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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.

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.