Cooperative learning is an approach to organizing classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. Students must work in groups to complete the two sets of tasks collectively. Everyone succeeds when the group succeeds.
Historical Contributions to Cooperative Learning
Prior to World War II, social theorists such as Allport, Watson, Shaw, and Mead began establishing cooperativelearning 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 thesame 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 usedoutside 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 establishingrelationships 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 thatcooperative 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 5elements (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) .
Types of Cooperative Learning
Formal: is structured, facilitated, andmonitored 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 decisionmaking, 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: 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, andtypically 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...
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