Cooperative Education

Summary of reform: Instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning and toward a group goal. It is based on the social interdependence theory of Kurt Lewin and Morton Deustch (1930-1940s). Several researchers have detailed the conditions under which cooperative, individualized, and competitive structures affect or increase student achievement such as David and Roger Johnson at University of Minnesota, Robert Slavinb at Johns Hopkins University, and Elizabeth Cohen at Stanford. The development of interpersonal skills is as important as the learning itself; learning to cooperate is key to high quality work, group process skills are developed. Teaches students to work well in group settings. Process directly tied to outcome.


 Level of institutionalization: Ranges greatly. Can be an individual faculty member incorporates into a class but often part of a school or college curriculum and is institutionalized through formal arrangements

Outcomes: Critical thinking, student motivation to learn, interdependence, work well in group environment; important in internationalized or globalized world

Description of assessment: Have not found much about just assessing cooperative learning but it has been studied as a part of the science reforms, new wave calculus, and NCEE may have some studies on. Article by Bredehoft says there is not much research to date on the effects of cooperative learning in colleges. 63 studies indicate that cooperative learning promotes greater achievement than traditional competitive methods. Also students provide more support for each other. Learning together promotes higher-level critical thinking and increase student motivation.

Resistances: Faculty may be resistant to changing from comfortable lecture formats to the more labor-intensive facilitation of group work.

Evolution/History: Long history from the 1930 and 1940s from studies by Kurt Lewin who looked at ways to increased learning by balancing competition and cooperation in classrooms. Popular for a while, there is even a cooperative education journal from the mid part of the century. It lost momentum but has recently been brought back with the interest in collaborative and active learning.

Link to suggested readings: Articles on Cooperative Learning

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