Cooperative Education

Summary of reform: Instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning and toward a group goal. It is based on the social interdependence theory of Kurt Lewin and Morton Deustch (1930-1940s). Several researchers have detailed the conditions under which cooperative, individualized, and competitive structures affect or increase student achievement such as David and Roger Johnson at University of Minnesota, Robert Slavinb at Johns Hopkins University, and Elizabeth Cohen at Stanford.

The development of interpersonal skills is as important as the learning itself; learning to cooperate is key to high quality work, group process skills are developed. Teaches students to work well in group settings. Process directly tied to outcome.

Connection to other reforms: Collaborative Learning, Experiential Education
Model Institutions: Contact NSEE and Catherine for model institutions

Web Site:
Types of institutions: multiple institution types
Duration: 1960s (and even longer).
Source list of institutions: NSEE
Contact for further information: Jean NSEE, National Society for Experiential Learning; Catherine Ruotolo, Stevens Institute of Technology, 201/728-0200,

Level of institutionalization: Ranges greatly. Can be an individual faculty member incorporates into a class but often part of a school or college curriculum and is institutionalized through formal arrangements

Outcomes: Critical thinking, student motivation to learn, interdependence, work well in group environment; important in internationalized or globalized world

Process: Teach group processes

Target of Reform: Both students and faculty, pedagogy

K-12 parallel:

Origination of reform:

Support: government grant - FIPSE, NSF

Linking Characteristic 1: collaboration

Linking Characteristic 2: making environments smaller

Linking Characteristic 3: student centered

Linking Characteristic 4: humanist orientation

Assessment? Yes

Description of assessment: Have not found much about just assessing cooperative learning but it has been studied as a part of the science reforms, new wave calculus, and NCEE may have some studies on. Article by Bredehoft says there is not much research to date on the effects of cooperative learning in colleges. 63 studies indicate that cooperative learning promotes greater achievement than traditional competitive methods. Also students provide more support for each other. Learning together promotes higher-level critical thinking and increase student motivation.

Resistances: Faculty resistance to changing from lectures to facilitating group work.

Evolution/History: Long history from the 1930 and 1940s from studies by Kurt Lewin who looked at ways to increased learning by balancing competition and cooperation in classrooms. Popular for a while, there is even a cooperative education journal from the mid part of the century. It lost momentum but has recently been brought back with the interest in collaborative and active learning.

Notes: Would suggest citing the journal of cooperative education as a source for people to access (just look up on Mirlyn, also identify the years it came out). I would also suggest calling Catherine at Stevens about other resources, perhaps a web site, etc.

Major sources:

Bredehoft, David J. (1991.) Cooperative Controversies in the Classroom. College Teaching, 39(3), 122-125.

Bruffee, Kenneth A. (1995.) Sharing Our Toys: Collaborative Learning Versus Cooperative Learning. Change, January/February 1995, 12-18.

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