Cooperative learning

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


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).


In particular, cooperative learning has important implication for increasing diversity in various academic disciplines. 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 under-performed 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. African America students placed in study groups exhibited higher performance than those not in study groups. This study suggests a possible reason for low performance and participation rates of particular minority groups: different study habits (i.e., non-cooperative learning) result in lower academic achievement in that subject, making the student feel less capable and less interested in that subject.


More evidence of the positive impact of cooperative learning can be found here

Example of Cooperative Learning in Economics

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

Positive effects of cooperative learning exercises have been seen in Economics classes as well. Steven Yamarik, an associate professor of economics at California State University at Long Beach, conducted a study in 2007 demonstrating that cooperative learning exercises result in students achieving higher test scores.

In his intermediate macroeconomics course, Yamarick established groups of three or four students, which he called "base groups." Students remained in the same "base group" for the entire course. Yamarick had students work with one another both inside as well as outside of the classroom. Assignments included handouts as well as supplementary readings. In class, groups typically reviewed the questions in a given handout, came to a group consensus concerning answers, and then presented one solution to the class. For the study, Yamarick facilitated the group cooperative learning exercises and assessed the results. Yamarik found that students in the collaborative learning environment had higher achievement levels (i.e., higher exam scores). Though this study only looked at overall improvements rather than breaking down the results by race or gender, these findings indicate that cooperative learning is effective in Economics classes and taken with the findings of Treisman (1985) may indicate support for using these methods to increase participation rates of underrepresented minorities in Economics.

This study can be found in the The Journal of Economic Education.

How to Incorporate Cooperative Learning

For the small classroom

For the large classroom


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.