Let’s Have Cooperative Learning for Lessons!, pp. 3 of 11

Why Use Cooperative Learning?

Considerable research studies have reported that cooperative learning, when implemented well, promotes academic achievement in a wide range of subjects and at various levels of schooling (see reviews by Johnson and Johnson, 1999a; Slavin, 1995; Webb, 2008). However, it is rather unclear why and how cooperative learning influences achievement, and under what conditions it has these positive effects (Slavin, 2011). This uncertainty, according to Slavin (2011), could be a result of researchers investigating the effects of cooperative learning on achievement from four different theoretical perspectives – motivationalist, social cohesion (or social interdependence), cognitive developmental and cognitive elaborative theories.

For researchers who adopt the motivationalist perspectives like Slavin (1995), the focus is on the reward or goal structure under which students operate, which creates a situation that motivates individual students to encourage and help their group mates to learn so that they can succeed in attaining their own personal goals. In contrast, social cohesion (social interdependent) theorists such as Sharan and Sharan (1992), Aronson and his colleagues (1978) believe that the benefits of cooperative learning arise from group cohesiveness. Group members help each other learn as they identify and care about the group, and as the task is structured in a way to promote productive interactions among group members.

Researchers, influenced by cognitive-developmental and cognitive elaborative theories, look at cognitive explanations for the cooperative learning effects. They focus on student-student interactions that determine learning and achievement. Influenced by eminent psychologists such as Piaget (1926) and Vygotsky (1978), the developmental theorists suggest that interactions promote student mastery of critical concepts with the extension of their existing understanding through peer feedback. Somewhat related to this perspective is the cognitive elaboration perspective, which holds that students learn and remember materials better when they are able to explain them to others during group interactions.

In addition to the positive impacts of cooperative learning on academic achievement, there are also non-academic benefits of cooperative learning. Studies have reported closer friendship among students of different ethnic backgrounds, better self-esteem, greater altruism and cooperation, more task engagement and increased liking for subjects, school and classmates (Slavin, 1995). As students work in groups, they learn to understand and appreciate individual differences and display greater commitment to civic and citizenship values such as freedom of speech, fairness and equality (Morton, 2008) which can stand them in good stead as citizens.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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