Cooperative learning

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Cooperative learning is an educational approach that promotes students working in small groups in order to collectively learn. This approach is considered an experiential learning approach and has been shown to improve student's test scores, improve the achievements of female and African American students, and improve retention rates. This approach is also highly similar to collaborative learning.


Examples of Cooperative Learning

All Utah Libraries  Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/utahstatelibrary/5635185979/in/photostream/

Who: Steven Yamarik, a associate professor of economics at California State University at Long Beach.

What: Conducted a study demonstrating that cooperative learning exercises resulted in students achieving higher test scores.

When: 2007

How: First, in his intermediate macroeconomics course Yamarick established groups of three to four students which he called "base groups." These students remained in the same "base group" for the entire course. Then, Yamarick had students work with one another both inside as well as outside of the classroom. The academic work which the students were assigned included handouts as well as additional readings. In class, groups typically reviewed the questions in a given handout, came to a group consensus concerning answers, and presented one solution to the class. Finally, Yamarick personally facilitated the group cooperative learning exercises and assessed the results.


This study can be found in the Journal of Economic Education

How to Incorporate Cooperative Learning

For the small classroom

For the large classroom

Evidence

Earlham College   Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/earlhamcollege/4387541741/in/photostream/

Cooperative learning has been shown to increase test performance (Slavin 1991, Yamarik 2007), aid the performance of underrepresented students (Treisman 1985), increase student engagement (Johnson and Johnson, 1989), and increase the retention rate of students (Treisman 1985, Williamson and Rowe 2002).


Uri Treisman, a professor of calculus at the University of California, Berkley, conducted a study comparing the difference in achievement between Chinese students, a group which typically performed well in his calculus course, and African American students, a group which typically underperformed in his calculus course. After observing the study habits of both groups, Treisman discovered that African American students typically worked alone for assignments where areas Chinese students regularly worked in groups for assignments. Once Treisman established study groups for the African American students their performance significantly improved. More evidence of the positive impact of cooperative learning can be found here



Conclusion

By incorporating cooperative learning into the economics classroom, student performance and engagement in the classroom can increase significantly. Cooperative learning techniques can be used in both small and large classrooms and have shown to increase the performance of underrepresented students.


An excellent resource for more information concerning teaching strategies for the economics classroom can be found at Starting Point: Teaching and Learning Economics, a resource which was founded by KimMarie McGoldrick (University of Richmond), Scott Simkins (North Carolina A&T University), Mark Maier (Glendale Community College), and Cathy Manduca (Carleton College). For more information about cooperative learning in particular, please click here.