Cooperative learning is the use of small groups in the classroom so that students work together to maximize their own and each other's learning (Eggen, 279). The idea is not complicated. Class members are organized into small groups after receiving initial instruction from the teacher (Eggen, 280-281). They then work through the assignment together until all group members totally understand the concept and complete the work (Sadker, 106). Cooperative efforts require that students learn to labor together toward common goals, which develops social skills similar to those needed in the world outside school (Doll, 91-92).
Positive interdependence is critical to the success of the cooperative group (Sadker, 106). This relationship helps students learn to give and take--to realize that some people have certain abilities and other people do not, yet still have other skills to offer. No one group member will possess all of the information, skills, or resources necessary for success.
Each group member has a unique contribution to make to the joint effort. Realizing this creates a commitment to the success of the group members as well as one's self (Eggen, 279). A sense of interconnectedness can help students transcend the gender, racial, cultural, linguistic, and other differences they may sense among themselves (Sadker, 106). Cooperative learning also improves social acceptance of mainstreamed students with learning disabilities (Eggen, 277). Such interactive experiences are particularly valuable for students who are learning English as a second language, who face the challenges of language attainment, academic learning, and social adaptation all at the same time (Eggen, 277).
Learning in a group environment does not end individual accountability as one may think. The group must be held responsible for achieving its goals and each member must be liable for contributing his or her share of the work (Eggen, 280). By keeping...