Group Cognition


Contributor: Gerry Stahl

Group cognition is the theory that human thinking and learning is at root interactional. We acquire our ability to think and learn through adopting practices that arise in small-group interactions, such as in our family, work teams or circles of friends. Group cognition is an alternative to psychological theories of mental phenomena in individual minds. The theory emerged from study of student discourse in CSCL settings. The theory is aligned with Vygotsky, Lave, Bereiter, Koschmann, Engeström, Hutchins and socio-cultural, distributed cognition and embodied cognition approaches generally, but with a focus on the small-group unit of analysis. It is also in keeping with 21st century post-cognitive philosophy, such as Marx, Heidegger and Wittgenstein.

The theory was introduced in Group Cognition (Stahl, 2006, MIT Press). Aspects of the VMT research project and technology were described in Studying Virtual Math Teams (Stahl, 2009, Springer). Various perspectives on the research were explicated in Translating Euclid (Stahl, 2013, Morgan & Claypool). A detailed longitudinal study of a team of students engaged in successful collaborative learning of dynamic geometry was presented in Constructing Dynamic Triangles Together (Stahl, 2016, Cambridge). Theoretical Investigations (Stahl, 2018, Springer) brings together many papers related to group cognition. All of Stahl’s writings are collected in his e-library at

The theory of group cognition has strong implications for methodology of the learning sciences and for educational practice, as well as for CSCL technology design and design-based research. These are all discussed in the listed publications.

These abstracts are living documents provided and modified by NAPLeS members. The more contributions we have towards refining the documents the more representative they will be of the community as a whole. If you would like to suggest revisions, please contact [email protected].

Syllabi and Slides

Group Cognition slides by Gerry Stahl

Video Resources

Listen to the Group Cognition webinar


  • Stahl, G. (2006). Group cognition: Computer support for building collaborative knowledge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Stahl, G. (2009). Studying virtual math teams. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Stahl, G. (2010). Group cognition as a foundation for the new science of learning. In M. S. Khine & I. M. Saleh (Eds.), New science of learning: Cognition, computers and collaboration in education (pp. 23-44). New York, NY: Springer.
  • Stahl, G. (2011). How a virtual math team structured its problem solving. Paper presented at the international conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2011). Hong Kong, China. Proceedings pp. 256-263.
  • Stahl, G. (2011). How I view learning and thinking in CSCL groups. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning (RPTEL), 6(3), 137-159.
  • Stahl, G. (2013). The philosophy of group cognition. Presented at the NAPLES course.
  • Stahl, G. (2013). Translating Euclid: Creating a human-centered mathematics. Morgan & Claypool Publishers.
  • Stahl, G., Zhou, N., Cakir, M. P., & Sarmiento-Klapper, J. W. (2011). Seeing what we mean: Coexperiencing a shared virtual world. In Connecting computer-supported collaborative learning to policy and practice: CSCL 2011 conference proceedings (Vol. I, pp. 534-541). Lulu: ISLS.

All the papers can be found at Prof. Stahl’s website

Learning Scientists Who Have Researched This Topic

  • Murat Cakir
  • Tim Koschmann
  • Richard Medina
  • Johann Sarmiento
  • Gerry Stahl
  • Dan Suthers
  • Stephan Trausan-Matu
  • Alan Zemel
  • Nan Zhou