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New Evidence on Cooperative Learning from Faculty Focus

blendedlearning's picture

There is a long history of evidence that cooperative learning has ample benefits. The study reviewed by Faculty Focus adds another piece to the evidence: the study focuses on the amount of time spent on task, a variable which is obviously important but was previously underexplored. Previous research would break students into groups of individuals and collaborative workers, but not necessarily take into account whether or not students were working independently outside of the group setting. This study controlled for that, by rigorously monitoring time spent studying in the classroom and out-of-class.

The study also took into account the importance of giving groups a "sufficient period of time for the cooperative learning teams to mature." Essentially, the earliest assessments - first tests, early homework assignments - did not show a significant difference between the teams and individuals. Later work, however, started to show the benefits. Eventually, the students studying in groups began to significantly outperform the students who were studying individually. These improvements only materialized when the students had the time to work together and understand how collaboration benefited them. From these findings, the researchers concluded that groups need to meet frequently and have regular membership in order to get the full benefits of collaboration.