Almost all Lewinian-oriented 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 in a given situation. Johnson & Johnson (1987) 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 Figure 2). 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. The Johnsons (1987) have presented 12 principles of experiential learning (See Twelve Lewinian Principles of Experiential Learning, Figure 3). The last four principles focus on the influence of environments on individuals, especially the context of a social group on experiential learning. Membership in a group which is supportive and accepting will free a person to experiment with new behaviors, attitudes, and action theories. One such group might be a classroom structured for cooperative learning.
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 the
group product according to a fixed set of standards, those standards being
mastery or criterion-referenced performance standards. Collaborative learning
might fit into this category of goal structure. A variety of Peer-tutoring
models such as Aronson's Jigsaw technique, Fantuzzo's or Dansereau's peer
dyads would also be located here. The Johnsons' and Sharans' Group-Investigation
models are considered cooperative goal structures. Sherman's (1990) Dyadic
Essay Confrontations (DEC) might be considered an example of a cooperative
technique which makes use of collaborative learning. Slavin (1983) has
further differentiated cooperative goal structures on the basis of two
types of task structures and three types of incentive structures (See
Figure 4. Categorization of Cooperative Learning Methods by Incentive and Task Structures
Task Structure Incentive StructureIndividually 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 goals: in other words, one achieves their goal at the expense of others. Kohn (1986) has described this as MEGA (Mutually Exclusive Goal Attainment). In this sense though there is some interdependence among students, it is primarily negative interdependence. One may achieve their goal at the expense of others. Cheating and "dirty tricks" are the usual examples of negative interdependence. Some have described this as the "traditional" structure (Wolff, 1969).
Group Reward Group Reward for Individual Reward for Individual Group Product Learning
Group Study STAD, TGT, Learning Together Peterson & (No Task Humphries, et Wheeler & Ryan Janicki (1979) Specialization) al. (1982); (1973) Webb & Kenderski Hamblin, et al. (1984); Starr & (1971); Sherman Schuermann (1986) (1986)
Task Jigsaw II GI (Sharan, 1980) Aronson's Jigsaw Specialization Slavin Sherman & (1978) Hazleton (1988) Sherman (1988)
An individualistic goal structure is one in which students are given individual goals, and by using a criterion-referenced evaluation system students are assigned individual rewards. Whereas student interdependence is required in the cooperative structure, students behave quite independent of each other in an individualistic structure. Individualistic structures usually use a criterion- referenced evaluation system.
Obviously there is a relationship between goal structures and the methods of evaluation which are used. Some have described evaluation as being either norm-referenced or criterion-referenced (Bloom, Hastings & Madaus, 1971). Individually competitive goal structures logically demand a norm-referenced form of evaluation. Likewise, cooperative goal structures demand a criterion-referenced system of evaluation.
While earlier interest in cooperative pedagogy is acknowledged (eg., Hains & McKeachie, 1967), Kohn's (1992) book presents the strongest arguments in favor of teaching through cooperation. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's social and educational psychologists such as the Johnsons (Johnson & Johnson, 1975; Johnson & Johnson, 1987), Eliot Aronson (Aronson et al., 1975; Lucker, et al., 1976; Blaney et al., 1977; Aronson, 1978), Robert Slavin (1978a; 1978b; 1983) and the Sharans (Sharan, 1980; Sharan, et al., 1985) have produced a considerable volume of research demonstrating the effectiveness of a great variety of small group cooperative pedagogical strategies, especially at the elementary and secondary education level. There now exists a professional organization devoted entirely to the study of cooperative learning (International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education). Nevertheless, little research has been accomplished in the 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 recent uses 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 Jigsaw techniques in a similar setting. Sherman (1986, 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 educational psychology classes. In the past five years several new articles 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, Sherman, & Cottell, 1993).
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 intergroup relations are beginning to acknowledge the applications and effectiveness of cooperative learning (eg., see Messick & Mackie, 1989). Almost all introductory educational psychology text books (eg. Dembo, 1994; Good & Brophy, 1990; Slavin, 1991; Glover & Bruning, 1990) now contain extended discussions of cooperative pedagogics and their effectiveness with regard to improved racial relations, self- esteem, internal locus of control and academic achievement. It is ironic that cooperative pedagogics have not been more greatly exploited in the teaching of psychology, especially social psychology, the discipline from which these various cooperative pedagogics originated. It also seems ironic that more research on small groups has not come from the discipline of psychology and also included greater analysis of human behavior under the conditions of a cooperative pedagogical treatment (Levine & Moreland, 1990, p. 620).
Thus, while there appears to be considerable evidence supporting
the effectiveness, as well as need, for cooperative learning applications
in post-secondary settings, much more needs to be accomplished. The remainder
of this paper is a series of brief descriptions of cooperative pedagogical
strategies which are presently being used in the teaching of psychology
at both the undergraduate and graduate levels of post-secondary instruction.
Center for Quality Education, California State University Dominguez Hills, HFA-B-316 1000 East Victoria Street, Carson, CA 90747.
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