activities and analysis on issues surrounding the environment and health [4]. Further, it focused that the teaching of science subject should be in a way that can develop a comprehension among students about learnt knowledge and higher-order thinking skill that enable the students to solve problems and make decision in everyday life. But it is common observation that the main focus of the teachers is to complete the prescribed syllabus and prepare students to pass out the examination without realizing whether students understood the concept or just memorized the answers. This is quite contrast to the objectives of science learning as described in [4]. NCF shorted out three major issues of science education in the complex Indian scenario. First, science education is still far from achieving the goal of equity as enshrined in the Indian constitution. Second, science education develops competence but fails to encourage inventiveness and creativity, and third is the overpowering examination system. The equity issues in science education are a major problem for a democratic nation such as India, because equity is the fundamental goal of any democratic society. Yet, so far, our education system has failed to address the issue of accessibility and equity in quality science education “for all” adequately. Many students come out of schools as “scientific illiterates” or would soon lapse into this state. In a competitive school environment, students try to pull the leg of each other in a race to achieve a better grade from their fellow, and these competitive classrooms are dominated by anxiety and stress [5]. Due to lack of trained and qualified science teachers, the classrooms in India are generally overcrowded, and the teacher gets very less opportunity to give individual attention to all students. Consequently, the poor students who loss their confidence and self-esteem suffer a lot. Sometimes, they become deeply demoralized, and due to over stress, they may undergo extreme depression and occasionally commit suicide in case of failure. There is a strong need to understand that it is not a failure of the students but the failure of the school system which became failed to cater the individual need [6]. To surmount the aforesaid issue in the teaching of the science, the teacher must quest for some innovative methods for making their teaching more effective so that a quality science education must be available for all types of students irrespective of their abilities. So, it is call of time that to create such learning environment that ensures success in science is not only for good students but also for low achievers. For designing such learning environment, we need to incorporate some alternative teaching methods along with conventional pedagogy for making teaching-learning more student oriented and effective so that education of science could be available for all students not only those who gravitate to the field or consider themselves “science type” [5]. According to Slavin [7], cooperative learning has been proposed as a solution to many problems in education. He believed that under certain circumstances, the use of cooperative learning can help educators achieve many of their goals; therefore, in our Indian circumstances also, cooperative learning may provide fruitful results.

Over the past decade, cooperative learning has emerged as the leading effective approach to classroom instruction. The theory of cooperative learning is grounded in social constructivism. This philosophy believes that an individual may achieve and learn more than their actual potential while working in a group. Johnson et al. [8] define “cooperative learning as an instructional method in which, students work together in a small groups to maximize their own and each other’s learning.” Students perceive that they can reach their learning goals when the other students in the learning group also reach their goals. They worked together with the team with “we feeling” attitude to attain the academic goal [9]. It is an instructional strategy, where small groups of students with diverse level of ability and different background work together to accomplish a common learning goal. It involves the active participation of students in group learning that accentuates positive interaction among them. Due to this type of participation, cooperation among the group members develops which is the most essential component of cooperative learning. The participation of students may be enhanced through rewarding them for their individual and collective efforts. Slavin [10], Okebukola [11], and Esiogbu [12] recommended the use of the CLS in teaching science subjects. The use of cooperative learning in classrooms helps to achieve not only the cognitive goals but also in realizing and developing social and psychological aspect of education. Ariffin [13] stated that science teachers need to try cooperative learning in order to enhance scientific skills and to increase achievement in science. During cooperative learning situations, students learn to help each other by sharing knowledge and resources. Consequently, the students who work in cooperative groups outperform than the students who work by themselves or in competition with each other [14]. The implementation of cooperative learning is an effective instructional method for enhancing academic achievement of all ability levels, gender, and ethnic groups [15, 16]. Beyond that, cooperation enhances learning in several ways. It facilitates the students to work in a group and also encourage them to associate in the team and make them realize that they cannot succeed unless everyone succeeds [17]. The students actively involve in the learning process and assist each other to make sure the participation of every member of the group for the completion of assignment and to achieve the common group goal [18]. Therefore, this strategy can be well suited to improve the learning and achievement of all kinds of students, who have diverse academic abilities.

Kosar [19] and Khan [20] in their respective research studies found that cooperative learning had more positive effect on achievement of science as compared to traditional methods at the elementary level. Research studies of Yager [21], Miller [22], Bowen [23], and Ebrahim [24] also indicating cooperative learning promote the achievement in the science subject. Pandey and Kishore [25] suggested that cooperative learning is effective than the traditional method only at the knowledge level but had no significant effect at the comprehension level at secondary students. Kirbirige and Lehong [26] and Anderson et al. [27] reported that cooperative learning enhances performance in science more than traditional methods at the secondary level. Research works of Muraya and Kimamo [28], Achor et al. [2], and Nnorom [29] confirm that the cooperative learning strategy (CLS) fostered the learning of biology. Yapici [30] suggested that the blended cooperative learning environment had a positive effect on biology achievement for secondary school students. The research work of the above scholars clearly indicates that cooperative learning is one of the innovative teaching strategies which have potential to enhance student learning and performance in science subject and in biology. Further review of the literature is carried out to investigate the role of cooperative learning with respect to diverse academic abilities commonly categorized as low achievers, average achievers, and high achievers in a typical classroom.

Slavin Robert [31] in his meta-analytical study reported that 61% research studies on cooperative learning show that it is better than traditional methods of instruction. Further, he suggested that it has positive effects in all major subjects, for high, average, and low achievers, and all grade levels in urban, rural, and suburban schools. Research study carried out by Kennth and Young [32] suggested that cooperative learning did not enhance achievement of higher achiever preservice teachers. Similarly, Armstrong [33] also reported that there was only slightly increase in performance of gifted students when they work in heterogeneous groups with average achievers in comparison with homogenous groups of gifted students. Similarly, results were reported by Majoka et al. [34] who conducted studies on secondary school mathematics students and found that no significant difference was found in the high achievers in experimental (STAD group) and control groups, while significant difference was found in the low achievers of experimental and control groups. This study shows that the structured CLS is more favorable for low achievers than high achievers. Other studies conducted by Singhanayok and Hooper [35] showed that both high- and low-achievers sixth-grade students performed better while working in teams than those working individually in computer-based instruction on “relationships among organisms” topic. In the same way, Khan [36] in his experimental study on English language of eighth grade students found that student team achievement division (STAD), a highly structured CLS, had significantly increased the academic performance of high-achiever as well as low-achiever students. Besides these studies, some research studies are also conducted on the effect of CLS on average achievers as Numprasert [37] in an experimental study showed that students’ academic achievement scores in course BG 1202-Science, Man, and his environment were significantly improved at higher, middle, and low achiever of cooperative learning groups as compared to their peers in a class taught by the traditional lecture method. While in another study, Buchs et al. [38] demonstrated that highly structured cooperative learning had a positive impact on the understanding of average-ability students on the target task. Further, their study also suggested that students at all levels had been improved from the baseline test to the posttest. It was found low and high achievers had the similar progression in experimental and control groups, whereas average achievers progressed more in the highly structured condition. Gemechu and Abebe [39] conducted a study to examine the effect of cooperative learning (STAD method) on student achievement in mathematics. He found that the STAD method is more effective than traditional methods of mathematics learning for ninth class students, and it is significantly increasing the academic performances of lower- and higher-achiever students. Reviewing the above literature, most of the researchers revealed that CLS has a positive effect on lower achievers and few suggested that it can also enhance the performance of high achiever or gifted and few are inconclusive regarding the significant enhancement of achievement of higher achievers and most of the studies neglected the achievement of average students. Since most of the students in the normal classroom are average performer, it is also important to investigate the effect of CLS on average achievers. Most of the experiment was carried out in abroad and mostly on mathematics. There is dearth of study on biological science, and no such study had been carried out in Indian culture in biological science. In the present study, the investigators took the structured and systematic method of cooperative learning (STAD method) which can easily adopt for Indian classrooms. Keeping in the view of above research gap, the study has been aimed to fulfill the following objective.

2.1. Objective of the Study

To find out the effect of the structured CLS (STAD method) on the academic achievement of low achievers, average achievers, and high achievers in biology at the secondary level.

2.2. Methodology of the Study

The present study is a pretest-posttest randomized group design experiment. The school was chosen purposefully according to the need and convenience of the investigator. The total sample of 63 students was randomly placed into two groups:where R, random selection; O1 and O3, pretest scores; O2 and O4, posttest scores; X, experimental group; C, control group.

One group called as the experimental group (32 students) which is taught by the structured cooperative learning, student team achievement division (STAD model), and the other group called as the control group is taught by traditional/conventional, lecture-cum demonstration method. The two groups were examined on the basis of pretest scores. No significant difference was found in the pretest score of both the group. Students were categorized into high, low, and average achievers on the basis of their two successive test scores in science in previous standards. The details of the sample are represented in Table 1.

3. Instruments for Data Collection

To fulfill the objective of the present study, the following instruments were constructed and used to collect the relevant data:(i)BAT: biology achievement test (BAT) was developed by the researcher consisting of 100 items of knowledge, understanding and applying levels of the cognitive domain of Bloom’s taxonomy. It was validated by experts of test and measurement and three experienced biology teachers for face and content validity. The reliability coefficient of the test was calculated by using the Kuder–Richardson formula 20 and Cronbach coefficient (split half method of reliability) method, and the values were found as 0.67 and 0.838, respectively.(ii)Layout plans on structured CLS (STAD model) and related worksheet: the layout plans and worksheets based on these plans deal with the theme of “organization in living world” that covers the four units of Class IX science textbook of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). Both layout plans and respective worksheets include units: “cell: the fundamental unit of life; tissue; diversity in living organisms; why do we fall ill?” The plan comprised of instructional objectives, a list of materials needed, group size, assignment of roles, and arrangement of the room.(iii)Opinionnaire to assess the perception of students in cooperative learning: an opinionnaire of 15 items was prepared to assess the perception and feedback of students towards cooperative learning.

3.1. Experimentation

After the pretest, the whole experimental group was divided into eight subgroups. During the formation of subgroups of four members, researchers have taken care to maintain heterogeneity within the group in terms of academic achievement of students as well as in terms of personal variables such as gender, caste, and socioeconomic class. Each cooperative learning group was comprised of one high-achiever, two average-achievers, and one low-achiever students. In the beginning of the experiment, students were not ready for sharing their knowledge and content material with others; some high-performing students also refused to work with low-performing students. So, in first three days, the experimental group was given a brief orientation on the cooperative learning processes. A researcher told them about the benefits of teamwork and cooperative learning by giving different examples, such as teamwork of Indian cricket team and also organized some fun games and group activity to introduce them the importance of cooperation and to develop a harmonious relationship among them. The five essential elements of cooperative learning and the benefits of cooperation over the competitive and individualistic learning were explained to them.

In this cooperative learning (STAD method), each member was responsible for his/her assigned role and accountable for completing his/her share of work or tasks. Therefore, the roles and responsibilities are clearly mentioned and explained to the members. For systematic implementation of STAD in the classroom, researchers developed systematic layout plans and worksheets. The teacher (researcher) briefly explained the concepts about the content and focused the attention of students on the important points of learning as according to the layout plan of STAD. Then, each group was provided a single worksheet based on layout plan and instructed to fill and complete it cooperatively after discussion with each other. While students are working in groups, the teacher moved to each group to observe the activities of students, to motivate, to guide, and also help them to resolve the conflict if arises. Individual as well as a group performance both were considered for final assessment. The team that had the highest score was declared as the winning team, and the title of “Biology Star” was given to them.

Parallel to the treatment of the experimental group, the control group was taught by the lecture-cum demonstration method covering the same units of biology as in the experimental group. The lesson plans for the control group focused on same instructional objectives. After the treatment of 45 instructional periods (2 months), same BAT was administered to the students in both the groups.

3.2. Statistical Analysis

Data were analyzed using IBM SPSS Statistics 20 Software for the t-test followed by one-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). All values were expressed as mean (±SE). value <0.05 was considered significant in the present study. However, the researcher wants to compare the mean difference between the experimental and control group which are not correlated with each other and also differ in terms of sample size and other demographic variables. Therefore, an independent sample t-test had been used. Best and Kahn [40] also suggested that even random assignment of subjects is not necessary form exactly equal groups; therefore, ANCOVA was used to statistically control the differences in pretest.

4. Results

4.1. Impact of Cooperative Learning on Pre- and Posttest of Low-Achiever Students

The independent sample t-test analysis revealed no significant differences in any of the variables of different cognitive domains and also in the total BAT score. It clearly shows that the BAT score at the prelevel was matched in both the group as the values were not significant (Table 2).

After the treatment with cooperative learning (STAD method) and traditional method in both the experimental and control group, respectively, it has been observed that the BAT score in both the groups was increased, but when compared with the control group, the values were found to be significantly higher in the experimental group suggesting the positive effect of cooperative learning. The BAT score was significantly increased in the knowledge level (27.67%, ) and total score (29.31%, ) as compared to the control group (Table 2). Although the changes in understanding level (26.09%, ) and applying level (37.61%, ) were not significant, the % change was high that could be due to the more standard deviation (Table 2).

The ANCOVA of lower-achiever students indicated that F(1,17) = 32.115 and is significant at the 0.001 level. It confirms our previous results that structured CLS significantly fosters the achievement in low-achiever students (Tables 3 and 4).

4.2. Impact of Cooperative Learning on Pre- and Posttest of Average-Achiever Students

The independent sample t-test analysis showed no significant differences in any cognitive level and also in the total BAT score for average achievers. It clearly shows that the BAT score at the prelevel was matched in both the groups as the values were not significant (Table 5).

After the treatment with cooperative learning (STAD method) and traditional method in both the experimental and control group, respectively, it has been observed that the BAT score in both the groups was increased, but when compared with the control group, the values were found to be significantly higher in the experimental group suggesting the positive effect of cooperative learning. The BAT score was significantly increased in knowledge level (15.77%, ), understanding level (25.94%, ), applying level (20.87%, ), and total score (20.25%, ) as compared to the control group (Table 5).

In ANCOVA of average-achiever students, F ratio is 32.635 at df 29, i.e., F(1,29) = 32.635 and is significant at the 0.001 level. It confirms our previous results that CLS significantly fosters the achievement in average students (Tables 6 and 7).

4.3. Impact of Cooperative Learning on Pre- and Posttest of High-Achiever Students

The independent sample t-test was performed for the pretest analysis of the high-achiever student in both experimental and control groups. It showed no significant differences in any of the variables and also in the total BAT score. It clearly shows that the BAT score at the prelevel was matched in both the groups as the values were not significant (Table 8). The posttest analysis of a high-achiever student showed a significant increased in knowledge level (15%, ), understanding level (15%, ), applying level (21%, ), and total score (16.73%, ) as compared to the control group (Table 8).

ANCOVA of higher-achiever students shows F(1,10) = 26.736 and is significant at the 0.001 level. It verifies the t-test results that CLS significantly fosters the achievement in higher achievers (Tables 9 and 10).

5. Discussion

The present study reveals that the structured cooperative learning strategy (STAD method) significantly fosters the academic achievement of diverse ability of the learner, including low-, average-, and high-achiever students at knowledge, understanding, and applying a level of cognitive domains. In the present study, the researcher was conscious during group formation and the researcher took care that the group must be heterogeneous in terms of achievement and personal variables. These types of group formation create opportunity for diverse ability learners to work together for a common learning goal. Studying within a group and performing academic activities together in a group were a novel experience for them because they are habituated to study in a traditional competitive educational setup where every student is a competitor for another. Therefore, at the beginning of the experiment, high-achiever students hesitated to study together with low achiever, but soon they felt comfortable and enjoyed their role as a tutor for low achievers. Some low achievers felt shy in asking questions or raising their doubts in a teacher-centered classroom. Such type of introvert and shy students felt free to clear their doubts with their peers, and they also felt motivated while performing their respective roles. It was also reported by students that they enjoyed their respective role and had lots of fun during group activities. After receiving the treatment of the STAD method, about 75% students perceived that they enjoyed solving worksheet with the help of team member and group discussion seems helpful to solve tough questions. It had observed that positive interaction developed among high- and low-achievers students. In the treatment group, the interest towards biology was also enhanced. More than 85% students of the treatment group reported that cooperative learning activities were helpful to them in making new friends and studying biology in the group was very much interesting. The results of the present study can be explained in light of the findings of Kibirige and Lehong [26], and they suggested that performance and motivation of learners improve when cooperative learning is used in the science classroom. During cooperative learning activities, group members help each other to learn because they care about the group and their fellow members and derive the benefits of group membership [41]. Therefore, all students with diverse abilities get benefited lots with the use of cooperative learning activity and gain significantly higher achievement in posttest scores on BAT.

Findings of the present study are agreed with the findings of Kenneth and Young [32], Majoka et al. [34], Singhanayok and Hooper [35], and Khan [36] which revealed that CLS significantly improve the performance of lower-achiever students. This improvement is due to the reason that the cooperative learning classroom creates harmonious and pleasant learning environment for students and positively motivates them because face to face promotive interaction is one of the essential components of CLS. When the students are working in such a cooperative environment, the learning process becomes interesting and enjoyable [42]. Therefore, lower achievers also take interest in academic task and actively participate in learning activities which contributes towards their success. In the present study, it was reported that on opinionnaire towards the perception of students on cooperative learning, all students agreed that learning activities were very interesting and they enjoyed a lot during the cooperative learning classroom. Almost all students wished that other subjects should also teach with cooperative learning methods. Low-achiever students when working individually in a traditional classroom setup are likely to give up, but when they working cooperatively, they keep going. Students working alone in the teacher-dominant classroom may tend to delay completing assignments or skip them altogether, but in the cooperative task, they know that other team members are counting their contribution; therefore, they are motivated to do the work in a timely manner [43]. The present study shows that, in the treatment group, achievement of low achievers was significantly increased only at the knowledge level although they also showed enhancement in achievement at understanding and applying level but these results were not significant because this may be due to small sample size. The study further revealed that the STAD method increases the achievement of higher achievers; these findings are agreed with the finding of earlier researchers such as Singhanayok and Hooper [35], Armstrong [33], Khan [36], Numprasert [37], and Gemechu and Abebe [39]; they also suggested that cooperative learning methods foster the academic performance of higher achievers and show conflicting results [32, 34, 38]. High-achievers students during cooperative learning activities explaining and clarifying the content to low achievers often find gaps in their own understanding and fill these gaps side by side. Thus, their understanding of any concept became clearer, misunderstanding resolved, and deep understanding is developed. In the words of Hake [44], a cooperative method of teaching engages learners twice effective as compared to the traditional method. This engagement may ultimately contribute towards high performance of students in the cooperative classroom relative to the passive learners of the traditional classroom [45]. This study also adds the literature regarding to the achievement of average achievers as the study reported that the average achievers of the treatment group show significant improvement in their achievement scores in biology from their counterpart which is in close agreement with the results of Numprasert [37] and Buchs et al. [38]. In the view of Zakaria and Iksan [46], cooperative learning creates excellent opportunities for students to engage in problem-solving activities with the help of their group members. Therefore, average students enjoyed and felt challenged to complete their assigned role in the STAD method. The structured cooperative group work provides opportunities for them for active involvement in learning task may be the reasons for better performance. Ainley et al. [47] found in their study that 92% of learners agreed that discussing questions with others aided conceptual understanding, 82% agreed that listening explanations from others facilitated their learning, and more than 90% reported that they felt most engaged and active during class when they were working with their peers in small groups. Contrary to the chalk and talk classroom, the cooperative classroom is learner focused, and they are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning which would be built on their own experiences; they have to consider self-evaluation and focus on factors that contribute to achieving meaningful solutions [48]. This may contribute towards fostering the achievement not only at the knowledge level but also at a higher order at understanding and applying level, as the present study reported that the STAD method fosters the achievement of average and higher achievers at all the three levels of BAT, i.e., knowledge, understanding, and applying levels of the cognitive domain.

6. Conclusion

In the typical traditional classroom, teachers generally tagged the students into three categories on the basis of their performance in examination as low achievers or poor performer, high achiever or good performers, and average achievers. The traditional teaching practices followed in teaching science subjects in India are not sufficient to cater the needs of these diverse ability students, particularly the low achievers, and nor have a potential to develop higher-order thinking skills among these diverse performers. Therefore, in the present study, researchers implemented the STAD method and found that this method is quite effective as compared to the traditional lecture-cum demonstration method to enhance the achievement of diverse ability (low achiever, average achiever, and high achievers) students in biology not only on the knowledge level but also at the understanding and applying level. The study concluded that STAD is an effective method than the traditional method of teaching and creates conducive learning environment, autonomy along with individual responsibility, and joyful experiences to foster the academic achievement of diverse ability students in biology. In the STAD method, students worked in a structured cooperative learning environment with team zeal. Under this learning situation, they work interactively with their peer group, and all students are benefiting from constant coaching, encouragement, and constructive feedback from their team members. Classroom atmosphere is not competitive but became cooperative where fellow members help and motivate each other to learn. Thus, the classroom is full of empathy, cooperation, and harmony that reduces the occurrence of unpleasant situation and maximizes the learning and satisfaction of all diverse ability learners. The learner received autonomy as well as individual liability to complete the assigned task of STAD. Therefore, each student became conscious about his learning and performance that contributes towards enhancement in their achievement. It is concluded from the present study that the STAD method is an effective, innovative pedagogy for the conventional classroom to foster the achievement of all kinds of learners either they are low achiever or high achiever and ensures success for all.

Data Availability

The data used to support the findings of this study are included within the article.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


The authors are thankful to the Faculty of Education, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi 221005 (UP), India, for providing the opportunity to work and their support and interest. Ms. Sangeeta Yaduvanshi is also thankful to the University Grants Commission (UGC), New Delhi, India, for providing the research fellowship.