Cooperative Learning in Physical Education: A Research Overview
*Correspondència: Damián Iglesias firstname.lastname@example.org
Iglesias, D., Fernandez-Rio, J., & Rodríguez-González, P. (2023). Cooperative Learning in Physical Education: A Research Overview. Apunts Educación Física y Deportes, 151, 88-93. https://doi.org/10.5672/apunts.2014-0983.es.(2023/1).151.09
The aim of this scientific note was to provide a research overview about cooperative learning in physical education. A literature search was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A total of 46 published articles from Web of Science (Social Science Citation Index and Science Citation Index Expanded) were examined. The results reported: (a) most of the articles were published in 2020 (10 articles), 2021 (9), and 2017 (7); (b) the majority of the articles described intervention studies (32); (c) most articles were published in Journal of Teaching in Physical Education (6), European Physical Education Review (5), and Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy (5), all located in quartile-1 in the latest Journal Citation Reports edition (2020); (d) most studies were conducted in Spain (15), UK (8), and USA (8); (e) the top-ten-cited articles received between 172 (1st) and 47 (10th) citations; (f) only 10 women signed as first authors (21.73%) and only one of them (10%) was among the top-ten-cited articles (10th position). In conclusion, evidence showed a growing expansion of research in this area, especially in intervention studies. However, this positive trend is not homogeneous with respect to geographical areas and the participation of women researchers.
High-quality physical education (PE) research has exponentially increased in the last two decades with nearly 2,000 published articles indexed in the Journal Citation Report (JCR) ranked in quartiles (Q) 1 and 2 (Iglesias & Fernandez-Rio, 2022). This same trend has also been highlighted in research conducted on pedagogical models in PE (Fernandez-Rio & Iglesias, 2022) as a way of organizing learning and teaching from student-centred approaches. More particularly, research on cooperative learning (CL) in PE has also experienced a remarkable growth in recent years, becoming one of the most popular and expanded instructional framework (Bores-García et al., 2021).
Positive interdependence, individual accountability, group processing, promotive interaction and interpersonal skills have been identified as the five key elements that mediate the effectiveness of this methodological approach (Johnson et al., 2013). Ample evidence supports the efficacy of CL implementations to positively impact students’ cognitive, social, physical and affective domains in PE contexts (Bores-García et al., 2021). Moreover, this framework contributes positively to the challenge of building a student-centred quality PE (Casey & Goodyear, 2015). These could be the reasons that have made CL a trendy pedagogical model.
To our knowledge, no previous research has focused on analysing CL in PE from a retrospective overview of the research conducted to date. To bridge this gap, a research overview is presented in this manuscript capturing seven major themes: (1) publication years, (2) Web of Science (WoS) categories, (3) article types, (4) journals and publishers, (5) countries and languages, (6) top-ten-cited articles, and (7) authorship.
This research overview was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines (Page et al., 2021).
Information source and search strategy
A literature search was conducted in WoS (Social Science Citation Index and Science Citation Index Expanded). This database is considered the most complete collection of scholarly publications and research metadata, with a wider coverage of citation information and accuracy in the journal classification system (Ivanović & Ho, 2019). Searches included article titles, abstracts and keywords following this query string: [“cooperative learning” AND “physical education”]. Further manual searches of reference list citations were conducted to ensure that no studies were missed.
Studies were included if they met the following criteria: (1) peer-reviewed journal articles published and written in any language, (2) focused on elementary, middle or/and high school students, (3) conducted in PE contexts, and (4) any design: theoretical approach, review, intervention and non-intervention studies. Exclusion criteria were: (1) participants from preschool or university settings, (2) studies focused on teachers, and (3) studies on hybridizations of pedagogical models. Since no previous study addressed a research overview in this area, to obtain a major historic perspective picture on the topic, a review period from inception to April 24, 2022, was selected.
The potentially eligible studies were initially screened by two independent researchers, who read titles and abstracts following the stipulated criteria prepared in advance and included in the search protocol. In studies with unclear abstracts and/or titles, peer review was conducted, resolving discrepancies through discussion and consensus. In a second phase, the same two reviewers, independently, read the full text of the studies preselected, creating the final list of potentially eligible studies. A third investigator participated when no consensus was reached regarding acceptability or not of a study. Finally, the full texts of the screened articles were carefully examined.
Study identification and selection
A total of 106 records were identified. A total of 60 articles were excluded attending to the eligibility criteria. Reasons for exclusion were: (a) not about CL in PE (n = 42), (b) focused on teachers (n = 11), (c) conducted in university setting (n = 5), and (d) hybridization of pedagogical models (2). Finally, 46 studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria and were selected for further analysis (Figure 1).
Most of the articles were published in 2020 (10), 2021 (9), and 2017 (7). In 2015, three articles were published, while two articles were published in each of these years: 2019, 2018, 2014, 2010, and 2009. Finally, the remaining articles were published in the following years (one per year): 2022, 2018, 2013, 2011, 2011, 2005, 2005, 2004, 2002, and 2001.
Web of Science categories
Most of the articles were indexed in the subject categories: “Education & Educational Research”’ (26) and “Sport Sciences” (15).
The majority of the selected articles described intervention studies (32). A smaller number were cross-sectional (7), review studies (4), and theoretical approaches (3).
Journals and publishers
The journals with the highest number of published articles were the following: Journal of Teaching in Physical Education (6), European Physical Education Review (5), and Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy (5). All of them ranked Q1 in the last JCR edition (2020).
Countries and languages
Most of the studies were conducted in Spain, UK and USA, with a total of 15, 8 and 8 articles, respectively. The rest were conducted in China (4), France (4), New Zealand (4), Taiwan (3), Ireland (2), Norway (2), Turkey (2), Greece (1), Poland (1), South Korea (1), Sweden (1), and Tunisia (1). The vast majority of articles were written in English (43 articles). The rest in Spanish (2) and Turkish (1).
To date (Table 1), the most cited article (172 citations) was Dyson et al. (2004), published in the Quest journal (JCR-Q2), focused on theoretical and pedagogical considerations of CL in PE. The second most cited article (100 citations) was the systematic review conducted by Casey & Goodyear (2015), also published in the Quest journal. The remaining 8 articles corresponding to the top-ten-cited articles described intervention studies that received between 99 and 47 citations and were published in the following journals (JCR-Q1): Journal of Teaching in Physical Education (4), Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy (2), European Physical Education Review (1), and Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (1).
The author with the largest number of published articles (8) is Ben Dyson (University of North Carolina, USA), including 5 in the top-ten-cited articles. The second author with the most published articles (7) is Javier Fernandez-Rio (University of Oviedo, Spain), including 1 in the top-ten cited articles. Regarding the gender of the first author, only 10 women held first authorship (21.73%). Finally, only one article (10%) was signed by a female as first author in the top-ten-cited articles (10th position).
The aim of this scientific note was to provide a research overview on CL in PE. The results showed a notable increase in published articles in recent years, in line with the general evolution of pedagogical models in PE (Fernandez-Rio & Iglesias, 2022; Valero-Valenzuela et al., 2020). Most of the articles described intervention studies that made high-quality contributions in this area. The most cited articles were published in journals indexed in JCR-Q1-Q2. Unfortunately, its geographic distribution has not been uniform. Countries such as Spain, UK and USA concentrate most of the research. Therefore, CL implementation beyond these countries is suggested, considering the positive effects found in the literature (Bores-García et al., 2021; Casey & Goodyear, 2015).
A low representation of women signatories as first authors was also observed, being even more pronounced in the most cited articles. These findings are in line with previous studies on gender gaps in PE research (Iglesias & Fernandez-Rio, 2022).
Finally, to carry out this research overview, only the WoS database was used because of its high consideration among the scientific community and the study focused on high-quality research based on prevalent metrics. However, this could also be considered a limitation. Future studies should expand the search strategy to include more databases (e. g. Scopus, ERIC). On the other hand, the inclusion/exclusion criteria left out studies conducted in other populations and contexts, including hybridizations. New studies should cover these needs observed in the literature.
Based on findings from this research overview, we can draw the following conclusions:
- The number of published articles on CL in PE at JCR journals has increased in recent years, indicating an expanding research topic.
- Most of the studies conducted included intervention programs and the journals with the highest number of published articles are indexed at JCR-Q1.
- Spain, England and the USA were the countries where CL in PE was more frequently implemented. So, an expansion to the rest of the world is suggested.
- The top-ten-cited articles have received between 172 (1st) and 47 (10th) citations.
- Women scholars are underrepresented as first authors and in the top-ten-cited articles.
Finally, evidence showed a growing expansion of research in this area, especially in intervention studies. However, this positive trend is not homogeneous with respect to geographical areas and the participation of women researchers.
 Barret, T. (2005). Effects of cooperative learning on performance of sixth-grade physical education students. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 24(1), 88-102. doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.24.1.88
 Bodsworth, H., & Goodyear, V. A. (2017). Barriers and facilitators to using digital technologies in the cooperative learning model in physical education. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 22(6), 563-579. https://doi.org/10.1080/17408989.2017.1294672
 Bores-García, D., Hortigüela-Alcalá, D., Fernandez-Rio, J., González-Calvo, G., & Barba-Martín, R. (2021). Research on cooperative learning in physical education: Systematic review of the last five years. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 92(1), 146-155. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2020.1719276
 Casey, A., & Dyson, B. (2009). The implementation of models-based practice in physical education through action research. European Physical Education Review, 15(2), 175-199. https://doi.org/10.1177/1356336X09345222
 Casey, A., & Goodyear, V. A. (2015). Can cooperative learning achieve the four learning outcomes of physical education? A review of literature. Quest, 67(1), 56-72. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2014.984733
 Dyson, B. (2001). Cooperative learning in an elementary physical education program. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 20(3), 264-281. https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.20.3.264
 Dyson, B. (2002). The implementation of cooperative learning in an elementary physical education program. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 22(1), 69-85. https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.22.1.69
 Dyson, B., Griffin, L. L., & Hastie, P. (2004). Sport education, tactical games, and cooperative learning: Theoretical and pedagogical considerations. Quest, 56(2), 226-240. https://doi.org/10.1080/00336297.2004.10491823
 Dyson, B., Linehan, N. R., Hastie, P. A. (2010) The ecology of cooperative learning in elementary physical education classes. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 29(2), 113-130. https://doi.org/10.1123/jtpe.29.2.113
 Fernandez-Rio, J., & Iglesias, D. (2022). What do we know about pedagogical models in physical education so far? An umbrella review. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 1-16 (Ahead of print). https://doi.org/10.1080/17408989.2022.2039615
 Fernandez-Rio, J., Sanz, N., Fernandez-Cando, J., & Santos, L. (2017). Impact of a sustained cooperative learning intervention on student motivation. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 22(1), 89-105. https://doi.org/10.1080/17408989.2015.1123238
 Goudas, M., & Magotsiou, E. (2009). The effects of a cooperative physical education program on students’ social skills. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21(3), 356-364. https://doi.org/10.1080/10413200903026058
 Iglesias, D., & Fernandez-Rio, J. (2022). Are women equally represented in high-quality physical education research? Evidence from 2000 to 2020. Sport, Education and Society, 1-14 (Ahead of print). https://doi.org/10.1080/13573322.2022.2054793
 Ivanović, L., & Ho, Y. S. (2019). Highly cited articles in the education and educational research category in the social science citation index: A bibliometric analysis. Educational Review, 71(3), 277-286. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2017.1415297
 Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Holubec, E. J. (2013). Cooperation in the classroom. (9th ed.). Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.
 Page, M. J., McKenzie, J. E., Bossuyt, P. M., Boutron, I., Hoffmann, T. C., Murlrow, C. D., et al. (2021). The PRISMA 2020 statement: An updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews. BMJ, 71, 372. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n71
 Valero-Valenzuela, A., Gregorio García, D., Camerino, O., & Manzano, D. (2020). Hybridisation of the teaching personal and social responsibility model and gamification in physical education. Apunts Educación Física y Deportes, 141, 63-74. https://doi.org/10.5672/apunts.2014-0983.es.(2020/3).141.08
Rebut: 17 de maig de 2022
Acceptat: 21 de setembre de 2022
Publicat: 1 de gener de 2023
Editat per: © Generalitat de Catalunya Departament de la Presidència Institut Nacional d’Educació Física de Catalunya (INEFC)
© Copyright Generalitat de Catalunya (INEFC). Aquest article està disponible a la url https://www.revista-apunts.com/. Aquest treball està publicat sota una llicència Internacional de Creative Commons Reconeixement 4.0. Les imatges o qualsevol altre material de tercers d’aquest article estan incloses a la llicència Creative Commons de l’article, tret que s’indiqui el contrari a la línia de crèdit; si el material no s’inclou sota la llicència Creative Commons, els usuaris hauran d’obtenir el permís del titular de la llicència per reproduir el material. Per veure una còpia d’aquesta llicència, visiteu https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.ca