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Cooperative Learning Methods


Rebecca Reddin
Fort Hays State University


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Abstract
David Johnson and Roger Johnson and Dr. Spencer Kagan have developed Cooperative
Learning Methods that are similar in several ways, but they also contrast one another in several
aspects. The main idea that group/team work is important for students to develop the skills to
work with one another effectively is clear in both models. Group/team work helps students
develop greater thinking skills as they are required to show their contribution to the group and
they are not allowed to hide behind anothers work. Learning to work with efficiently and
effectively with their peers helps the students develop skills they will need in their future for
their careers, friends, families, and other social settings.













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Cooperative Learning Methods
The aspects of teachers helping their students understand the class curriculum and how
teachers should interact with their students are areas of teaching that are highly covered in
teacher education. Another very important facet of the classroom is cooperative learning.
Cooperative learning is also a very important aspect of a properly functioning classroom.
Cooperative learning is an alternative to the competitive-individualistic structures and the
recitation-presentation teaching methods commonly used in classrooms (Vezzuto, L.A., Ph.D.,
2005). Students must learn how to work well with others and cooperate with one another well
when working on group projects. Being able to perform technical skills such as reading,
speaking, listening, writing, computing, problem-solving, etc., are valuable but of little use if the
person cannot apply those skills in cooperative interaction with other people in career, family,
and community settings (Johnson, David and Johnson Roger, 1988).
The research of David Johnson and Roger Johnson suggests the vast majority of the
research comparing student-student interaction patterns indicates that students learn more
effectively when they work cooperatively (Johnson, David and Johnson Roger, 1988). The goal
of the Johnsons cooperative learning method is to make the students more proficient at the
execution and completing of a common task. According to the Johnsons there are three
possible ways of learning. Students can compete against other, work on their own or
cooperatively. In a cooperative learning situation, interaction is characterized by positive goal
interdependence with individual accountability (Johnson, David and Johnson Roger, 1988).
There are five elements to the Johnson and Johnson Cooperative Learning Model. All of
the elements are necessary in order for there to be cooperative learning. The first and most
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important element is positive interdependence (Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger,
1987). Students are given a task by the teacher and they are informed that their grade will be
determined by the groups performance. Positive interdependence exists when group
members perceive that they are linked with each other in a way that one cannot succeed unless
everyone succeeds (Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger, 1987). The group members
understand that their effort, or lack thereof, will either be beneficial or detrimental to
him/herself and also to all group members. If there is no positive interdependence, there is no
cooperation (Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger, 1987).
The second essential element of cooperative learning is individual and group
accountability (Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger, 1987). Each member feels responsible for
their contribution to the group and members are not able to skate by without contributing their
part to the group. The group is responsible for attaining its common goal. Individual
accountability exists when the performance of each individual student is assessed and the
results are given back to the group and the individual in order to ascertain who needs more
assistance, support, and encouragement in completing the assignment (Johnson, David and
Johnson, Roger, 1987). Cooperative learning groups are designed to make the students
stronger individuals.
The third essential component of cooperative learning is promotive interaction,
preferably face-to-face (Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger, 1987). The students share the
information they have learned through their research. The students encourage and support
one anothers endeavors to learn. It is through promoting each others learning face-to-face
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that members become personally committed to each other as well as to their mutual goals
(Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger, 1987).
The fourth essential element of cooperative learning is teaching students the required
interpersonal and small group skills (Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger, 1987). At the same
time, the students have to learn to work together and learn the lesson at hand. The group
members have to learn how to lead effectively, make decisions together, and how to handle
and conflicts that may arise.
The fifth essential component of cooperative learning is group processing (Johnson,
David and Johnson, Roger, 1987). The groups ability to determine what activities of their
fellow classmates are beneficial or detrimental and what they need to change will help the
group perform and achieve their goal more effectively. Group processing refers to the
assessment and remarking of the capabilities and actions of each group (Teachnology, Inc.,
1999-2012). The group members are able to realize how well they are working together and if
they are on track to meet their objective. Putting students into groups does not necessarily
gain positive interdependence and/or individual accountability; it has to be structured and
managed by the teacher or professor (Johnson, David and Johnson Roger, 1988).
The cooperative learning groups are constructed by the teacher and the group will be
rewarded as a whole after completing their common goal. The teachers role in the Johnsons
cooperative learning model is to select the lesson, provide the necessary materials, assign the
students to their groups and arrange the desks in the classroom appropriately to accommodate
the size and functioning of the group. A clear and specific description of the task needs to be
given coupled with an explanation of the group goal (Johnson, David and Johnson Roger, 1988).
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It is important for the teacher to constantly monitor the groups to make sure they are working
appropriately and everyone is doing their part. The teacher needs to monitor carefully how
well the groups are functioning; determine what skills are lacking, both related to the subject
matter and to the interaction; set up a way for the groups to process how well they functioned
and discuss how to do even better; and intervene where problems are serious to help groups
work out their own problems (Johnson, David and Johnson Roger, 1988). The teacher must
make her/his rounds from each group in a timely manner in order to monitor and assist with
any problems that may occur. The instruction of the teacher is what the groups are working
with. The teacher must monitor to make sure the students understand the instruction.
Dr. Spencer Kagan wanted to have a learning method which was a mixture between
competitive and individualistic, with cooperative classroom organization so that it could help in
preparing the students for complete sort of social situations (Teachnology, Inc., 1999-2012).
There are four fundamental elements of the Kagan Cooperative Learning approach. The
acronym PIES is used by Kagan to represent these four elements. P stands for Positive
Interdepencence. The letter I stands for Individual Accountability. E represents Equal
Participation and S is for Simultaneous Interaction. There are the four essential elements of
Kagans Cooperative Learning model. If PIES are in place, it is good cooperative learning; if not,
it is group work (Kagan, Spencer, 2010). All steps are necessary if we want to increase the
possibility of student success in the cooperative learning group.
The first principle of the Kagan Cooperative Learning Method is Positive
Interdependence (Kagan, Spencer, 2010). This principle involves creation of the team task,
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assignment of roles to each group member and allocating the assignments to the different
group members. The work of each student affects the grade for the entire team.
The second Kagan principle is Individual Accountability. Individual accountability is
present if three conditions are present: 1) a student performs on his/her own; 2) the
performance or the product of the performance must be seen by someone else; and 3) the
individual performance is required (Kagan, Spencer, 2012). Individual accountability
encourages the student to do their best because they know their work will be reviewed by the
teacher. The student cannot just sit back and let everyone else do the work.
The third principle of PIES is Equal Participation. Equal participation simply
necessitates all students receive the same chances and incentives to be involved in the
assignment. For example, the group work teacher says, "In your teams, make a list." The
cooperative learning teacher says, "In your teams RoundTable a list." In group work one
student grabs the paper and pencil and makes the list. In RoundTable each student takes a turn
(Kagan, Spencer, 1999). Kagan's approach requires equal roles and participation by all
participants in the activity.
The fourth principle of Kagans PIES is Simultaneous Interaction. Students are to work
frequently in pairs instead of one at a time within the group. Several of the students actively
participate at once. Presentation structures allow efficient sharing of ideas, solutions, or
projects (Kagan, Spencer, 2010).
The teacher is responsible for the management of the cooperative learning approach.
Teachers are responsible for the arrangement of the desks, formation of the class groups,
determining on the amount of group activity time and making sure the students understand the
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instructions of the lesson. In regards to taking questions, Kagan recommends the three before
me rule, where a student with a question asks three students within his group and if they do
not know the answer then the student raises his/her hand to ask the teacher (Kagan, Spencer,
2010). The students try their best to answer questions with team effort and only ask the
teacher for assistance if they are not able to figure out the answers.
There are several similarities and several differences between the two models. Dr.
Spencer Kagans Cooperative Learning Model, like the Johnson and Johnson model increases
students participation in a project. When each student is assigned a role then their
accountability is increased. With more participation required by the student then the more
thinking required by the student, thus increasing their thinking skills and abilities. Cooperative
learning also introduces the sense of social orientation so that students find other students
someone to work with rather than someone to beat (Teachnology, Inc., 1999-2012). Central to
the methods of both sets of authors is the principle that any learning activity that lacks one or
more key features is not cooperative learning (Real Science). Another similarity of the two
models is the color or ethnicity of the student does not matter at all in cooperative learning and
working closely together in cooperative learning groups allows students to obtain first-hand
knowledge of this fact. Kagans model is based on structures while Johnson and Johnsons
model focuses on lessons. The Johnsons use the term "Groups;" Kagan uses the term "Teams"
(Kagan, Spencer, 2001).
My ideas on the formation of teams would be as follows. I would structure the teams
with the number of students necessary for the project. I would arrange their desks so they
would be able to face one another, but, if necessary, still see the board or other necessary
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materials. I would limit team sessions from 45 to 50 minutes. I would have a signal to manage
the noise level of the classroom. One I have seen work effectively at my childrens school is to
have a series of claps, the children repeat and then they realize they were a little too loud and
quite down. I would repeat this action when necessary. The size of the task would determine
how I set up the deadline. A project such as a collaborative book review may take a couple of
weeks. In order to handle team questions, I believe I will utilize the 3 before me approach.
This method seems like a straightforward and reasonable approach that the students would be
able to manage.
Each student would have a different role in the team. Following are some of the
possible roles to use within the team; 1) Team Manager responsible for keeping the team on
task; 2) Team Reader responsible for reading aloud the questions being answered by the
team; 3) Encourager (to make sure everyone participates); 4) Checker (to make sure everyone
understands); 5) Team Writer responsible for recording the results and making sure everyone
agrees with the results; 6) Artist responsible for preparing the presentation (this position may
not always be needed); 7) Presenter responsible, if needed, for explaining the team's answer
to the rest of the class (Scientific Reasoning Institute, 2012). The students would trade roles
regularly to make sure each student has the opportunity to experience each role. I would
monitor the teamwork regularly to ensure everyone is participating properly. I would also
evaluate the individuals by requiring them to give a small presentation of their section of the
project.
After the research I have done for this paper I have to say I do agree with Wongs
explanations of procedures for groups. A group of people who care for and are committed to
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one another are going to achieve the goal of an activity more quickly than if each were to
attempt the task alone (Wong & Wong, 2009). With positive interdependence the students
realize the quality of their work will affect not only their own grade, but the grade of the entire
group. The students effort is normally enhanced, thus leading to the achievement of the
teams goal and a team is able to finish a project faster than an individual.
Wong believes the teacher should be responsible for the creation of the teams. There is
no need to solicit class input on grouping, because there will be no permanent groups in the
class (Wong & Wong, 2009). The teacher is responsible for the instruction of the procedures.
The teacher can either be in charge of handing out each job, or she/he can let the students
decide in their teams. I also think that the teams should vary with each project to give the
children the chance to experience and work with all of their peers. This helps the children
develop their social skills. The size of the group is a factor of how many jobs are needed to
complete the activity (Wong & Wong, 2009). Some projects may only require a team of 2 while
others like a book review may need 5 students to fill all of the necessary jobs. The time the
groups remain together will also depend on the type of project. The more time students work
together and the more responsibilities students take for their work, the greater the learning
that takes place (Wong & Wong, 2009).


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References

Johnson, Roger and Johnson, David. (1988) Cooperative learning: Two heads learn better than
one. In Context: A Quarterly of Humane Sustainable Culture . Retrieved on March 15, 2012
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Johnson, David and Johnson, Roger. (1987) Introduction to cooperative learning: an overview
of cooperative learning. Cooperative Learning Institute and Interaction Book Company.
Retrieved on March 14, 2012 from http://www.co-operation.org/?page_id=65.

Kagan, Spencer. (2010) Dr. Spencer Kagans approach to Cooperative Learning Smart Card.
Kagan Publishing.

Kagan, Spencer. (2012) The P and I of PIES: powerful principles for success. Kagan Online
Magazine. Retrieved on March 17, 2012 from
http://www.kaganonline.com/online_magazine/spencers_thinkpad.php

Kagan, Spencer. (2001) Kagan structures and learning together what is the difference?
Kagan Online Magazine. Retrieved on March 17, 2012 from
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Kagan, Spencer. (1999) The "E" of PIES. Kagan Online Magazine. Retrieved on March 17, 2012
from http://www.kaganonline.com/free_articles/dr_spencer_kagan/ASK05.php

Real Science. Cooperative learning notes for teachers. Make It in Scotland. Retrieved on
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Scientific Reasoning Institute. (2012) University of Massachusetts Amherst. Retrieved on
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TeAchnology, Inc. (1999-2012) Johnson and Johnsons thoughts on cooperative learning.
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Vezzuto, L.A., Ph.D. (2005) Cooperative Learning or Positive Interdependence. Institute from
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Wong, Harry K. and Wong, Rosemary T. (2009) The first days of school: How to be an effective
teacher. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.