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Cooperative learning

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Cooperative learning was proposed in response to traditional curriculum-driven education. In cooperative learning environments, students interact in purposely structured heterogeneous group to support the learning of one self and others in the same group.

In Online education, cooperative learning focuses on opportunities to encourage both individual flexibility and affinity to a learning community (Paulsen 2003). Cooperative learning seeks to foster some benefits from the freedom of individual learning and other benefits from collaborative learning. Cooperative learning thrives in virtual learning environments that emphasize individual freedom within online learning communities.

Cooperative learning explicitly builds cooperation skills by assigning roles to team members and establishing norms for conflict resolution via arbitration. Cooperative learning should also provide the means for group reflection and individual self-assessment.

"Cooperative learning (CL) is an instructional paradigm in which teams of students work on structured tasks (e.g., homework assignments, laboratory experiments, or design projects) under conditions that meet five criteria: positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, appropriate use of collaborative skills, and regular self-assessment of team functioning. Many studies have shown that when correctly implemented, cooperative learning improves information acquisition and retention, higher-level thinking skills, interpersonal and communication skills, and self-confidence (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1998)."
--Deborah B. Kaufman, Richard M. Felder, Department of Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University
--Hugh Fuller, College of Engineering, North Carolina State University

Cooperative Learning and Technology

A natural outgrowth of cooperative learning is its pairing with technology that affords learners the chance to bridge distance and time.

David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson's article 'Cooperation and Technology' go into detail about cooperative learning (its relationship with collaborative learning) and technology's potential to play a role in facilitating learning that takes place in group environments. What follows is a summary of that article.

Three Theoretical Perspectives

   Groups stimulate and punish
   Groups offer more pros than they do cons. 
 Cognitive / Constructivist
   Knowledge and Learning are social in nature.
   Learning comes from figuring out unexpected occurrences together. 
 Social Interdependence
     Group as a 'dynamic whole'
     Positive Tension
     High levels of interaction
     Negative Tension

Four Types of Cooperative Learning

     Learners given explicit roles and goals.
     Learners monitored.
     Learners prompted to reflect on process, personal and group contributions.
   Groups may exist for one class period or several weeks.
   Temporary groups with short-term goals.
   Less structure...
 Base Groups
   Long-term (months to a year)
   General support for overall academic success
 Academic Controversy
   Elicit controversy between students.
   State case for each side
   Withstand questioning from opposing viewpoint.
   Come to consensus.


Heterogeneous vs. Homogeneous Grouping

 Heterogeneous Groups
   High Achievers never lose
   Usually better
   Male/Female pairs most off task
 Homogeneous Groups
   Low Achievers fastest to quit
   More interaction in all female groups than all male

Benefits of Cooperative Grouping

 Increased Self Efficacy
 Increased Retention
 Higher Motivation
 Preference for Future Coop-Learning Episodes

Building Better Groups

 Outcome Interdependence 
   Goal attainment depends on group
 Means Interdependence
   Members carry out vital, distinct yet overlapping roles
 Individual Accountability
   Feedback from members
   When needed assistance
   Reassign tasks to promote balance
 Task Complexity
   Task is too complex for any single member to complete it.

Competing Paradigms

Cooperative vs. Collaborative learning

  Normally used interchangeably.
  Cooperative learning can imply more structure than collaborative learning. 

Cooperative vs. Competitive Learning

  In Cooperative Learning, learners must work together in order to succeed and personal success only springs from group success. 
  In Competitive Learning, in order to succeed, other learners must fail.

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts



  • Bohlmeyer, E. M., & Burke, J. P. (1987). Selecting cooperative learning techniques: A consultative strategy guide. School Psychology Review, 16, 36-49.
  • Huber, G. L., Sorrentino, R. M., Davidson, M. A., Epplier, R., et al. (1992). Uncertainty orientation and cooperative learning: Individual differences within and across cultures. Learning & Individual Differences, 4, 1-24.
  • Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1996). Cooperation and the use of technology. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 1017-1044). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
  • Lazarowitz, R., Hertz-Lazarowitz, R., & Baird, J. H. (1994). Learning science in a cooperative setting: Academic achievement and affective outcomes. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 1121-1131.
  • Maring, G. H., Furman, G. C., & Blum-Anderson, J. (1985). Five cooperative learning strategies for mainstreamed youngsters in content area classrooms. Reading Teacher, 39, 310-313.
  • Purdom, D. M., & Kromrey, J. D. (1995). Adapting to cooperative learning strategies to fit college students. College Student Journal, 29, 57-64.
  • Ravid, R., & Shapiro, S. (1992). The use of cooperative learning methods in Jewish schools. Journal of Research & Development in Education, 25, 96-102.
  • Sharan, S. (1980). Cooperative learning in small groups: Recent methods and effects on achievement, attitudes, and ethnic relations. Review of Educational Research, 50, 241-271.
  • Slavin, R. E. (1980). Cooperative learning in teams: State of the art. Educational Psychologist, 15, 93-111.
  • Wallace, J. (1995). Cooperative learning in college classrooms: Getting started. College Student Journal, 29, 458-459.

Additional material



External links

Paulsen, M.F. (2003). Cooperative Freedom: An Online Education Theory. In Online Education and Learning Management Systems.

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