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  • Building Bridges between Cooperative and Collaborative Learning Author(s): Roberta S. Matthews, James L. Cooper, Neil Davidson and Peter Hawkes Source: Change, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Jul. - Aug., 1995), pp. 34-40 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/03/2014 13:27

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    34 Change •July/August 1995

    This content downloaded from on Sat, 8 Mar 2014 13:27:59 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • Building Bridges

    Between Cooperative

    And Collaborative

    Learning By Roberta S. Matthews, James L. Cooper,

    Neil Davidson, & Peter Hawkes

    comparing collaborative and cooperative learning as they are practiced

    in college and university classrooms we have two purposes in mind. On

    the one hand, we wish to assert the commonalities shared by these two ap-

    proaches, such as using small groups to facilitate learning; on the other,

    we wish to highlight the differences so that college and university teachers

    may make informed choices about how to organize their classes and pre-

    sent their materials. Confusion about these similarities and differences leads not only to

    misconceptions, but occasionally, to strong differences of opinion. In this brief article,

    we wish to lay the groundwork for a convergence of purpose. Ultimately, we hope to

    foster the development of an emerging field of research and practice that includes both

    collaborative and cooperative learning.

    Roberta S. Matthews is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Fiorello H. LaGuardia Community Col-

    lege, City University of New York. She is a member of the board of'AAHE. James L. Cooper is professor of graduate education at California State University at Dominiguez Hills. He is director of the Network for Cooperative Learning in Higher Education and editor of the Cooperative Learning in College Teaching newsletter. Neil Davidson is professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Mary- land. Peter Hawkes is associate professor of English and Director of Composition Skills at East Strouds-

    burg University. The authors retain the copyright for this article.

    Change* July/August 1995 35

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  • Although collaborative and cooperative learning encompass many different activities in themselves, we have limited our focus here to their presence in colleges and univer- sities as varieties of classroom-based small- group activity. This means, for example, with regard to collaborative learning, that we will not discuss the faculty-faculty collabora- tions that occur in multi- or interdisciplinary learning communities; faculty-faculty col- laboration around research; student-faculty collaborative research or teaching initiatives; or institutional forms of collaboration. With regard to cooperative learning, we will not discuss the rich body of practice and research that has surrounded its growth as an interna- tional movement of influence in pre-colle- giate settings. With regard to both, we will not consider the nuances of group learning and assessment issues, and can merely ac- knowledge the potentially rich relationship between collaborative and cooperative learn-

    ing and various forms of electronic learning. This is not an exhaustive survey, but rather an attempt to situate collaborative and coop- erative learning and to define a set of atti- tudes toward an area of increasing interest to

    college and university teachers. We refer read- ers to the annotated bibliography at the end of this article for further reading and study.

    We begin with an example that suggests the differences between cooperative and col- laborative learning. Mary Jones is a college student taking a class in educational princi- ples and practices from Dr. Davidson, a coop- erative-learning adherent. She is also enrolled in a composition course with Dr. Hawkes, an

    English professor who practices collaborative

    learning. In Dr. Davidson's cooperative- learning class, Mary and her teammates par- ticipate in structured group activities as they work together on a set of problems; at times, they are each assigned a specific role within their team. In Dr. Hawkes' collaborative- learning class, Mary and her group members are asked to organize their joint efforts and

    negotiate themselves who will perform group roles as the group critiques a student essay.

    While the groups work on their tasks in the

    cooperative-learning class, Dr. Davidson moves from team to team, observes the inter- actions, listens to the conversations, and in- tervenes when he feels it is appropriate. In

    Mary's composition course, Dr. Hawkes does not actively monitor the groups and refers all substantive questions back to them to resolve. At the end of Dr. Davidson's class period, he often conducts a brief summary session; he

    may ask groups to give a brief oral report of their findings or to submit a copy of their

    group-activity materials for his comments. Dr. Hawkes' collaborative-learning class al- ways ends with a plenary session; students keep the composition they evaluated and use it "to go to school on" as they work on their own drafts to be submitted in final form the following week.

    Earlier in the semester, Mary and her classmates in Dr. Davidson's class received training in appropriate small-group social skills such as active listening and giving con- structive feedback to teammates. Mary did not receive formal training in these tech- niques in Dr. Hawkes' class because he feels the students already possess the social skills necessary for group work. In Dr. Davidson's class, groups often perform group "process- ing" tasks in which students assess how the groups are functioning and how group mem- bers individually and together could improve levels of participation and performance. In Dr. Hawkes' class no formal group process- ing sessions occur, since he wants Mary and other students to resolve group conflicts or participation issues on their own.

    In the hypothetical classes just described, the procedures of both Dr. Davidson and Dr. Hawkes suggest a commitment to active small-group learning that represents a radical departure from the values and styles of more traditional college classrooms. Both have de- cided to hand over some of the teacher's tradi- tional authority to the students. And both have made practical decisions based on assump- tions about the role of the teacher, the nature of the learner, and the authority of knowledge. But the practices of the two teachers and their assumptions vary because they have adopted different methods of group learning.

    As the classroom descriptions suggest, there are areas where collaborative and coop- erative learning are markedly dissimilar. Within the context of small-group learning, there is a wide range of views about

    • the style, function, and degree of in- volvement of the teacher;

    • the issue of authority and power relation-

    ships between teacher and student; • the extent to which students need to be

    trained to work together in groups; • how knowledge is assimilated or con-

    structed; • the purpose of groups to emphasize dif-

    ferent outcomes such as the mastery of facts, the development of judgment, and/or the con- struction of knowledge;

    • the importance of different aspects of

    personal, social, and/or cognitive growth among students; and

    • a variety of additional implementation

    36 Change • July/August i 995

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  • concerns including, for example, group for- mation, task construction, and the degree of individual and/or group accountability neces- sary to ensure equitable distribution of work and accurate grading.

    In some cases, disagreement between col- laborative- and cooperative-learning practi- tioners about a particular issue or practice might stem from differences in the two methods. In other cases, divergence simply reflects teachers' different areas of interest and conce


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