Cooperative Learning and Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Experiences: [An Earlier Draft of the CyberPsychology and Behavior: Special Issue. (Volume 3, No 1, 2000)]


Lawrence W. Sherman, Ph. D., Department of Educational Psychology Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA


Abstract.  Earlier interest in Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) has lead to several technological innovations.  This  chapter will examine diverse pedagogical structures including Cooperative Learning (CL) and Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environments (CSILE).  Cooperative learning is defined and described along with its uses in a technologically rich teaching environment.  I have tried to show that the world of cooperative learning has strong roots in the cognitive field psychology of Kurt Lewin.  Learning settings that would be described as cooperative structures are defined and differentiated from those that are competitive or individualistic.  While other cognitive psychology theories are mentioned (Piaget and Vygotsky), the primary focus of this manuscript has been to describe issues regarding group processes, especially as they are being used in web-based delivery of collaborative learning experiences.  These peer learning strategies are also linked to the world of work for which we are preparing our students.  In addition some promising new research goals are described.  The conclusions focus on using CSILE as an integral part of a technologically enriched cooperative classroom.  A Postmodern and Constructivist theoretical orientation is also used to explain this form of authentic instruction.




In this manuscript I would like to describe how various uses of technology are associated with cognitive and social psychology as applied to peer learning in technologically enriched behavior settings.  This explanation should provide historical and theoretical foundations for peer learning in the classroom as well as the workplace.  I will attempt to show that the discipline of psychology, specifically social and cognitive psychology, has originated various cooperative learning strategies that are based upon a strong theoretical foundation.  These applications have been designed to improve human relations, as well as more efficient acquisition of knowledge and problem solutions among communities of diverse learners.  The role of new computer supported technologies will be discussed as a medium through which collaboration among peer learning groups is facilitated.  Recent concerns by the United States Secretary of Labor’s “SCANS Report” (Lankard, 1995) will be used to demonstrate the significance of making classroom learning experience more authentically congruent with the needs of a highly diverse, interdependent and technologically enriched work place.


A Brief History.

     At the end of the last Century, the American Psychological Association summarized the development and significance of various sub-disciplines of the field of psychology (APA Monitor, December, 1999).  Both social psychology and cognitive psychology were briefly described in that issue.  Several significant people and their theoretical contributions were mentioned and appeared in both of the sub-disciplines of social and cognitive psychology: e.g., Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Kurt Lewin.

While the "contructivist" theories of Piaget and Vygotsky are acknowledged as significant foundations upon which to build peer learning experiences (e.g., the role of elaboration, equilabration, metacognition, scaffolding, etc.)-(see O'Donnell & King, 1999, for a more thorough discussion of these topics), the present discussion will focus on the influence of Kurt Lewin.  A postmodern cognitive perspective with regard to the role of plural realities, narrative and writing will also be drawn upon (Sherman, 2000).

The cognitive field psychologist Kurt Lewin was an important founding father of social psychology who influenced the development of the Group Dynamics movement (APA Monitor staff, 1999, p. 21).  Lewin's concern for the resolution of social conflict (Lewin, 1948) influenced many of his students.  Several of them have continued that interest. The generations of Lewinian influence are detailed in Figure 1. One of his students, Morton Deutsch, has had a long and continuing interest in "applied" social psychology.  Deutch's research interests ranged from studying productivity of work groups experiencing cooperative or competitive conditions to attempts at resolving the nuclear arms race. Interest in Deutsch's (1949) earlier research lead several scholars to re-examine the influence of cooperation and competition on instruction. Other students of Lewin have also had a strong interest in group dynamics concepts and their applications in educational settings (e.g., Leon Festinger - cognitive dissonance and social comparison theory; Ronald Lippitt - group atmospheres and leadership; and Jacob Kounin - psychological ecology of behavior settings, discipline and classroom management).  Lewin's heritage continues on through third generation students of students of Lewin (e.g., David Johnson, a student of Morton Deutsch; Eliot Aronson, a student of Leon Festinger; Richard Schmuck, a student of Ronald Lippitt; and myself, a student of Jacob Kounin).  Schmuck (1995) has given us a detailed history of this progression, especially as it relates to the growth and development of an international organization, the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education (IASCE), whose primary focus is research on and application of cooperative learning strategies in educational settings.


Figure 1 about here


Strongly influenced by the Equality of Educational Opportunity Report (Coleman, 1966) the United States enacted many programs of voluntary as well as court-ordered desegregation of public schools.  It should be noted that "desegregating" an environment such as a school system or individual classroom, does not necessarily result in the integration of the diverse communities of individuals which have merely been put together in the same behavior setting.  From an ecological perspective the very structures of these behavior settings may either promote social acceptance or increase social distance (exacerbate social conflict and inter-group tensions) among the diverse individuals who occupy these settings (Hertz-Lazarowitz & Miller, 1992).  Social psychologists have recognized this (Hewstone & Brown, 1986) and responded with theory-based pedagogical applications that have been attempts at facilitating integration and improved human relations in these newly created diverse learning communities.  These applications were primarily based on Lewinian social-psychological theory and were concerned with promoting democracy and reducing conflict.  A variety of cooperative learning strategies have been created.  Some examples might include Eliot Aronson's Jigsaw approach, or the Johnson's "creative conflict".  These techniques were also found to be highly effective with regard to improving academic achievement.  Throughout the 1970's and continuing into the present century, other cognitive and social psychologists began to create a great variety of cooperative learning strategies.

Lewinian-oriented cognitive psychologists subscribe to the theory that human behavior is a result of the interaction of persons with their environments. This has lead to many speculations on "Action Theory." An action theory examines the actions needed to achieve a desired consequence (goal attainment) in a given situation.  Johnson & Johnson (1991) have stated that "when you generate an action theory from your own experiences and then continually modify it to improve its effectiveness, you are learning experientially (p. 16-17) (See Table 1). Experiential learning affects the learner in three ways: 1) cognitive structures are altered, 2) attitudes are modified and 3) behavioral skills are expanded. This is thought to be a cyclical process. 


Table 1 about here


Experiential learning, then, may facilitate the development of an action theory.  The Johnsons (Johnson & Johnson, 1991) have presented 12 principles of experiential learning (See Table 2).  The last four principles focus on the influence of environments on individuals, especially within the context of social groups "experiencing" cooperative learning.  Membership in a group will free a person to experiment with new behaviors, attitudes, and action theories, especially if that group is supportive and accepting.  One such group might be a classroom of individuals experiencing cooperative learning.


Table 2 about here


In summary, this brief history has been a modest attempt at linking Lewinian-influenced "cognitive field theorists" and their contributions to the world of cooperative learning.  Action Theory and Experiential Learning are the primary foundations upon which cooperative pedagogy was created.  In the next section I will discuss cooperative learning as presently being used in primary, secondary and post-secondary environments.  I will attempt to describe cognitive and action theories with which cooperative learning strategies make use of computer web-based technology.


Cooperative Learning.

Before proceeding further some clarification regarding the term "cooperative learning" might be in order.  Johnson (Johnson, 1979) has described three types of behavior settings which are called "goal structures." The three goal structures are Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic.  These goal structures are primarily based on the presence or absence of interdependence among classroom members. It is acknowledged that one form of cooperative learning has been labeled "Collaborative Learning" and has been used extensively in the teaching of writing at the post-secondary level of education.  While elements of collaborative learning are present in many cooperative programs, some have felt it necessary to make a distinction between collaborative and cooperative learning (Bruffee, 1993).  Others believe that the terms "cooperative" and "collaborative" complement each other (Brody, 1995).  I will use the terms "cooperative" and "collaborative" interchangeably.

Cooperative Goal Structure.  Cooperative goal structures are in operation when two or more individuals are in a situation where the task-related efforts of individuals help others to be rewarded. Group members behave in a positively interdependent fashion and are rewarded on the basis of the quality or quantity of a group product according to a fixed set of standards, those standards being mastery or criterion-referenced performance standards. Other attributes considered important in defining a cooperative goal structure would be:

·      Face-to-face interactions,

·      Heterogeneous groupings,

·      Individual accountability,

·      Group processing.

·      Positive interdependence

Face-to-face interactions imply reciprocal communications.  It will be noted later that these communications could also be accomplished at a distance either in an asynchronous or synchronous manner utilizing computer supported technologies.  The notion of "heterogeneous groupings" implies recognition of the "diversity" of individual group members, parameters of which may be gender, ethnic background, physical disabilities, achievement ability, etc.  Group processing also involves acts of communication in which members exchange views about what actually happens in cooperative group experiences.  This, too, can take place at a distance utilizing computer-supported technology.  It is believed that the term "collaborative learning" fits into this category of goal structure. Peer-tutoring models such as Aronson's (Aronson, et. al., 1978) Jigsaw technique, Fantuzzo's (Fantuzzo, et. al., 1989) reciprocal peer learning, or Dansereau's (Dansereau, et. al., 1987) scripted peer dyads would also be located here. The Johnsons' (Johnson & Johnson, 1994) and Sharans' (Sharan & Sharan, 1992) Group-Investigation models would be considered cooperative goal structures as well. Sherman's (1990) Dyadic Essay Confrontations (DEC) might also be considered an example of cooperative learning.

Slavin (1983) has further differentiated cooperative goal structures on the basis of two types of task structures (those 1) with or 2) without task specialization) and three types of incentive structures including group rewards for (1) individual learning, or (2) group products, and (3) individual rewards (See Figure 2).


Figure 2 about here


Competitive Goal Structure.  Individually competitive goal structures give students individual goals and reward them by means of a comparative or normative evaluation system. In an individually competitive structure a student can attain his or her goal only if the other participants cannot attain their's.  One achieves their goal at the expense of others. Kohn (1992) has described this as MEGA (Mutually Exclusive Goal Attainment). In this sense though there is some interdependence among students, it is primarily negative interdependence.  Mutual assistance would probably be counterproductive.  Cheating and "dirty tricks" are some examples of negative interdependence. Some have described this as the "traditional" structure of learning in many college classrooms (Wolff, 1969).  Grades which are based on a normal distribution would be an example of a competitive goal structure.

Individual Goal Structure. An individual goal structure is one in which students are given individual goals, and by using a criterion-referenced evaluation system students are assigned individual rewards based on the quality or quantity of their personal performances or products and achievements.  Whereas student interdependence is required in the cooperative structure, students behave quite independent of each other in an individualist goal structure.  Being given individual credit for completion of a series of rote drill exercises in a programmed computer medium might be a good example.  Another example might be receiving one's driving license after "passing a performance-based test": everyone who has reached the minimal standard of performance receives the license.

Goal Structures and Evaluation.  Obviously there is a relationship between goal structures and evaluation methods.  Evaluation has been described as either norm-referenced or criterion-referenced (Bloom, et. al., 1971). Competitive goal structures logically demand a norm-referenced form of evaluation. Likewise, cooperative and individualistic goal structures usually demand a criterion-referenced system of evaluation.  It might also be noted that many times "peer evaluations" are used in cooperative goal structures, whereas in competitive and individual goal structured activities some powerful authority (e.g., a teacher) is the primary evaluator and distributor of rewards.

While earlier interest in cooperative pedagogy is acknowledged (e.g., Hains & McKeachie, 1967), Kohn's (1992) book presents some of the strongest arguments in favor of teaching through cooperation.  Over the past 30 years social and educational psychologists have produced a considerable volume of research demonstrating the effectiveness of a great variety of small group cooperative structures, especially at the elementary and secondary education level:  e.g., the Johnsons (Johnson & Johnson, 1975; Johnson & Johnson, 1987), Eliot Aronson (Aronson et al., 1975; Lucker, et al., 1976; Blaney et al., 1977; Aronson, et. al., 1978), Robert Slavin (1978a; 1978b; 1983; 1995) and the Sharans (Sharan, 1980; Sharan, et al., 1985; Sharan & Sharan, 1992; Sharan, 1994)

A modest amount of research has been accomplished in the post-secondary college or university environment where the mode of instruction remains, many believe, as individually competitive as Wolff's (1969) earlier descriptions. A few examples of cooperation in university settings might be Carroll's (1986) study using Aronson's "Jigsaw" technique in undergraduate psychology classrooms, or Lamberights' (1988) report of successful implementation of Aronson's Jigsaw techniques in a similar setting. Sherman (1986; Sherman et. al., 1988) and Gnagey (1988) have described the use of Slavin's Student Teams and Achievement Divisions (STAD) technique as well as Sharan's Group-Investigation (G-I) Model in undergraduate and graduate educational psychology classes. Several other studies have analyzed the uses of cooperative learning in a variety of post-secondary educational settings (Dansereau, 1985; Dansereau et al, 1986; Fantuzzo et al., 1989; Millis, 1990; Millis, et. al., 1993; Nolinske & Millis, 1999).

Most social psychology text books contain considerable discussions about conflict, sometimes instigated by individual or inter-group competition, and its resolution and/or reduction through the use of cooperative techniques.  Social Psychologists' interests in inter-group relations acknowledge the effectiveness of cooperative learning (e.g., see Messick & Mackie, 1989). Almost all introductory educational psychology text books (e.g., Dembo, 1994; Good & Brophy, 1990; Slavin, 2000; Woolfolk, 1999;) now contain extended discussions of cooperative learning and its effectiveness with regard to improved racial relations, positive self-esteem, greater internal attributions of control and higher academic achievement.  The most current editions of many of these texts also provide web sites and CD's that support the delivery of course content

While there appears to be considerable evidence supporting the effectiveness, as well as need, for cooperative learning applications, especially in post-secondary settings, much more needs to be accomplished.  Nevertheless, there are many efforts being directed towards this goal.  Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education (Goodsell, et. al., 1992) was produced by the National Center on Post-secondary Teaching, Learning, & Assessment in 1992.  Jim Cooper has established the journal Cooperative Learning and College Teaching, which is available from the following address: Center for Quality Education, California State University Dominguez Hills, HFA-B-316 1000 East Victoria Street, Carson, CA 90747.  Neil Davidson and Susan Ludlow, at Arizona State University have also established a web site which is focused on postsecondary cooperative learning pedagogy (  The IASCE also maintains a web site where many other resources are available (


Postmodern Thought. 

Sherman (2000) has defined and discussed various attributes of "postmodern" thinking.  These attributes included: (1) challenging the idea of a single meaning of reality (objectivism); (2) accepting randomness, incoherence, indeterminacy and paradox; (3) being skeptical about the positivist tradition in science and essentialist theories; (4) assuming that meanings are historically situated and constructed and reconstructed through language.  Wilber (1998) has suggested three additional core assumptions: (1) Reality is not in all ways pre-given (objectivism), but in some significant ways is a construction, an interpretation (this view is often called "constructivism - the belief that reality is simply given, and not also partly constructed, is referred to as "the myth of the given."; (2) Meaning is context-dependent, contexts are boundless (this is often called "contextualism"); (3) Cognition must therefore privilege no single perspective (this is called the "integral-aperspective" view) (Wilber, 1998, p. 121).

Sherman (2000) suggested that one implication from postmodern thinking might concern how we as teachers take into consideration the subjective nature of our various disciplines. The act of communication is a reciprocal process (Schmuck and Schmuck, 1997) of discourse in which we engage each others' constructions of reality.  Encountering each others constructions of reality might be considered an “inter-dependent” action which some would describe as a primary element of Cooperative Learning. Bruner (1990; 1996) discuses this as an act of "inter-subjectivity" and emphasizes the important role of "narrative" in this process.  Communicating through face-to-face dialogue, as well as through the acts of writing and reading, offer an opportunity to construct and determine a credible reality.  This is thought to be similar in meaning to the notion of developing an "action theory" as described earlier in Tables 1 and 2.  Constructivism from a Piagtian and Vygotskian perspective would also explain this learning process.  It is believed, then, that computer-supported collaborative learning environments might facilitate this process of inter-subjectivity.


Historically, technological advancements in communication have influenced teaching and learning: e.g., from stone and clay tablets, parchment and papyrus scrolls and the printing press in the past, to typewriters, xerox duplications, word processors, e-mail, listservs and the world wide web in the present. In the post-industrial global economy of the present (see Friedman, B. M., 1999 and Friedman, T. L., 1999 for exemplary discussions of this), people encounter great diversity of thought from a variety of different people representing many different cultures or what some refer to as different "communities of practice" (Gold, 1996).  Postmodern theory recognizes diversity in the form of plural constructions of realities that one is likely to encounter.  Technologically sophisticated communication skills are a necessary component of this new global environment.  In 1990 Elizabeth Dole, U. S. Secretary of Labor, presented what has been called the “SCANS Report” (The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991; Whetzel, 1992; Lankard, 1995) where she suggested five goals for public school education.  The goals are presented in Table 5, and include the ability to use sophisticated technology to communicate and collaborate.  Collaborative teaching and learning experiences (that is to say cooperative learning!) that make use of various technologies would be congruent with the skills necessary to achieve an effective post-industrial global economy.  Margaret Riel (1996) has contributed an excellent description of these processes within and among networked learning environments.


Insert Table 3 here


My own experience with adapting computer-based technology to enhance learning began in the 1970's.  I began to use Computer Mediated Communications (CMC) facilitated by mainframe computer-generated reports in undergraduate educational psychology classes (Sherman, 1976; 1979).  Throughout the 1980's and into the 1990's internet access and mainframe computers facilitated CMC using "listservs" and "newsgroups" (Sherman, 1995).  During the Spring of 1993 I was fortunate to be part of a collaborative effort that brought the worlds' first CMC message by a dignitary of state (U. S. President William Clinton) to a 5th grade classroom in Oxford, Ohio (Sherman, et. al., 1994).  This event transpired asynchronously through the internet medium of "KIDCAFE," at that time an internet "netnews group" founded by Odd de Presno and Dan Wheeler (, presently at  President Clinton's message was featured as a major accomplishment in networking for the 1993 year (Clement & Abrahams, 1994).  Not discussed in Clement, et. al, (1994) was the cooperative group activities that proceeded and eventually generated President Clinton's message.  These 5th grade children were involved in a Group Investigation inquiry project that focused on the President's inaugural speech where they perceived his emphasis to be on determining how to reduce the national debt.  The children's collaboratively determined solution to this problem involved having every child in the country donate their pennies.  They communicated this solution asynchronously via the internet from their classroom KIDLINK connection to a larger community of children throughout the United States as well as a much broader international community of children.  Not only did this generate a response from President Clinton, as well as the Vice President's wife, Tipper Gore (via a telephone call to the classroom), but it also resulted in several hundred dollars in donations that were eventually sent to Washington, D.C.!  It is believed that in this cooperative learning event we witnessed all three elements of the experiential learning cycle as described earlier in Table 1: 1) the children tried out an action theory strategy that 2) provided them with considerable feedback, which 3) altered their previous perceptions about the role of children in solving problems.  Those of us who were involved with this project were strongly impressed with the far reaching effects of this collaborative project.  We could see the positive effects of cooperative learning when combined with CMC and other related technologies.  The children appeared to gain a positive sense of empowerment, and obtained considerable learning experience with democratic processes, as well as gained greater technological sophistication.

In 1995 I presented a paper which described similar uses of CMC through the medium of a "netnews group" (Sherman, 1995).  The conference at which this paper was delivered was entitled "CSCL'95: The First International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning."  It was at this conference that I began to see the introduction of Constructivist theory based upon Piaget and Vygotsky.  Koschmann (1996) has described this as a major "paradigm shift".  It certainly has been a major paradigm shift for me as I came in contact with a variety of CSCL called Computer Supported Intentional Learning Experiences, or CSILE.

     Scardamalia and Bereiter (1993) and Scardamalia et. al., (1992) have described CSILE as "...a networked database system which encourages students intentional learning through progressive discourse. Oshima et al. (1995) elaborates on this definition of CSILE as follows: "Students are allowed to externalize their thoughts in the database in the form of texts or graphics, then manipulate their represented knowledge in building further knowledge. The database is accessible to anyone who is registered as a member. Students can asynchronously collaborate through mutual commentaries. They can create comment notes to add to their reflective thoughts on their peers' thoughts. Thus, students with CSILE work as members of the classroom community in pursuing their inquiries on study topics." (p. 259).

CSILE is not just software, but rather a process that is many times implemented on the World Wide Web (WWW) as a “chat-room” dialogue space where strands and threads of dialogue as well as graphic images can be stored, accessed, viewed and contributed.  Business and industry are using a variety of software to accomplish similar objectives: e.g., Lotus Notes, etc.   My own institution, Miami University, supports a software product called “” (1999) [] where CSILE activities might take place for the purposes of course instruction.  Basic Support for Cooperative Work, BSCW (Version 3.3) (1999) [] is another product/site which provides software for Cooperative and Interactive Learning in a CSILE-like structure. 

All of my own courses make use of an adaptation of a program called WWWBOARD (1995) available from Matt's Script Archive at

This program allows "strands" and "threads" of dialogue to emerge publicly in an organized fashion in an "on-line dialogue space" on the web. I have begun to use this dialogue space as a medium through which my own cooperative structure, Dyadic Essay Confrontations, or DEC, is accomplished.  DEC as a cooperative learning strategy is discussed elsewhere (Millis,, 1993; Sherman, 1998; Sherman, 1999; Nolenske & Millis, 1999).  However, it might be noted here that DEC is predicated on a post modern and Lewinian based theory of cooperatively determined transactional communications.

Increasingly evidence of the importance of peer learning and CMC may be seen in a variety of places.  A major American Psychological Association journal, Teaching of Psychology, has a separate section devoted entirely to "Computers in Teaching" where the majority of articles for the past five years have focused on web-based applications.  Many of these articles are using CSILE-like cooperative activities: e.g., Richard Sherman's report on social psychology class instruction on the web (Sherman, 1998).  Other journals also provide a considerable focus on web-based peer learning experiences: e.g., Instructional Science (Hara's, et. al., 2000 article on content analysis of on-line discussions); CyberPsychology and Behavior, the entire Volume 3, Issue 1 is devoted to articles on web-based applications (Hall, 2000).  An examination of the Educational Media and Technology Yearbooks (Ely & Minor, 1994 to the present) can provide additional evidence of this increasing reliance upon web-based technologies, many of which make use of cooperative learning structures.

Hara, Bonk & Angeli's (2000) recent article on content analysis of online discussions provides a particularly interesting example of CMC research: specifically it attempted both quantitative and qualitative analyses of text-based dialogues in a virtual environment.  Unlike face-to-face discussions where the dialogue is "fleeting" (unless recorded as on either audio or video tape), on-line discussions allow one to analyze the texts which students contribute.  Hara et. al. (2000) examined participation rates, interaction patterns, social cues within student messages, cognitive and metacognitive components, and depth of processing.  They concluded that messages became more lengthy over time, were cognitively deep, as well as embedded with peer references, and indicative of a student oriented environment.  They also noted that messages became more interactive over time.  It is also interesting to note that one of their qualitative tools of analysis included a mapping of the dialogues, as in who responded to whom, which looked similar to traditional sociometric mapping of friendship patterns, an approach used by earlier group dynamics research. 

Researchers from the cooperative learning community have also had an interest in examining the on-going group experience of the cooperative learning process: e.g., Webb & Kenderski, (1984); Webb (1992); Weinstein (1991).  Different cooperative structures (behavior settings) may be yielding different interaction patterns.  This was certainly being suggested by Slavin (1983) and the Johnson's (Johnson, et. al., 1981; Johnson & Johnson, 1987) in their meta-analyes of achievement and cooperative learning.  The ongoing group process, from a Lewinian psychological ecology perspective, has also had a continuing interest in the analysis of group process (Kounin & Sherman, 1979; Kounin & Gump, 1974; Weinstein, 1991).  Hara's et. al. (2000) study, then,  appears to have similar interests, albeit in a virtual environment, rather than a video-taped one like Kounin and Gump (1974) have described.  Nevertheless, this return to examining the interactions of participants in a collaborative virtual environment is an important research focus and opportunity to study group dynamics at a distance.

While one might be critical of examining text-based dialogue of collaborating groups because of the "unnatural" nature of these communications (being virtual, text-based, asynchronous, and on the web), it may be closer to the actual way people are transacting business in a post-modern world.  Perhaps this mode of behavior is what Koschmann (1996) is describing as the "paradigm shift"?  Perhaps this is why the U. S. Secretary of Labor's SCANS report recognized and put so much emphasis on the development of skills that would lead to successful collaboration with others via the use of technology.



     In conclusion I have tried to show that the world of cooperative learning has strong roots in the cognitive field psychology of Kurt Lewin.  Applied social psychology strategies for learning in highly diverse school environments were inspired by the earlier research of Morton Deutch (1949) who demonstrated the positive effects of promotive interdependence, i.e., cooperative learning.  Learning settings that would be described as cooperative structures were defined and differentiated from those that are competitive or individualistic.  While other cognitive psychology theories were mentioned (Piaget and Vygotsky), the primary focus of this paper has been to describe and raise some issues regarding group processes, especially as they are being used in web-based delivery of collaborative learning experiences.  Peer learning strategies were also linked to the world of work for which we are preparing our students.  Some promising new research goals were also described.



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Figure 1.  Generations of Lewinian Cooperative Learning Theorists and Their Techniques.




Figure 2. Categorization of Cooperative Learning Methods by Incentive and Task Structures With Example of Each.


Task Structure

Incentive Structure


Group Reward for individual Learning


Group Reward for Group Product


Individual Reward



Group Study

(No Specialization)


STAD, TGT, (Slavin, 1995);


Humphries, et. Al, 1982;


Hamblin, et al., 1971;


Sherman (1986)


Learning Together, (Wheeler & Ryan, 1973)


Peterson & Janicki, (1979);


Web & Kenderski (1984);


Starr & Schuermann (1986)


Task (With Individual Specialization)


Jigsaw II (Slavin, 1995))


GI (Sharan, 1980);

STP (Sherman & Woy-Hazleton, 1988);




Jigsaw (Aronson, 1978);

DEC (Millis, et al, 1993).



Table 1. Experiential Learning Cycle (After Johnson & Johnson, 1987, p. 18.)


1.  Taking action by behaviorally trying out the strategies and procedures in one's action theory....LEADS TO..

2.  Experiencing consequences of one's actions, receiving feedback on one's behaviors, and reflecting on and examining one's experiences....LEADS TO..

3.  Organizing present information and experiences into an action theory....LEADS BACK TO #1 and perpetuates the cycle. ___________________________________________________________



Table 2. Twelve Lewinian Principles Of Experiential Learning. (After Johnson & Johnson, 1987, p. 18-20)


·      Principle 1. Effective experiential learning will affect the learner's cognitive structures (action theories), attitudes and values, perceptions and behavioral patterns.

·      Principle 2. People will believe more in knowledge they have discovered themselves than in knowledge presented by others.

·      Principle 3. Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than a passive process.

·      Principle 4. Acceptance of new action theories, attitudes, and behavioral patterns cannot be brought about by a piecemeal approach - one's whole cognitive-affective-behavioral system has to change.

·      Principle 5. It takes more than information to change action theories, attitudes, and behavioral patterns.

·      Principle 6. It takes more than firsthand experience to generate valid knowledge. Besides experience, there needs to be a theoretical system that the experience tests out, and reflection on the meaning of the experience.

·      Principle 7. Behavior changes will be temporary unless the action theories and attitudes underlying them are changed.

·      Principle 8. Changes in perceptions of oneself and one's social environment are necessary before changes in action theories, attitudes, and behavior will take place.

·      Principle 9. The more supportive, accepting, and caring the social environment, the freer a person is to experiment with new behaviors, attitudes, and action theories.

·      Principle 10. In order for changes in behavior patterns, attitudes and action theories to be permanent, both the person and the social environment have to change.

·      Principle 11. It is easier to change a person's action theories, attitudes, and behavioral patterns in a group context than in an individual context.

·      Principle 12. A person accepts a new system of action theories, attitudes, and behavioral patterns when he or she accepts membership in a new group.



Table 3.  Five Work Place Skills Identified in the SCANS report (After Whetzel, 1992).


1    resources--identifying, organizing, planning, and allocating time, money, materials, and workers;

2.   interpersonal skills--negotiating, exercising leadership, working with diversity, teaching others new skills, serving clients and customers, and participating as a team member;

3.  information skills--using computers to process information and acquiring and evaluating, organizing and maintaining, and interpreting and communicating information;

4.   systems skills--understanding systems, monitoring and correcting system performance, and improving and designing systems; and

5.   technology utilization skills--selecting technology, applying technology to a task, and maintaining and troubleshooting technology.