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Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning

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Published by: mitsuki_sylph on May 26, 2010
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09/22/2010

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Cooperative Learning
 
 
 
 
 What Is Cooperative Learning?Cooperation is working together to accomplish sharedgoals. Within cooperative activities individuals seekoutcomes that are beneficial to themselves andbeneficial to all other group members. Cooperativelearning is the instructional use of small groups sothat students work together to maximize their own andeach other's learning. The idea is simple. Classmembers are organized into small groups after receiving instruction from the teacher. They then workthrough the assignment until all group memberssuccessfully understand and complete it. Cooperativeefforts result in participants striving for mutual benefitso that all group members gain from each other'sefforts (Your success benefits me and my successbenefits you), recognizing that all group membersshare a common fate (We all sink or swim together here), knowing that one's performance is mutuallycaused by oneself and one's colleagues (We can notdo it without you), and feeling proud and jointlycelebrating when a group member is recognized for achievement (We all congratulate you on your accomplishment!). In cooperative learning situationsthere is a positive interdependence among students'goal attainments; students perceive that they canreach their learning goals if and only if the other students in the learning group also reach their goals(Deutsch, 1962; Johnson & Johnson, 1989). A teammember's success in creating a multi-mediapresentation on saving the environment, for example,depends on both individual effort and the efforts of other group members who contribute neededknowledge, skills, and resources. No one groupmember will possess all of the information, skills, or resources necessary for the highest possible qualitypresentation. Why Use Cooperative Learning?Students' learning goals may be structured to promotecooperative, competitive, or individualistic efforts. Incontrast to cooperative situations, competitivesituations are ones in which students work againsteach other to achieve a goal that only one or a fewcan attain. In competition there is a negativeinterdependence among goal achievements; studentsperceive that they can obtain their goals if and only if the other students in the class fail to obtain their goals(Deutsch, 1962; Johnson & Johnson, 1989). Norm-referenced evaluation of achievement occurs. Theresult is that students either work hard to do better than their classmates, or they take it easy becausethey do not believe they have a chance to win. Inindividualistic learning situations students work aloneto accomplish goals unrelated to those of classmatesand are evaluated on a criterion-referenced basis.Students' goal achievements are independent;students perceive that the achievement of their learning goals is unrelated to what other students do(Deutsch, 1962, Johnson & Johnson, 1989). Theresult is to focus on self-interest and personalsuccess and ignore as irrelevant the successes andfailures of others.There is a long history of research on cooperative,competitive, and individualistic efforts. Since the firstresearch study in 1898, nearly 600 experimentalstudies and over 100 correlational studies have beenconducted (see Johnson & Johnson, 1989 for acomplete review of these studies). The multipleoutcomes studied can be classified into three major categories: achievement/productivity, positiverelationships, and psychological health. The researchclearly indicates that cooperation, compared withcompetitive and individualistic efforts, typically resultsin (a) higher achievement and greater productivity, (b)more caring, supportive, and committed relationships,and (c) greater psychological health, socialcompetence, and self-esteem. The positive effectsthat cooperation has on so many important outcomesmakes cooperative learning one of the most valuabletools educators have. What Makes Cooperative Groups Work?Educators fool themselves if they think well-meaningdirectives to "work together," "cooperate," and "be ateam," will be enough to create cooperative effortsamong group members. Placing students in groupsand telling them to work together does not in and of itself result in cooperation. Not all groups arecooperative. Sitting in groups, for example, can resultin competition at close quarters or individualistic effortwith talking. To structure lessons so students do infact work cooperatively with each other requires anunderstanding of the components that makecooperation work. Mastering the essentialcomponents of cooperation allows teachers to:Take existing lessons, curricula, and courses andstructure them cooperatively.Tailor cooperative learning lessons to meet the uniqueinstructional circumstances and needs of thecurricula, subject areas, and students.Diagnose the problems some students may have inworking together and intervene to increase theeffectiveness of the student learning groups.The essential components of cooperation arepositiveinterdependence,face-to-face promotive interaction, individual and group accountability,interpersonal andsmall group skills,andgroup processing(Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1993). Systematically structuringthose basic elements into group learning situationshelps ensure cooperative efforts and enables thedisciplined implementation of cooperative learning for long-term success.The first and most important element in structuringcooperative learning is positive interdependence.Positive interdependence is successfully structuredwhen group members perceive that they are linkedwith each other in a way that one cannot succeedunless everyone succeeds. Group goals and tasks,therefore, must be designed and communicated tostudents in ways that make them believe they sink or swim together. When positive interdependence issolidly structured, it highlights that (a) each groupmember's efforts are required and indispensable for group success and (b) each group member has aunique contribution to make to the joint effort becauseof his or her resources and/or role and taskresponsibilities. Doing so creates a commitment to the

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