Traditional versus Cooperative Groups
Cooperative Groups are more than just letting student work
together; they are structured learning environments. Johnson,
Johnson and Smith (Active Learning: Cooperation in the College
Classroom, 1991, Interaction Book Company, Edina, MN, ISBN
0-939603-14-4) warn us that only under certain conditions can we
expect cooperative efforts to be productive. Those conditions
- Clearly perceived positive interdependence.
- Considerable promotive (face-to-face) interaction.
- Clearly perceived individual accountability and personal
responsibility to achieve the group's goals.
- Frequent use of the relevant interpersonal and small
- Frequent and regular group processing of current
functioning to improve the group's future effectiveness.
The follow table is provided to help distinguish between
traditional and cooperative learning groups.
|Traditional Learning Groups
||Cooperative Learning Groups
- Focus is on individual performance only.
- Group members compete with each other and
withhold information -- "If you succeed, I
- Only individual accomplishments are rewarded.
- Focus is on group performance.
- Each group member believes that they cannot
succeed unless the other members of the group
succeed (and visa versa) -- If you win, I
- Group as well as individual accomplishments are
- Assignments are discussed with little commitment
to each other's learning.
- Group members help, assist, encourage, and
support each other's efforts to learn.
- Individual accountability only -- I don't care if
the other members in the group learn.
- Both group and individual accountability.
- Members hold self and others accountable for high
- Social skills are assumed or ignored.
- One person often "takes charge" and
does all the work.
- Teamwork skills are emphasized -- members are
taught and expected to use collaborative skills.
- Leadership shared by all members.
- No processing of how well the group is
functioning or the quality of its work.
- Students have time and are given a procedure to
analyze how well their groups are functioning,
how well they are using the appropriate social
skills, and how to improve the quality of their
- Little or no attention to group formation
(students often select members).
- Groups typically large (5-10 members).
- Teacher ignores groups.
- Teacher assigns students to heterogeneous groups.
- Groups are typically small (3 - 5 members).
- Teacher observes and intervenes when necessary.