ERIC Identifier: ED264162
Publication Date: 1985-09-00
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Social
Studies/Social Science Education Boulder CO.
Cooperative Learning in Social Studies Education: What Does the
Research Say? ERIC Digest No. 20.
Cooperative learning refers to students working together to achieve a
common goal. In addition to the usual learning goals, it includes the goal of
establishing a collaborative/helping relationship among participants (McCulloch
This Digest describes research findings, mainly in elementary social studies
classrooms, on the effects of cooperative learning on multicultural awareness
and cross-ethnic friendships, interpersonal relationships, and prosocial
behavior. The Digest then provides information on classroom approaches to
RESEARCH FINDINGS ON COOPERATIVE LEARNING
Research findings on cooperative techniques in the classroom can be
summarized as follows: compared with other methods, cooperative learning
produces greater academic learning, better intergroup relations among black,
white, and Hispanic students, enhanced self-esteem, and improved relationships
between mainstreamed academically handicapped students and normal-progress
students. Studies indicate that cooperative learning develops general mutual
concern and interpersonal trust among students and increases students'
propensity for prosocial behavior (Slavin 1983; Sharan 1980). In a meta-analysis
of the esearch literature, Johnson and others (1981) reviewed 122 studies on
cooperative learning. Their analysis supports the overwhelming superiority of
cooperation for promoting student achievement and productivity. Although this
conclusion has not gone unchallenged (Slavin 1983; Sharan 1980), the overall
weight of the evidence supports these relationships.
MULTICULTURAL AWARENESS AND CROSS-ETHNIC FRIENDSHIPS
Slavin and Madden (1979), in a secondary analysis of data collected in a
national sample of high schools by the Educational Testing Service, found that
teacher workshops, multiethnic texts, minority history, heterogeneous groups,
and classroom discussions of race relations had very limited effects on
students' social attitudes and behavior. On the other hand, the assignment of
students of different races to work with each other and the participation of
students in multiracial sports teams had strong, consistent, postive effects on
A Johnson and Johnson study (1981), using 51 fourth-graders divided into
cooperative and individualistic groups, showed significantly greater
cross-ethnic interaction in the cooperative learning group during both
instructional and free time. Attitude scores also supported the finding that
cooperative learning experiences benefit intergroup relations. Studies designed
to increase the acceptance of mainstreamed academically handicapped students
demonstrate a similar facilitative effect on student acceptance.
Mutual concern among students is measured in many of the cooperative learning
studies by obtaining from students ratings of peers and perceptions of being
liked by peers. The findings, regardless of the model of cooperative learning
used, have been highly positive with regard to the promotion of interpersonal
liking, attraction, trust, and sense of being accepted by teachers and peers.
For example, Cooper and others (1980) found that students who were initially
prejudiced against one another evidenced greater interpersonal attraction in an
experimental cooperative setting than did students in competitive and
Johnson and others (1976) found that pupils in cooperative small-group
learning settings respond more prosocially on altruistic versus individualistic
choice tasks than do pupils in individual learning situations. In another study,
based on the social studies curriculum, it was found that students who had
studied cooperatively made more cooperative and helpful decisions in a
subsequent simulation game than did students who had studied competitively (Ryan
and Wheeler 1977). In this study, fifth- and sixth-grade students played the
simulation "Seal Hunt," a component of MAN: A COURSE OF STUDY. The cooperative
subjects manifested significantly more cooperative behavior, such as instituting
and implementing group strategies and rendering assistance to one another.
APPROACHES TO COOPERATIVE LEARNING
Robert E. Slavin (1983), a major proponent of cooperative learning, advocates
the practice of cooperative learning in order to redress the inconsistency
between the obvious importance of cooperation to adult success and the schools'
competitive and individualistic academic system. Three of the more widely used
approaches to cooperative learning are described below.
1. Student Teams-Achievement Divisions (STAD) is a method in which students
with widely varying academic abilities are assigned to four- or five-member
teams. The study of new material in a group is not finished until all members of
the group are sure they understand the material. Scoring is done by teams, and
the teams with the highest scores are recognized in a weekly class newsletter.
2. Slavin has modified the Jigsaw method of Aronson (1978) into Jigsaw II.
Students in six-member groups each read a common narrative, then each is given a
topic on which to become an expert. Students from different groups meet with
other experts to study their assigned topic, then return to their own groups to
share what they have learned. Students take individual quizzes, which are formed
into team scores. The highest scoring teams and individuals are recognized in a
3. In addition to the competitive/cooperative structure described above,
there has also been extensive research on the Group Investigation Model, which
attempts to eliminate competition entirely. This model involves cooperative
group inquiry emphasizing data-gathering by pupils, interpretation of
information through group discussion, and synthesis of individual contributions
into a group project. The parallels between the Group Investigation Model and
the inquiry approach to social studies education are striking.
Cooperative learning appears to be a promising method by which social studies
teachers can simultaneously achieve both academic and socio-moral objectives. To
date, the research has not examined whether the results achieved persist over
time. Also, there has been little research conducted with high school subjects.
Nevertheless, the findings are sufficiently promising to warrant future serious
consideration by social studies teachers and researchers.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Dronson, Elliot. THE JIGSAW CLASSROOM. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1978.
Cooper, L., D. W. Johnson, R. Johnson, and F. Wilderson. "The Effects of
Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Experiences on Interpersonal
Attraction Among Heterogeneous Peers." JOURNAL OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 111 (1980):
Johnson, David., and Roger T. Johnson, "Effects of Cooperative and
Individualistic Learning Experience on Interethnic Interaction." JOURNAL OF
EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 73 (1981): 444-449.
Johnson, D. W., G. Mariyama, R. Johnson, D. Nelson, and L. Skon. "The Effects
of Cooperative, Competitive and Individualistic Goal Structures on Achievement:
A Meta-Analysis." PSYCHOLOGICAL BULLETIN 89 (1981): 47-62.
Johnson, D., R. Johnson, J. Johnson, and D. Anderson. "Effects of Cooperative
Versus Individualized Instruction on Student Prosocial Behavior, Attitudes
Toward Learning and Achievement." JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 68 (1976):
McCulloch, John. "Lickona's Curriculum for Cooperation." ETHICS IN EDUCATION
4 (May 1985): 12-15.
Ryan, F., and R. Wheeler. "The Effects of Cooperative and Competitive
Background Experience of Students on the Play of a Simulation Game." JOURNAL OF
EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH 70 (1977): 295-299.
Sharan, Shlomo. "Cooperative Learning in Small Groups: Recent Methods and
Effects on Achievement, Attitudes, and Ethnic Relations." REVIEW OF EDUCATIONAL
RESEARCH 50 (1980): 241-271.
Slavin, Robert E. COOPERATIVE LEARNING. New York: Longman, 1983.
Slavin, Robert E., and Nancy A. Madden. "School Practices That Improve Race
Relations." AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL 16 (1979): 160-180.
This Digest is based on James S. Leming's "Research on Social Studies
Curriculum and Instruction: Interventions and Outcomes on the Socio-Moral
Domain." In REVIEW OF RESEARCH IN SOCIAL STUDIES EDUCATION 1976-1983 NCSS
Bulletin No. 75. Edited by William B. Stanley. Washington, DC: National Council
for the Social Studies and Boulder, CO: Social Science Education Consortium and
the ERIC Clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education.