Tracing the Origins: The Slippery Slope of Cooperative Learning

El origen del trabajo colaborativo, y sus condiciones de éxito.

Mr. G Mpls

“Tracing the Origins” is a multi-part series. Each post explores how an initially promising finding in education research became distorted and misinterpreted in its widespread implementation. Part 1 examined the origin of “reading comprehension strategies.” 

A week or so ago, there was one sentence that stopped me cold while reading. It was Robert Slavin (1996) proclaiming “research on cooperative learning is one of the greatest success stories in the history of educational research.”

This bold assertion was backed up by in Dylan Wiliam’s Embedded Formative Assessment (2011). He wrote “activating students as learning resources for one another produces tangible and substantial increases in students’ learning.”

Huh? I thought cooperative learning, or “group work,” was unproven – a fad synonymous with various varieties of minimally-guided instruction. I’ve taken my fair share of shots at “group work” in the past, and was experiencing serious cognitive dissonance.

And so began my journey…

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