Liberty University DigitalCommons@Liberty University Faculty Publications and Presentations School of Education 1-1-1992 The Essential Elements of Cooperative Learning Scott Watson Liberty University , firstname.lastname@example.org This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the School of Education at DigitalCommons@Liberty University. It has been accepted for inclusion in Faculty Publications and Presentations by an authorized administrator of DigitalCommons@Liberty University. For mo re information, please contact email@example.com .
Watson, Scott, "The Essential Elements of Cooperative Learning" (1992). Faculty Publications and Presentations. Paper 10.
http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/educ_fac_pubs/10 The Essential Elements of Cooperative Learning Scott B. Watson A Ll\;rOST 10. years ago, I worked in a school district WIth a SCIence teacher who was using an instrucB tional technique she called TGT.
When the other teachers in the district found out that TGT stood for Teams Games and Tournaments, they wondered what in the world she was doing playing games with her science students. Some even questioned her sanity. We didn't know at the time that she had been the only science teacher in the district selected to undergo training in cooperative learning at Johns Hopkins University.
For that matter, we didn't even know what cooperative learning was. Now, a decade later, most teachers at least know ... more. less.
w ~ a t c o o p ~ r a t i v e learning is. Many even use cooperB atIve learnmg methods in their own classrooms.<br><br> I have used it in teaching high school and college biology students for the last several years and have found these methods to be an excellent addition to ~ o r e t r a ~ i t i o n a l instructional techniques. CooperaB tIve learnmg has not revolutionized education and probably never will, but teachers are finding that it can be an effective classroom tool. Cooperative learning has been defined as a classB room learning environment in which students work on academic tasks in small, heterogeneous groups (Parker 1985).<br><br> There has been a great deal of research completed in the area of cooperative learning, and there can be little doubt about these techniques' effectiveness in improving academic achievement (Brophy 1986, Parker 1985, Slavin 1984). As the research evidence has mounted, cooperative learning proponents have developed a series of techniques that ~ a y be described as elements of cooperative learnmg. The elements to be addressed in this paper include: 1.<br><br> Cooperative task structures 2. Cooperative incentive structures 3. Individual accountability 4.<br><br> Heterogeneous grouping. It is possible that each of these elements is necessary for maximizing achievement. Scott B.<br><br> Watson is an assistant professor in the science educa3 tion department at East Carolina University, Greenville NC 27858-4353. ' Cooperative Task Structures Cooperative task structures are situations in which two or more students are encouraged or required to work together toward completion of some task. Group members must coordinate their efforts to comB plete the task.<br><br> According to Slavin (1983) and others, cooperative learning always includes a cooperative taSk. structure. A concept closely related to the coopB eratIve task structure is positive goal interdepenB dence, which occurs when students perceive that they can only achieve their goals when the other members of their group achieve their individual goals (Lew, Mesch, Johnson & Johnson 1986).<br><br> There are two possible cooperative task structures: task specialB ization and group study. In task specialization, each group member is given responsibility for a unique part of the activity (Slavin 1984). Methods that use task specialization include Jigsaw (Aronson, Blaney, Stephan, Sikes & Snapp 1978), Jigsaw II (Slavin 1986), Coop-Coop (Kagan 1985) and Group Investigation (Sharan & Hertz-Lazarowitz 1980).<br><br> In group study, all members study together and do not have separate responsibilities (Slavin 1984). Methods that include group study are Student Teams-Achievement DiviB sions (Slavin 1978), Teams Games and Tournaments (DeVries & Slavin 1978) and Learning Together (Johnson & Johnson 1987). Although there is no strong evidence whether task specialization or group study is the superior technique (Slavin 1983), task specialization does give a certain responsibility to each group member, which helps insure that all participate.<br><br> An advantage of group study is that all group members study and become equally familiar with the same information. Cooperative Incentive Structures Cooperative incentive structures provide some type of group reward based on group products or individual learning (Slavin 1983). The cooperative incentive structure is closely related to positive reB ward interdependence, in which all members of a group receive a reward only if all succeed (Johnson & Johnson 1987).<br><br> Cooperative learning researchers seem to agree that some form of incentive structure is necessary for effective cooperative learning. Virtually 84 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER. VOLUME 54.<br><br> NO.2. FEBRUARY 1992 cooperative learning methods include this One exception is the original Jigsaw in which students are evaluated individually of their group study. The exact method of the cooperative incentive varies, with the most popular variations being: Group scores based on the individual scores of members (Student Teams-Achievement Divisions, Teams Games and Tournaments, Jig- II) 2.<br><br> Group scores based on a group project or other product (Learning Together, Coop-Coop, Group Investigation) Individual Accountability Individual accountability evaluates students by monitoring the learning of each individual. Major researchers seem to agree that individual account> ability is necessary for true cooperative learning situ> ations. According to Johnson and Johnson (1987), individual mastery of the learning material is the purpose of cooperative learning or any other instruc> tional method, and every student's performance should be assessed.<br><br> According to Slavin (1987), indi> vidual accountability is one of the elements necessary to make cooperative learning more effective than traditional approaches, and the success of a group should depend on the individual success of its mem> bers. Heterogeneous Grouping Heterogeneous grouping of students is another widely accepted element of cooperative learning and is often included as part of the definition. Coopera> tive learning groups are typically heterogeneous in ability and other characteristics, whereas traditional learning groups are typically homogeneous Qohnson & Johnson 1987).<br><br> Heterogeneous grouping is used in virtually all the various methods of cooperative learn- (Slavin 1981). Typically, the teacher begins by assigning students with high, low and average abili> ties to groups (Slavin 1981). Some researchers prefer a slightly different structure that includes only two levels of ability.<br><br> This is due to a tendency for high ability students to help the lowest students in their groups, but not necessarily those in the middle (Webb 1985). Factors other than ability or achieve> ment that may be included to increase heterogeneity include sex, racial or ethnic background, age, attitude toward subject matter and leadership ability. In spite the nearly universal acceptance of heterogeneous grouping as an element of cooperative learning, there little clear evidence of its effectiveness.<br><br> One of the problems in assessing the effectiveness of heteroge> neous grouping (and of cooperative learning in gen- eral) is that there are many effects other than achieve> ment. These include improved relationships between different racial and ethnic groups and between hand> icapped and nonhandicapped students (Slavin 1983). Discussion Research evidence on the effectiveness of coopera> tive learning on academic achievement will continue to mount in the future.<br><br> The importance of the indi> vidual elements should become clearer as more infor> mation is gathered. This, in turn, should lead to even more effective cooperative learning methods. There are specific areas of research open as well.<br><br> It will be important to determine if cooperative learning might actually be deleterious to some students, including those who are gifted, of very low ability or extremely introverted. Some individuals may simply learn bet> ter on an individual or competitive basis. It will also be important to further refine the methods by which cooperative learning is evaluated.<br><br> After all, one of the purposes of cooperative learning is to teach cooper> ation among students. Typical evaluation techniques, especially those for determining achievement, are individualized and competitive, and may be inappro> priate for assessment of cooperative learning. Cooperative Learning Methods 1.<br><br> The Jigsaw Approach (Aronson, Blaney, Stephan, Sikes & Snapp 1978)-In this method, each student is given a topic on which to become an expert. These s ~ u d e n t s meet with experts from other groups, then return to teach their team> mates. After the material is studied, students are quizzed individually.<br><br> 2. Jigsaw II (Slavin 1986)-This is an adaption of The Jigsaw Approach in which individual scores are combined at the end in some manner to yield a team score. 3.<br><br> Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (ST AD) (Slavin 1978)-In this approach, the teacher pre> pares a lesson and students study worksheets, quiz each other, then take individual tests. The results are combined into team scores by the teacher. 4.<br><br> Teams Games and Tournaments (TGT) (DeVries & Slavin 1978)-This method is similar to STAD except there is a group competition (tourna> ment) at the end of the unit for a team score. 5. Learning Together (Johnson & Johnson 1987)> Groups of students study a topic and produce a worksheet or test, which is the basis for evalu> ating the group.<br><br> Students are also evaluated individually. 6. Coop-Coop (Kagan 1985)-Teams of students choose topics for study and then break them COOPERATIVE LEARNING 85 into subtopics.<br><br> Each individual is responsible for learning and teaching about a subtopic. The team then makes a presentation on the topic to the whole class. 7.<br><br> Group Investigation (Sharan and Hertz-LazarowC itz 1980)-Groups of students choose general topics to study. Individuals or pairs of students then study subtopics, using approaches that they feel are appropriate. A class representation on the subject follows.<br><br> References Aronson, E., Blaney, N., Stephan, c., Sikes, J. & Snapp, M. (1978).<br><br> The jigsaw classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Brophy, J.<br><br> (1986, April). Teacher Effects Research and Teacher Quality. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San FranC cisco, CA.<br><br> DeVries, D. & Slavin, R. (1978).<br><br> Teams-games-tournaments (TGT): Review of ten classrooom experiments. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 12, 28-38. Johnson, D.<br><br> & Johnson, R. (1987). Learning together and alone: Cooperation, competition and individualization (2nd ed.).<br><br> Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Kagan, S. (1985).<br><br> Cooperative learning: Resources for teachers. Riverside, CA: University of California. Lew, M., Mesch, D., Johnson, D.<br><br> & Johnson, R. (1986). Components of cooperative learning: Effects of collaboC rative skills and academic group contingencies on acaC demic achievement and mainstreaming.<br><br> Contemporary Educational Psychology, 11, 229-239. Parker, R. (1985).<br><br> Small-group cooperative learning. The Education Digest, 51, 44-46. Sharan, S.<br><br> & Hertz-Lazarowitz, R. (1980). A group investiC gation method of cooperative learning in the classroom.<br><br> In S. Sharon (Ed.), Cooperation in Education. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press.<br><br> Slavin, R. (1978). Student teams and achievement diviC sions.<br><br> Journal of Research and Development in Education, 12, 39-49. Slavin, R. (1981).<br><br> Synthesis of research on cooperative learning. Educational Leadership, 38(8), 655-660. Slavin, R.<br><br> (1983). When does cooperative learning increase student achievement? Psychological Bulletin, 94(3), 429-445.<br><br> Slavin, R. (1984). Students motivating students to excel: Cooperative incentives, cooperative tasks, and student achievement.<br><br> The Elementary School Journal, 85(1), 53--63. Slavin, R. (1986).<br><br> Using Student Team Learning (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Slavin, R.<br><br> (1987). Development and motivational perspecC tives on cooperative learning: A reconciliation. Child Development, 58, 1161-1167.<br><br> Webb, N. (1985). Student interaction and learning in small groups: A research summary.<br><br> In R. Slavin, S. Sharan, S.<br><br> Kagan, R. Hertz-Lazarowitz, C. Webb & R.<br><br> Schmuck (Eds.), Learning to cooperate, cooperating to learn. New York: Plenum. Call for Nominations Honorary Membership NABT is seeking individuals who have "achieved distinction in teaching, research or ser- vice in the biological sciences" for recognition as Honorary Members.<br><br> Those selected become life- time members and receive notice in NABT publica- tions and at the annual banquet held during the national convention. Nominations should be for- warded to Honorary Membership Committee Chair Ivo E. Lindauer, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639.<br><br> Nominations may be made by any NABT mem- ber and must include: A description of the candidate's qualifications, a detailed biographical summary and supporting letters from at least nine other NABT members. Consider the following cri- teria: Is the candidate well known by others in biology education; What impact has the candidate's work had on biology education in the past 10 years; What effect has the candidate and his/her work had on students and teachers? Distinguished Service Award NABT is looking for suggestions for recipients of our Distinguished Service Award, established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of NABT in 1988.<br><br> Nominees should be nationally recognized sci- entists who have made major contributions to biology education through their research, writing and teaching. In addition, consideration should be given to their abilities as cogent speakers who might participate in the national convention pro- gram (for example, the address during the annual banquet) at which they will be recognized. The candidate will be selected by the Honor- ary Membership Committee no later than Decem- ber 31 for presentation at the following year's national convention.<br><br> These nominations should be sent to Ivo E. Lindauer, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639. The deadline for both nominations is June 1, 1992.<br><br> 86 THE AMERICAN BIOLOGY TEACHER, VOLUME 54, NO.2, FEBRUARY 1992