U.S. Department of Agriculture

Understanding Cooperatives
Instructor's Guide


Printable Main Index

Instructional Unit Links

Unit 1 - The American Enterprise System

Unit 2 - Cooperative Business Principles

Unit 3 - The Structure of Cooperatives

Unit 4 - Finance and Taxation of Cooperatives

Unit 5 - The Cooperative Business Team: Members and Directors - Policy & Control

Unit 6 - The Cooperative Business Team: Manager and Employees - Coordination & Operations

Unit 7 - Mini Cooperative Business Experience

Reference List (Reports & PowerPoint Presentations)

 In each unit, the instructor follows the discussion guide, using corresponding PowerPoint slides, handouts (exercises in some cases), and references. The Instructor may administer a quiz to complete the unit where applicable and discuss answers

Printable - Entire Package (All 7 Units)

Revision Information



Understanding Cooperatives
Instructor's Guide


This instructor's guide, Understanding Cooperatives, is designed for use by secondary and adult teachers of agricultural education courses. It is also readily adaptable for use by post-secondary instructors, as well as for other cooperative educators. The units are designed to be generic in content, and should be supplemented with local, State, or company examples and situations. 

All informational and reference materials are included in electronic format for this program. However, teacher and student references in the Cooperative Information Report (CIR) series are available in hard copies at no charge upon request from USDA Rural Development's Cooperative Programs. 

All PowerPoint slides corresponding to the lesson guides may be used as is, or readapted as the instructor wishes, to fit into any cooperative education program. 

For each Unit, all the applicable teaching documents (i.e., the unit's introduction and directions, discussion guide, index, handouts, case study exercises, and quizzes) are included in .pdf format for easy printing by the instructor. The .pdf file is included on the main page of the Unit. The entire teaching package (all 7 units, excluding PowerPoint slides and references) is printable from this Index page only.

Instructional Units

Unit 1 - The American Business Enterprise System. Teaches the student how businesses are organized in the United States, identifies the characteristics of each form of business, and discusses how the members and/or owners benefit from each.

Unit 2 - Cooperative Business Principles. Identifies the basic concepts that separate a cooperative business from other business forms and explores cooperative principles.

Unit 3 - The Structure of Cooperatives. Teaches the traditional areas that classify cooperatives by financial, geographical, control, and functional structures. The unit also explores a variety of other structural arrangements modern cooperatives are using in today's changing economic environment.

Unit 4 - Finance and Taxation of Cooperatives. Teaches about cooperative financing and how cooperatives are taxed. Special emphasis is places on the different methods used by members to finance their cooperative business.

Unit 5 - The Cooperative Business Team: Members and Directors - Policy & Control. Teaches the rights and responsibilities of cooperative members as they participate in the cooperative either in their role as a member/patron, or as an elected director of the cooperative.

Unit 6 - The Cooperative Business Team: Manager and Employees - Coordination & Operations. Teaches the responsibilities of cooperative managers and employees. Instruction centers on the separation of function between management and employees.

Unit 7 - Mini Cooperative Business Experience. Applying knowledge from the previous units, students work within the framework of a select service or marketing project. Beginning with the pre-organization activities and ending with the distribution of earned income, the instruction becomes more than just classroom exercises.

Understanding Cooperatives Instructional Program
Developed by: Rural Development - Cooperative Programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Cooperative Programs Website