Prior to World War II, social theorists such as Allport, Watson, Shaw, and Mead began establishing cooperative learning theory after finding that group work was more effective and efficient in quantity, quality, and overall productivity when compared to working alone. However, it wasn’t until 1937 when researchers May and Doob found that people who cooperate and work together to achieve shared goals, were more successful in attaining outcomes, than those who strived independently to complete the same goals. Furthermore, they found that independent achievers had a greater likelihood of displaying competitive behaviours. Philosophers and psychologists in the 1930s and 40’s such as John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Morton Deutsh also influenced the cooperative learning theory practiced today. Dewey believed it was important that students develop knowledge and social skills that could be used outside of the classroom, and in the democratic society. This theory portrayed students as active recipients of knowledge by discussing information and answers in groups, engaging in the learning process together rather than being passive receivers of information (e.g. teacher talking, students listening). Lewin’s contributions to cooperative learning were based on the ideas of establishing relationships between group members in order to successfully carry out and achieve the learning goal. Deutsh’s contribution to cooperative learning was positive social interdependence, the idea that the student is responsible for contributing to group knowledge. Since then, David and Roger Johnson have been actively contributing to the cooperative learning theory. In 1975, they identified that cooperative learning promoted mutual liking, better communication, high acceptance and support, as well as demonstrated an increase in a variety of thinking strategies among individuals in the group. Students who showed to be more competitive lacked in their interaction and trust with others, as well as in their emotional involvement with other students. In 1994 Johnson and Johnson published the 5 elements (positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, social skills, and processing) essential for effective group learning, achievement, and higher-order social, personal and cognitive skills (e.g., problem solving, reasoning, decision-making, planning, organizing, and reflecting).
Formal cooperative learning is structured, facilitated, and monitored by the educator over time and is used to achieve group goals in task work (e.g. completing a unit). Any course material or assignment can be adapted to this type of learning, and groups can vary from 2-6 people with discussions lasting from a few minutes up to a period. Types of formal cooperative learning strategies include jigsaw, assignments that involve group problem solving and decision making, laboratory or experiment assignments, and peer review work (e.g. editing writing assignments). Having experience and developing skill with this type of learning often facilitates informal and base learning.
Informal cooperative learning incorporates group learning with passive teaching by drawing attention to material through small groups throughout the lesson or by discussion at the end of a lesson, and typically involves groups of two (e.g. turn-to-your-partner discussions). These groups are often temporary and can change from lesson to lesson (very much unlike formal learning where 2 students may be lab partners throughout the entire semester contributing to one another’s knowledge of science). Discussions typically have four components that include formulating a response to questions asked by the educator, sharing responses to the questions asked with a partner, listening to a partner’s responses to the same question, and creating a new well-developed answer. This type of learning enables the student to process, consolidate, and retain more information learned.
In group-based cooperative learning, these peer groups gather together over the long term (e.g. over the course of a year, or several years such as in high school or post-secondary studies) to develop and contribute to one another’s knowledge mastery on a topic by regularly discussing material, encouraging one another, and supporting the academic and personal success of group members. Base group learning is effective for learning complex subject matter over the course or semester and establishes caring, supportive peer relationships, which in turn motivates and strengthens the student’s commitment to the group’s education while increasing self-esteem and self worth. Base group approaches also make the students accountable to educating their peer group in the event that a member was absent for a lesson. This is effective both for individual learning, as well as social support.
Brown & Ciuffetelli Parker (2009) discuss the 5 basic and essential elements to cooperative learning:
1. Positive Interdependence
- Students must fully participate and put forth effort within their group
- Each group member has a task/role/responsibility therefore must believe that they are responsible for their learning and that of their group
2. Face-to-Face Promotive Interaction
- Member promote each others success
- Students explain to one another what they have or are learning and assist one another with understanding and completion of assignments
3. Individual Accountability
- Each student must demonstrate master of the content being studied
- Each student is accountable for their learning and work, therefore eliminating “social loafing”
4. Social Skills
- Social skills that must be taught in order for successful cooperative learning to occur
- Skills include effective communication, interpersonal and group skills
- i. Leadership
- ii. Decision-making
- iii. Trust-building
- iv. Communication
- v. Conflict-management skills
5. Group Processing
- Every so often groups must assess their effectiveness and decide how it can be improved
In order for student achievement to improve considerably, two characteristics must be present a) Students are working towards a group goal or recognition and b) success is reliant on each individual’s learning
- a. When designing cooperative learning tasks and reward structures, individual responsibility and accountability must be identified. Individuals must know exactly what their responsibilities are and that they are accountable to the group in order to reach their goal.
- b. Positive Interdependence among students in the task. All group members must be involved in order for the group to complete the task. In order for this to occur each member must have a task that they are responsible for which cannot be completed by any other group member.
Research on cooperative learning demonstrated “overwhelmingly positive” results and confirmed that cooperative modes are cross-curricular. Cooperative learning requires students to engage in group activities that increase learning and adds other important dimensions. The positive outcomes include: academic gains, improved race relations and increased personal and social development. Brady & Tsay (2010) report that students who fully participated in group activities, exhibited collaborative behaviours, provided constructive feedback and cooperated with their group had a higher likelihood of receiving higher test scores and course grades at the end of the semester. Results from Brady & Tsay’s (2010) study support the notion that cooperative learning is an active pedagogy that fosters higher academic achievement (p. 85).
Slavin states the following regarding research on cooperative learning which corresponds with Brady & Tsay’s (2010) findings.
- Students demonstrate academic achievement
- Cooperative learning methods are usually equally effective for all ability levels.
- Cooperative learning is affective for all ethnic groups
- Student perceptions of one another are enhanced when given the opportunity to work with one another
- Cooperative learning increases self esteem and self concept
- Ethnic and physically/mentally handicapped barriers are broken down allowing for positive interactions and friendships to occur
^ May, M. and Doob, L. (1937). Cooperation and Competition. New York: Social Sciences Research Council
^ a b c Sharan, Y. (2010). Cooperative Learning for Academic and Social Gains: valued pedagogy, problematic practice. European Journal of Education, 45,(2), 300-313.
^ Johnson, D., Johnson, R. (1975). Learning together and alone, cooperation, competition, and individualization. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
^ Johnson, D., Johnson, R. (1994). Learning together and alone, cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Needham Heights, MA: Prentice-Hall.
^ a b c Johnson, D., Johnson, R., & Holubec, E. (1988). Advanced Cooperative Learning. Edin, MN: Interaction Book Company.
^ a b c Brown, H., & Ciuffetelli, D.C. (Eds.). (2009). Foundational methods: Understanding teaching and learning. Toronto: Pearson Education.
^ a b Brown, H., & Ciuffetelli, D.C. (Eds.). (2009). Foundational methods: Understanding teaching and learning, p. 507. Toronto: Pearson Education.
^ Brown, H., & Ciuffetelli, D.C. (Eds.). (2009). Foundational methods: Understanding teaching and learning, p. 508. Toronto: Pearson Education.
- Aldrich, H., & Shimazoe,J. (2010). Group work can be gratifying: Understanding and overcoming resistance to cooperative learning. College Teaching, 58(2), 52-57.
- Baker,T., & Clark, J. (2010). Cooperative learning- a double edged sword: A cooperative learning model for use with diverse student groups. Intercultural Education, 21(3), 257-268.
- Kose, S., Sahin, A., Ergu, A., & Gezer, K. (2010). The effects of cooperative learning experience on eight grade students’ achievement and attitude toward science. Education, 131 (1), 169-180.
- Lynch, D. (2010). Application of online discussion and cooperative learning strategies to online and blended college courses. College Student Journal, 44(3), 777-784.
- Naested, I., Potvin, B., & Waldron, P. (2004). Understanding the landscape of teaching. Toronto: Pearson Education.
- Scheurell, S. (2010). Virtual warrenshburg: Using cooperative learning and the internet in the social studies classroom. Social Studies, 101(5), 194-199.
- Tsay, M., & Brady, M. (2010). A case study of cooperative learning and communication pedagogy: Does working in teams make a difference? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2), 78 – 89.
56 East River Rd
Ed.D., Columbia University
I’ve authored over 500 research articles and book chapters and over 50 books. I’m a past-editor of the American Educational Research Journal. For the past 40 years I have served as an organizational consultant to schools and businesses throughout the world. I am a practicing psychotherapist.
My research interests are (a) cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts; (b) conflict resolution (structured controversy and peer mediation), and (c) social psychology of groups in general. I am active in the field of organizational development and change, and in innovation in educational practice. I emphasize the integration of theory, research, and practice.
See "Working cooperatively: proof that students who work together, learn together"
Ed.D. in social psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York, 1964-1966
M.A. in social psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York, 1962-1964
B.S. in English, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 1958-1962
Professor, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1973 - present
Associate professor, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1969 - 1973
Assistant professor, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 1966 - 1969
Instructor, City University of New York, 1965 - 1966
- Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. (2000). Joining together: Group Theory and Group Skills
- Johnson, D. W. (2000). Reaching out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-actualization
- Holubec, E., Mitchell, J., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (2000). Instructor's Manu
Ed.D., University of California at Berkeleyscience education
Curriculum & Instruction
60 Peik H
157 Pillsbury Dr SE
I have had the opportunity to teach in several innovative public schools. My research focus has been the development and dissemination of cooperative learning techniques for the classroom throughout the U.S., Canada, and in several other countries. I am the author of numerous articles and book chapters and co-author with my brother David of several books, including Learning Together and Alone, Circles of Learning, and Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. More on cooperative learning can be found at The Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota.
See "Working cooperatively: proof that students who work together, learn together."
- Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (2000). Cooperative learning, values, and culturally plural classrooms. In M. Leicester, C. Modgill, & S. Modgill (Eds.), Values, the classroom, and cultural diversity (pp. 15-28). London: Cassell PLC.
- Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (2000). Cooperation, conflict, cognition, and metacognition. In A. Costa (Ed.), Developing minds: A resource book for teaching thinking (2nd ed). Alexandria VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R., & Smith, K. (2000). Constructive controversy: The educative power of intellectual conflict. Change, 32(1), 28-37.
- Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (1999). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Robert A. SlavinDirector
Robert Slavin is a noted psychologist who studies educational and academic issues. He founded the Success for All reform program for primary and middle schools.
He will lead the Institute for Effective Education at the University of York - this is an international, independent multi-disciplinary resource focused on producing high-quality evidence-based assessments of educational practice and policy, and translating it into effective action to benefit all young people.
The IEE is established at the University thanks to an £11 million donation from the Bowland Charitable Trust.
Professor Slavin is currently Director of the Centre for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He is co-founder of the Success for All Foundation, a non-profit organisation that develops and evaluates programs for high-poverty schools across the USA and England.
Dr. Slavin suggests that cooperative learning is not only a great way of learning but it is also a very vast field of research and analysis. Consequent to research and analysis, the design section exist which suggest the designing of course outline and groups tasks. Dr. Slavin also suggests that cooperative learning is doubtlessly a great tool for handicapped and disabled students. Cooperative learning encourages these students and molds them to work in a professional environment. Cooperative learning of disabled and normal students is another great way of encourage disabled students. According to Slavin, when disabled and handicapped students work in mainstream and heterogeneous environments, they learn in a more productive and skillful manner.
The "Success for all" Foundation of Dr. Robert Slavin is a great foundation rendering its services towards cooperative learning. The core purpose of the foundation is to raise the academic achievement throughout the nation. This is conducted by delivering many high quality programs and seminars. Almost all of the national schools participate in the seminars and meetings of "Success for All" foundation. Currently, there are four programs being offered by "Success for All" foundation. These four programs are categorized under headings: early childhood, elementary, middle school, and finally high school. The foundation offers proven solutions to raise the grade level performance of students. The greatest benefit of consulting the foundation is that they work regardless of the challenges and abilities of individual students. Methods of instruction and school organization are one of its kinds. Similarly, high school cooperative learning services provided by Dr. Robert Slavin's "Success for All" foundation are matchless and best-value. There are hundreds of thousands of students associated with this foundation and are making their career fruitful and lucrative.
- Collaborative Learning Home Page
- Cooperative and Collaborative Learning: Demonstration- In this session we'll focus specifically on how this technique for using small, cooperative groups in education can help improve learning in your class. Then you can proceed from CONCEPT TO CLASSROOM as you begin to apply new ideas to your lessons.
- COOPERATIVE LEARNING: IT'S HERE TO STAY- Cooperative learning, a highly structured form of collaborative student learning, began in the lower grades. In 1989/1990, Robert Slavin wrote a guest editorial in a well-respected journal questioning whether or not cooperative learning had staying power.
- Dr. Robert Slavin on Cooperative Learning
- Educational Psychology Illustrations
- Success for All Foundation- The official site for Dr. Slavin's "Success for All" program.
Slavin, R.E. (2009). Can financial incentives enhance educational outcomes? Evidence from international experiments. Manuscript submitted for publication. Click here to see Robert Slavin's complete CV