Cooperative Learning

Why Use Cooperative Learning?

Students' learning goals may be structured to promote cooperative, competitive, or individualistic efforts. In contrast to cooperative situations, competitive situations are ones in which students work against each other to achieve a goal that only one or a few can attain. In competition there is a negative interdependence among goal achievements; students perceive 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. The result is that students either work hard to do better than their classmates, or they take it easy because they do not believe they have a chance to win. In individualistic learning situations students work alone to accomplish goals unrelated to those of classmates and 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). The result is to focus on self-interest and personal success and ignore as irrelevant the successes and failures of others.

There is a long history of research on cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts. Since the first research study in 1898, nearly 600 experimental studies and over 100 correlational studies have been conducted (see Johnson & Johnson, 1989 for a complete review of these studies). The multiple outcomes studied can be classified into three major categories: achievement/productivity, positive relationships, and psychological health. The research clearly indicates that cooperation, compared with competitive and individualistic efforts, typically results in (a) higher achievement and greater productivity, (b) more caring, supportive, and committed relationships, and (c) greater psychological health, social competence, and self-esteem. The positive effects that cooperation has on so many important outcomes makes cooperative learning one of the most valuable tools educators have.

I like to work cooperatively, but it is not easy. Why? I think I am selfish by nature. Do I? should I? Can I change that?

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