cooperative learning theory research and practice pdf

Cooperative learning theory research and practice pdf

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International Conference on Education and Language (ICEL)

Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research and Practice, 2nd Edition

Professor & Emeritus Professor, Purdue University & University of Minnesota

Cooperative Learning: Review of Research and Practice.

Cooperative learning and academic achievement: why does groupwork work? This article is based on an address at a meeting of the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education, Scarborough, England, July 6, Cooperative learning refers to instructional methods in which students work in small groups to help each other learn.

International Conference on Education and Language (ICEL)

Cooperative learning and academic achievement: why does groupwork work? This article is based on an address at a meeting of the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education, Scarborough, England, July 6, Cooperative learning refers to instructional methods in which students work in small groups to help each other learn.

Four major theoretical perspectives on achievement effects of cooperative learning are reviewed: Motivational, social cohesion, developmental, and cognitive elaboration. Evidence from practical classroom research primarily supports the motivational perspective, which emphasizes the use of group goals and individual accountability for group success. However, there are conditions under which methods derived from all four theoretical perspectives contribute to achievement gain.

This chapter reconciles these perspectives in a unified theory of cooperative learning effects. Key words: Cooperative learning; achievement; cooperation; motivation; development. Cooperative learning refers to teaching methods in which students work together in small groups to help each other learn academic content. In one form or another, cooperative learning has been used and studied in every major subject, with students from preschool to college, and in all types of schools.

Cooperative learning is used at some level by hundreds of thousands of teachers. This article focuses on research on achievement outcomes of cooperative learning in elementary and secondary schools, and on the evidence supporting various theories to account for effects of cooperative learning on achievement.

While researchers generally agree that cooperative learning can have a positive effect on student achievement, there remains a controversy about why and how various cooperative learning methods affect achievement and, most importantly, under what conditions cooperative learning has these effects Rohrbeck et al. Different groups of researchers investigating cooperative learning effects on achievement begin with different assumptions and conclude by explaining the achievement effects of cooperative learning in terms that are substantially unrelated or contradictory.

In earlier work, Slavin , , identified motivationalist, social cohesion, cognitive-developmental and cognitive-elaboration as the four major theoretical perspectives on the achievement effects of cooperative learning.

The motivationalist perspective presumes that task motivation is the single most impactful part of the learning process, asserting that the other processes such as planning and helping are driven by individuals' motivated self interest. Motivationalist-oriented scholars focus more on the reward or goal structure under which students operate. By contrast, the social cohesion perspective also called social interdependence theory suggests that the effects of cooperative learning are largely dependent on the cohesiveness of the group.

The two cognitive perspectives focus on the interactions among groups of students, holding that in themselves, these interactions lead to better learning and thus better achievement. Within the general cognitive heading, developmentalists attribute these effects to processes outlined by scholars such as Piaget and Vygotsky.

Work from the cognitive elaboration perspective asserts that learners must engage in some manner of cognitive restructuring elaboration of new materials in order to learn them. Cooperative learning is said to facilitate that process. This article offers a theoretical model of cooperative learning processes which intends to acknowledge the contributions of work from each of the major theoretical perspectives.

It places them in a model that depicts the likely role each plays in cooperative learning outcomes. This work further explores conditions under which each may operate, and suggests research and development needed to advance cooperative learning scholarship so that educational practice may truly benefit the lessons of thirty years of research.

The alternative perspectives on cooperative learning may be seen as complementary, not contradictory. For example, motivational theorists would not argue that the cognitive theories are unnecessary. Instead, they assert that motivation drives cognitive process, which in turn produces learning. They would argue that it is unlikely that over the long haul students would engage in the kind of elaborated explanations found by Webb to be essential to profiting from cooperative activity, without a goal structure designed to enhance motivation.

Similarly, social cohesion theorists might hold that the utility of extrinsic incentives must lie in their contribution to group cohesiveness, caring, and pro-social norms among group members, which could in turn affect cognitive processes.

A simple path model of cooperative learning processes, adapted from Slavin , is diagrammed in Figure 1. It depicts the functional relationships among the major theoretical approaches to cooperative learning. The diagram of the interdependent relationships among each of the components in Figure 1 begins with a focus on group goals or incentives based on the individual learning of all group members.

That is, the model assumes that motivation to learn and to encourage and help others to learn activates cooperative behaviors that will result in learning. This would include both task motivation and motivation to interact in the group. In this model, motivation to succeed leads to learning directly, and also drives the behaviors and attitudes that lead to group cohesion, which in turn facilitates the types of group interactions-peer modeling, equilibration, and cognitive elaboration-that yield enhanced learning and academic achievement.

The relationships are conceived to be reciprocal, such that as task motivation leads to the development of group cohesion, that development may reinforce and enhance task motivation.

By the same token, the cognitive processes may become intrinsically rewarding and lead to increased task motivation and group cohesion. Each aspect of the diagrammed model is well represented in the theoretical and empirical cooperative learning literature. All have well established rationales and some supporting evidence. What follows is a review of the basic theoretical orientation of each perspective, a description of the cooperative learning mode each prescribes, and a discussion of the empirical evidence supporting each.

Motivational perspectives on cooperative learning presume that task motivation is the most important part of the process, believing that the other processes are driven by motivation. Therefore, these scholars focus primarily on the reward or goal structures under which students operate see Slavin, From a motivationalist perspective, cooperative incentive structures create a situation in which the only way group members can attain their own personal goals is if the group is successful.

Therefore, to meet their personal goals, group members must both help their groupmates to do whatever enables the group to succeed, and, perhaps even more importantly, to encourage their groupmates to exert maximum efforts. In other words, rewarding groups based on group performance or the sum of individual performances creates an interpersonal reward structure in which group members will give or withhold social reinforcers e.

The motivationalist critique of traditional classroom organization holds that the competitive grading and informal reward system of the classroom creates peer norms opposing academic efforts see Coleman, Since one student's success decreases the chances that others will succeed, students are likely to express norms that high achievement is for "nerds" or "teachers' pets". However, by having students work together toward a common goal, they may be motivated to express norms favoring academic achievement, to reinforce one another for academic efforts.

Not surprisingly, motivational theorists build group rewards into their cooperative learning methods. In methods developed at Johns Hopkins University Slavin, , , students can earn certificates or other recognition if their average team scores on quizzes or other individual assignments exceed a pre-established criterion.

The theoretical rationale for these group rewards is that if students value the success of the group, they will encourage and help one another to achieve. Considerable evidence from practical applications of cooperative learning in elementary and secondary schools supports the motivationalist position that group rewards are essential to the effectiveness of cooperative learning, with one critical qualification.

Use of group goals or group rewards enhances the achievement outcomes of cooperative learning if and only if the group rewards are based on the individual learning of all group members Slavin, Most often, this means that team scores are computed based on average scores on quizzes which all teammates take individually, without teammate help.

Following this, students take individual quizzes on the material, and the teams may earn certificates based on the degree to which team members have improved over their own past records. The only way the team can succeed is to ensure that all team members have learned, so the team members' activities focus on explaining concepts to one another, helping one another practice, and encouraging one another to achieve. In contrast, if group rewards are given based on a single group product for example, the team completes one worksheet or solves one problem , there is little incentive for group members to explain concepts to one another, and one or two group members may do all the work see Slavin, In assessing the empirical evidence supporting cooperative learning strategies, the greatest weight must be given to studies of longer duration.

Well executed, these are bound to be more realistically generalizable to the day to day functioning of classroom practices. A review of 99 studies of cooperative learning in elementary and secondary schools that involved durations of at least four weeks compared achievement gains in cooperative learning and control groups. Comparisons of alternative treatments within the same studies found similar patterns; group goals based on the sum of individual learning performances were necessary to the instructional effectiveness of the cooperative learning models e.

A theoretical perspective somewhat related to the motivational viewpoint holds that the effects of cooperative learning on achievement are strongly mediated by the cohesiveness of the group. The quality of the group's interactions is thought to be largely determined by group cohesion. In essence, students will engage in the task and help one another learn because they identify with the group and want one another to succeed. This perspective is similar to the motivational perspective in that it emphasizes primarily motivational rather than cognitive explanations for the instructional effectiveness of cooperative learning.

However, motivational theorists hold that students help their groupmates learn primarily because it is in their own interests to do so. Social cohesion theorists, in contrast, emphasize the idea that students help their groupmates learn because they care about the group. A hallmark of the social cohesion perspective is an emphasis on teambuilding activities in preparation for cooperative learning, and processing or group self-evaluation during and after group activities.

Social cohesion theorists have historically tended to downplay or reject the group incentives and individual accountability held by motivationalist researchers to be essential. For example, Cohen , pp. Cohen, Aronson, and the Sharans all use forms of cooperative learning in which students take on individual roles within the group, which Slavin calls "task specialization" methods. In Aronson's Jigsaw method, students study material on one of four or five topics distributed among the group members.

They meet in "expert groups" to share information on their topics with members of other teams who had the same topic, and then take turns presenting their topics to the team. In the Sharans' Group Investigation method, groups take on topics within a unit studied by the class as a whole, and then further subdivide the topic into tasks within the group.

The students investigate the topic together and ultimately present their findings to the class as a whole. In the Johnsons' methods, a somewhat similar form of interdependence is created by having students take on roles as "checker," "recorder," "observer," and so on. The idea is that if students value their groupmates as a result of teambuilding and other cohesiveness-building activities and are dependent on one another, they are likely to encourage and help one another to succeed.

Empirical support for the social cohesion perspective. The achievement outcomes of cooperative learning methods that emphasize task specialization are less clear. Research on the original form of Jigsaw has not generally found positive effects of this method on student achievement Slavin, One problem with this method is that students have limited exposure to material other than that which they studied themselves, so learning gains on their own topics may be offset by losses on their groupmates' topics.

In studies of at least four weeks' duration, the Johnson's methods have not generally been found to increase achievement more than individualistic methods unless they incorporate group rewards in this case, group grades based on the average of group members' individual quiz scores see Slavin, Research on practical classroom applications of methods based on social cohesion theories provide inconsistent support for the proposition that building cohesiveness among students through teambuilding alone i.

The major alternative to the motivationalist and social cohesiveness perspectives on cooperative learning, both of which focus primarily on group norms and interpersonal influence, is the cognitive perspective. The cognitive perspective holds that interactions among students will in themselves increase student achievement for reasons which have to do with mental processing of information rather than with motivations.

Cooperative methods developed by cognitive theorists involve neither the group goals that are the cornerstone of the motivationalist methods nor the emphasis on building group cohesiveness characteristic of the social cohesion methods. However, there are several quite different cognitive perspectives, as well as some which are similar in theoretical perspective, but have developed on largely parallel tracks.

The two most notable of these are described in the following sections. One widely researched set of cognitive theories is the developmental perspective e. The fundamental assumption of the developmental perspective on cooperative learning is that interaction among children around appropriate tasks increases their mastery of critical concepts.

Vygotsky , p. In his view, collaborative activity among children promotes growth because children of similar ages are likely to be operating within one another's proximal zones of development, modeling in the collaborative group behaviors more advanced than those they could perform as individuals. Similarly, Piaget held that social-arbitrary knowledge-language, values, rules, morality, and symbol systems- can only be learned in interactions with others. Peer interaction is also important in logical-mathematical thought in disequilibrating the child's egocentric conceptualizations and in providing feedback to the child about the validity of logical constructions.

There is a great deal of empirical support for the idea that peer interaction can help non-conservers become conservers. From the developmental perspective, the effects of cooperative learning on student achievement would be largely or entirely due to the use of cooperative tasks. In this view, opportunities for students to discuss, to argue, and to present and hear one another's viewpoints are the critical element of cooperative learning with respect to student achievement.

Despite considerable support from theoretical and laboratory research, there is little evidence, from classroom experiments conducted over meaningful time periods, that "pure" cooperative methods, which depend solely on interaction, do produce higher achievement.

Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research and Practice, 2nd Edition

Skip to search form Skip to main content You are currently offline. Some features of the site may not work correctly. DOI: Cooperative learning is widely recognised as a pedagogical practice that promotes socialization and learning among students from pre-school through to tertiary level and across different subject domains. It involves students working together to achieve common goals or complete group tasks - goals and tasks that they would be unable to complete by themselves. View PDF.

Language Editing Service. Abrami, P. Classroom connections: Understanding and using cooperative learning. Toronto, Ontario: Harcourt Brace. Alfares, N. English Language Teaching, 10 7


Four theoretical perspectives on cooperative learning and. research efforts, inform educational practice, and foster the design of effective professional training.


Professor & Emeritus Professor, Purdue University & University of Minnesota

Allen, V. Children helping children: Psychological processes in tutoring. Levin and. Allen Eds.

Cite this chapter as: Johnson D. What is Cooperative Learning Theory? In these environments, students are able to learn from each other, utilize each other's skill sets and resources, and share experiences that may benefit the entire group.

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Cooperative Learning: Review of Research and Practice.

Without the cooperation of its members society cannot survive, and the society of man has survived because the cooperativeness of its members made survival possible…. It was not an advantageous individual here and there who did so, but the group. In human societies the individuals who are most likely to survive are those who are best enabled to do so by their group. How students interact with each another is a neglected aspect of instruction. Much training time is devoted to helping teachers arrange appropriate interactions between students and materials i. It should not be.

In Davidson, N. Small-group learning in higher education: Cooperative, collaborative, problem-based, and team-based learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25 4. Prepared for A. Vollmer, M. Dick and T. Wehner Eds.

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