A presentation to the annual meetings of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, April 3-7, 1991. [revised, 20 January, 1996

Lawrence W. Sherman, Professor
Department of Educational Psychology,
Center for Human Development, Learning and Teaching,CHDLT
School of Education and Allied Professions,(SEAP)
Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056,
E-MAIL: shermalw@MUOHIO.EDU FAX: [513] 529-3646 VOICE PHONE: (513)-529-6642.


Kurt Lewin, one important founding father of social psychology, influenced the development of the Group Dynamics movement in the early 1940's. Several of his students have continued that tradition. 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. His research interests have ranged from studying productivity of work groups experiencing cooperative or competitive conditions, to more recent attempts at resolving the nuclear arms race/conflict. Throughout the past 15 years renewed interest in Deutsch's (1949) earlier research has lead several scholars to re-examine the influence of cooperation and competition on instruction. Other students of Kurt Lewin have also had a strong interest in group dynamics concepts and their applications in educational settings (eg., Leon Festinger, Ronald Lippitt and Jacob Kounin). Lewin's heritage continues on through third generation students of students of Lewin (eg., 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).


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.

Figure 2. EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE (After Johnson & Johnson, 1987, p. 18.)


Figure 3. TWELVE LEWINIAN PRINCIPLES OF EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING. (After Johnson & Johnson, 1987, p. 18-20)

The purpose of this paper is to present some examples of cooperative pedagogical strategies which are presently being used in post-secondary environments, especially in the context of teaching psychology. One of the first issues which needs to be addressed is the differentiation between three types of teaching formats which the Johnsons (1979) describe as goal structures. The three goal structures are 1) cooperative, 2) individually competitive, and 3) individualistic. These goal structures are primarily based on thenotion of the presence or absence of interdependence among classroom members. Three types of positive interdependence have been described by Thompson (1967) and include 1) pooled, 2) sequential, and 3) reciprocal interdependence. If any three are present we can assume a cooperative goal structure is in operation. 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 (Bruffee, 1993). While elements of collaborative learning are present in many cooperative pedagogics, some have felt it necessary to make a distinction between collaborative and cooperative learning. Others find cooperative and collaborative complements to each other ((Brody, 1995).

 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).

Figure 4. Categorization of Cooperative Learning Methods by Incentive and Task Structures

Task Structure                         Incentive Structure

                  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)

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 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).

 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. They include:

Each method is briefly described in Appendix A. Also, an annotated bibliography of source materials is included in Appendix B. For instructors who are interested in getting more cooperatively involved with other teachers who are using these techniques, I have also supplied an application blank for membership in the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education (IASCE). Other sources of information on cooperative learning in post-secondary educational settings are available from Jim Cooper at the following address:

Center for Quality Education, California State University Dominguez Hills, HFA-B-316 1000 East Victoria Street, Carson, CA 90747.

Dr. Cooper has established a journal for interested instructors. An subscription blank has been supplied and if you send it to Jim at the above address, he will put you in touch with the network. The journal is now in it's third volume (1993) and distributed as "Cooperative Learning and College Teaching."


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