Cooperative vs competitive vs individualistic learning

Learning Together and Alone: Cooperation, Competitiun, and Individualization

Karl Smith, NACTA journal, 1979

Some of the major research findings are (Johnson and Johnson, 1974, 1975; Johnson, 1979):

1. The successful mastery, retention. and transfer of concepts, rules, and principles is higher in cooperatively structured learning than in competitively or individualistically structured learning. For the day to day conceptual and problem-solving learning, cooperation promotes higher quality and more quantity of learning. This is especially true for students of average and low ability, although the learning of gifted students is in no way lessened by spending much of their time learning in heterogeneous cooperative learning groups.

2. Student motivation to learn will be higher. more intrinsically-oriented, and less extrinsically-oriented in cooperative learning situations than in competitive or individualistic ones.

3. The cognitive and social development of students is more facilitated by cooperative than by competitive or individualistic learning experiences. The ability to take other people’s perspectives, to communicate effectively, to resolve conflicts, and to relate effectively are all encouraged more by cooperative than by competitive or individualistic experiences.

4. Student attitudes toward teachers. other school personnel (principals, teacher aides, counselors), subject areas, and school are more positive in cooperative compared with competitive and individualistic learning experiences. Not only do students who are learning cooperatively like teachers better, they feel more accepted personally and supported academically by teachers.

5. Students like their classmates more in cooperative than in competitive or individualistic learning situations, including classmates from different ethnic groups. the opposite sex, different social classes, and classmates who are intellectually and physically handicapped. Students in cooperative learning situations, furthermore, feel niore supported and accepted by their classmates than do students learning competitively or individualistically.

6. Student self-esteem and psychological health will generally be more positive in cooperative than in competitive and individualistic learning situations.

The essence of cooperative learning is assigning a group goal such as producing a single product (e.g.. a single set of answers to math problems or a single theme or report) or achieving as high a group average on a test as possible, and rewarding the entire group on the basis of the quality or quantity of their product according to a fixed set of standards.

Much of the teacher’s time in cooperative learning situations is spent observing student groups to see what problems they are having in functioning cooperatively.

Intervene as a consultant to help the group solve its problems in working together effectively and to help group members learn the interpersonal and group skills necessary for cooperating.


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