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Why Use Cooperative Learning?

Academic Achievement
Will cooperative learning help students learn? Research has shown that students who work in
cooperative groups do better on tests, especially with regard to reasoning and critical thinking
skills than those that do not (Johnson and Johnson, 1989 ).
"In extensive meta-analyses across hundreds of studies, cooperative arrangements
were found superior to either competitive or individualistic structures on a variety of
outcome measures, generally showing higher achievement, higher-level reasoning,
more frequent generation of new ideas and solutions, and greater transfer of what is
learned from one situation to another." (Barkley, et al, 2005: p.17-18)
In Slavin, 1991 's review of 67 studies, 61% of the cooperative-learning classes
achieved significantly higher test scores than the traditional classes. He notes that the
difference between the more and less effective cooperative-learning classes was that
the effective ones stressed group goals and individual accountability.
Slavin (1996) further argues that "cooperative learning has its greatest effects on
student learning when groups are recognized or rewarded based on the individual
learning of their group members" (p. 52).
Cooperative learning has also been observed to enhance achievement of female and African
American students (Herreid, 1998 ), members of groups that are underrepresented in various
disciplines.
Students in mixed groups (different races, genders, learning styles) tend to have a
deeper understanding of the material and remember more than those in homogeneous
groups (Wenzel, 2000 ).
"In a study of 2051 students at 23 institutions, Cabreara (1998) found that minority
students expressed a greater preference for learning in groups than did majority
students." (Barkley et al 2005, p. 21)
Williamson and Rowe, 2002 observed that students in cooperative-learning sections were
more willing to ask the instructor questions (in class or through office visits) than those in
traditionally taught sections.
Motivation and Retention
Related Links
The Affective Domain: Motivating Students
One reason for improved academic achievement is that students who are learning
cooperatively are more active participants in the learning process (Lord, 2001 ). They care
about the class and the material and they are more personally engaged.
Compared to students learning on their own, students who are engaged in cooperative
learning:
Like the subject and college better (Johnson et al., 1998 , Lord, 2001 , Springer et al,
1999)
Are more likely to make friends in class: they like and trust other students more than
students who are learning individually (Johnson et al., 1998 )
o Ethnically mixed cooperative-learning groups are more likely to result in inter-
ethnic friendships than traditional learning techniques (Slavin, 1991 ; Wenzel,
2000 , Johnson et al., 1983 )
Have more self-esteem (Johnson et al., 1998 , Slavin, 1991 ): a very important
consideration with female and minority students
Even if student satisfaction were not an end in itself, it should be noted that motivated
students are less likely to miss class or drop out.
In a study on the retention rates of African American students majoring in
mathematics and science at Berkley, Treisman (1985) found that the five year
retention rate for students who were involved in collaborative learning groups was 65
percent, much higher than the 41 percent for students not participating in such groups.
According to a study of two chemistry classes (Williamson and Rowe, 2002 ), one of
which was a standard lecture class and the other of which centered around problem-
solving by student groups:
o There was no significant differences in achievement between the two classes
for students that finished the course.
o But 33% of the students in the lecture class dropped out of the course
compared to only 17% of those in the cooperative-learning class.
Project Scope
Instructors who routinely have students work in groups not only conserve materials but also
provide opportunities for students to engage in more substantial projects or a larger number
of smaller projects than they could achieve individually.
Life Skills
Teamwork is essential in modern workplaces.
Most projects need different kinds of experts, or at least a division of labor.
All jobs require the ability to communicate, cooperate, assess, and delegate.
Even outside of work, it is generally neccessary to get along with and communicate
with other people.
Johnson et al., 1998 stress that the most successful individuals in business, research,
and school are the least competitive.