Cooperative Learning – survey
While cooperation in education may appear to be a twentieth-century development, it has long-standing roots in many societies. Indeed, an ancient Jewish tradition of having a partner (hevruta) with whom to study the Talmud is referenced as early as the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 63a). R. Abba said in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: When two disciples form an assembly in halakhah, the Holy One, blessed be He, loves them. Yet not until the twentieth century has there been systematic and wide-ranging international research on the key concepts and methods of cooperation in education.
The field of cooperative and collaborative learning is not monolithic. Indeed there are many methods of cooperative and collaborative learning. For an elaboration on the various approaches to implementing cooperative learning see the Handbook of Cooperative Learning Methods by Shlomo Sharan (1993). What all these approaches share is that students work together cooperatively in small groups of 2-5 members in order to accomplish an academic task in a positive and mutually supportive manner.In a theoretical synthesis of varied cooperative and collaborative learning approaches, Davidson (1994, 2002) has identified five attributes that are common to all the approaches. These are:
- A common task or learning activity suitable for group work
- Small-group interaction focused on the learning activity
- Cooperative, mutually helpful behavior among students
- Interdependence in working together
- Individual accountability and responsibility
In addition to these common attributes, there are nine other attributes which vary among the approaches to cooperative and collaborative learning. Examples of these are how groups are formed, how or whether to teach interpersonal skills, the structure of the group, and the role of the teacher. For further details, see Davidson (1994, 2002). For syntheses of this research see the extensive reviews by Johnson and Johnson (1989), Slavin (1990), Sharan (1980, 1990), and Newmann and Thompson (1987) at the high school level. Additional reviews have focused on conditions for productive group work (Cohen, 1994), task-related group interaction in mathematics groups (Webb, 1991), and cooperative learning with post-secondary students in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (Springer et al, 1999).
Summary of Research
Research conducted in many different subject areas and with various age groups of students has shown positive effects favoring cooperative learning in academic achievement, development of higher order thinking skills (both critical and creative), self esteem and self confidence as learners, intergroup relations including friendship across racial and ethical boundaries, social acceptance of mainstreamed students labeled as handicapped or disabled, development of interpersonal skills, and the ability to take the perspective of another person.
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Sharan, S. (1980). Cooperative Learning in Small Groups: Recent Methods and Effects on Achievement, Attitudes, and Ethnic Relations. Review of Educational Research. 241-271.
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Springer, Leonard, Stanne, Mary Elizabeth & Donovan, Samuel S.. (1999). Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research. (69), 21-51.
Webb, Noreen (1991). Task-Related Verbal Interaction and Mathematics Learning in Small Groups. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education. 22(5), 366-389.
On the next post you will find the first of several cooperative learning procedures (i.e. Think-Pair-Share) that can be implemented in the classroom.