Learning Together And Alone: An Overview

in cooperative situations (compared with competitive and individualistic situations) individuals tend to give and receive more help and assistance (both task-related and personal), exchange more resources and information, give and receive more feedback on taskwork and teamwork behaviors, challenge each other’s reasoning more frequently, more frequently advocate increased efforts to achieve, and more frequently influence each other’s reasoning and behavior.

A meta-analysis of all studies indicates cooperative learning results in significantly higher achievement and retention than do competitive and individualistic learning.

over 180 studies indicate that cooperative efforts, compared with competitive and individualistic experiences, promoted considerable more liking among individuals

over 106 studies indicate that cooperative experience promoted greater task-oriented and personal social support than did competitive or individualistic experiences. Working cooperatively with peers and valuing cooperation result in greater psychological health than does competing with peers or working independently

cooperative experiences promoted higher self-esteem than did competitive or individualistic experiences. Cooperative experiences also tended to increase perspective-taking ability while competitive and individualistic experiences tend to promote egocentrism

The outcomes of cooperation documented by the research only result when cooperation is structured competently. Many teachers believe that they are implementing cooperative learning when in fact they are missing its essence.

We have identified five basic elements that are essential and need to be included in order for a situation to be cooperative

Positive interdependence is the perception that you are linked with others in a way so that you cannot succeed unless they do (and vice versa), that is, their work benefits you and your work benefits them

Positive interdependence is the heart of cooperative learning.

Within every cooperative lesson, positive goal interdependence must be established through mutual learning goals (learn the assigned material and make sure that all members of your group learn the assigned material). In order to strengthen positive interdependence, joint rewards (if all members of your group score 90 percent correct or better on the test, each will receive 5 bonus points), divided resources (giving each group member a part of the total information required to complete an assignment), and complementary roles (reader, checker, encourager, elaborator) may also be used. In addition, positive interdependence may be created through a joint identity (identity interdependence), a space in which the group meets (environmental interdependence), asking group members to imagine they are in a specific set of circumstances, such as being shipwrecked on a desert island (fantasy interdependence), and creating intergroup competition or an external standard that must be met (outside challenge interdependence).

First, group membership and interpersonal interaction in and of themselves tend to be insufficient to produce higher achievement and productivity—positive interdependence is also required. Second, goal and reward interdependence tend to be additive—achievement is higher when both are present. Third, both working to achieve a reward and working to avoid the loss of a reward seem to produce higher achievement than do individualistic efforts. Finally, goal interdependence tends to promote higher achievement than does resource interdependence, resource interdependence without goal interdependence tends to decrease achievement compared with individualistic efforts, and the combination of goal and resource interdependence tends to increase achievement more than goal interdependence alone or individualistic efforts.

Individual accountability exists when the performance of each individual student is assessed and the results are given back to the group and the individual. It is important group members know (a) who needs more assistance, support, and encouragement in completing the assignment and (b) they cannot “hitch-hike” on the work of others.

Our research indicates that (a) lack of individual accountability may reduce members contributions, (b) positive interdependence and individual accountability are related—by increasing individual accountability perceived interdependence among group members tends to increase, and © positive interdependence tends to promote individual accountability through “responsibility forces.” Common ways to structure individual accountability include (a) giving an individual test to each student, (b) having each student explain what they have learned to a classmate, © observing each group and collecting data on participation, or (d) randomly selecting one student’s product to represent the entire group.

Promotive interaction may be defined as individuals encouraging and facilitating each other’s efforts to complete tasks and achieve in order to reach the group’s goals. There are cognitive activities and interpersonal dynamics that only occur when students get involved in promoting each other’s learning. This includes orally explaining how to solve problems, discussing the nature of the concepts being learned, teaching one’s knowledge to classmates, and connecting present with past learning.

Accountability to peers, ability to influence each other’s reasoning and conclusions, social modeling, social support, interpersonal rewards, and personal as well as a professional relationships all increase as the face-to-face interaction among group members increase.

The smaller the group (2 to 4 members), the greater the promotive interaction tends to be. David W. Johnson and Roger T. Johnson

April, 2001

Sharan, S. (Guest Editor). (2002). Cooperative Learning. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 22, (1). 95-105

Students must be taught the interpersonal and small group skills needed for high quality cooperation, and be motivated to use them

the highest achievement is promoted by a combination of positive goal interdependence, an academic contingency for high performance by all group members, and a reward contingency for using social skills.

Students’ achievement within cooperative learning groups tends to increase the more socially skilled students are, the more attention teachers pay to teaching social skills and rewarding their use, and the more individual feedback students receive on their use of the skills. The greater students’ social skills, furthermore, the more positive relationships among group members tend to be.

Group processing may be defined as reflecting on a group session to (a) describe what member actions were helpful and unhelpful to achieving goals and maintaining effective working relationships and (b) make decisions about what actions to continue or change.

Some of the keys to successful processing are allowing sufficient time for it to take place, making it specific rather than vague, reminding students to use their social skills while they process, and setting clear expectations as to the purpose of processing

competition will result in constructive consequences when (a) it occurs within a broader cooperative context (here must be agreement on the nature of the competition, the setting in which it occurs, the rules, the criteria for winning, and the beginning and ending points), (b) clear and fair rules and criteria for winning are present (the more ambiguous the rules and criteria for winning, the more destructive the competition tends to be), © the task is appropriate (well-learned, easy, simple), (d) means interdependence is low or nonexistence, (e) competitors have an equal chance of winning (f) winning is of low importance.

Effective cooperation involves considerable conflict among group members. Unless the conflicts are managed constructively, cooperative efforts will fail. Students must be trained to engage in constructive intellectual conflicts (academic controversy) and resolve their differences in interests constructively (integrative negotiations and peer mediation).


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