Teacher Resources


Illinois Cooperative Development Center

Teaching About Cooperatives:
Resources for High School & Post-Secondary Teachers

Teaching resources based on USDA cooperatives publications

Other teaching resources on cooperatives


Newly updated: USDA “Understanding Cooperatives” curriculum

This USDA electronic resource package provides a comprehensive introduction to the history, structure, operations, and overall significance of cooperatives. It includes an instructor’s guide, a syllabus, and materials for seven separate units, each including discussion guides, printable handouts and quizzes, and PowerPoint slides. Also included are a reference list and electronic copies of all USDA publications referenced. The curriculum received a minor update in June 2015, following a substantial revision in 2008.  The “Understanding Cooperatives” curriculum is based in large part on two USDA publications: CIR 45: Understanding Cooperatives and CIR 11: Co-op Essentials.

The USDA “Understanding Cooperatives” teaching materials, published by USDA on CD-ROM are available for free in three formats:

  • Newly updated: The complete set of “Understanding Cooperatives” curriculum materials, as revised in June 2015, is available on the ICDC website to download for use on your computer. Download this compressed folder.
  • USDA will ship physical CD-ROM disks on request. Download an order form from the USDA website.
  • Cooperative Network, ICDC’s counterpart cooperative development center in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has developed customized versions for their states that can be used as live HTML on the web. Visit the Cooperative Network site.

For those using a pre-2015 revision of the curriculum on CD-ROM, ICDC advises downloading fresh copies of the two major USDA publications referenced by the “Understanding Cooperatives” package, instead of the versions included in the package itself — both have been significantly updated and improved.

 eXtension High School Cooperative Syllabus

Published in 2012 by the eXtension consortium of state cooperative extension services, this document provides nine chapters (seven basic plus two optional) of syllabus content giving an overview of the history, structure, operations, and overall significance of cooperatives. It also includes descriptions of class activities, a worksheet, and a pre-post test to assess learning. The syllabus is based in large part off of USDA publication CIR 55: Co-ops 101: An Introduction to Cooperatives.

These materials are available for free through the following channels:

 USDA “Co-op Essentials” presentation slides

USDA has published a 94-slide PowerPoint presentation for public use based on USDA publication CIR 11: Co-op Essentials: What They Are and the Role of Members, Directors, Managers, and Employees. CIR 11 is a 51-page booklet that provides a 10-page overview of the nature and structure of cooperatives and then focuses in depth on the roles of the individuals mentioned in its titles.

These resources are available for free in the following formats:

C-FARE “Cooperatives in Your Community” teaching modules

This teaching resource was published by the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE) and the Council on Economic Education (CEE) in 2014. The two modules, “Consumer Cooperatives” and “Agricultural Cooperatives”, each include an instructor’s guide, PowerPoint slides, activity descriptions and a quiz. The modules may be used separately or together and each can be covered in 60 to 180 minutes of class time, depending on activities selected.

The teaching modules and supporting materials are available for free download on the following sites: