This study presents a comprehensive review of the pertinent literature on Cooperative Learning. This review covers three broad categories of the literature: (1) publications related to defining Cooperative Learning and delineating its theoretical foundations; (2) empirical research investigating the efficacy of cooperative learning for educational outcomes (e.g. academic performance, student behavior, etc.); and (3) studies of Cooperative Learning and the limited English student.
Cooperative Learning: Definition and Theoretical Foundations
Slavin (1982) defines cooperative learning as:
. . . instructional methods in which students of all levels of performance work together in small groups toward a common goal. The essential feature of cooperative learning is that the success of one student helps other students to be successful. (p.6)
Theoretically, the question may be asked: How is it that cooperation in learning transfers the success of one student to other students? According to Johnson and Johnson (1974), understanding this transference can be attained through examination of the structure of learning goals.
Johnson and Johnson report that values underlie choices of goal structures in learning situation. For example, if reaching the goal requires competition, then as part of a "hidden curriculum" students will be learning such things as how to compete, what it takes to compete, the rewards of competition, etc. The authors report that students are also learning that reaching a goal requires a sense of separateness from others and a sort of triumph of one's individuality over another.
On the other hand, the authors state that the cooperative goal structure provides a sense of identification or oneness among students, a process that facilitates incorporation of internalization of the learning and knowledge levels of all participants in the student team. As Johnson and Johnson (1974) put it, in the...