The term cooperative learning stands for a strategy where in teams students endeavour to reach common goals through reciprocal learning and teaching.
The contribution of each individual is important here. Social competency, individual responsibility and self-assessment of the group’s own work are learnt through the targeted interaction which takes place between the students. The methods of cooperative learning were systemised from the 1970s onwards by David W. Johnson (social psychologist) and Roger T. Johnson (education scientist) at the University of Minnesota in the USA. They investigated the interaction of students and the influence of this on their learning process. From their investigations they drew the conclusion that five aspects are elementary for cooperation in learning. These must be present in reciprocal learning and teaching in order to make efficient learning possible:
Individual responsibility: In the cooperative learning process each individual is given specific tasks and roles. The cooperation only functions if each individual contributes a part of the whole and works on his task independently.
Positive reciprocal dependency: An activity is only cooperative if there is a common goal which interests everyone and to which all must contribute in order to achieve it.
Social competency: Learning social skills and interaction forms is an indispensable prerequisite for all teamwork. These are decisive for the successful continuation and further development of cooperative learning.
Partner-related communication: The group members should sit near each other in a suitable seating arrangement and be encouraged here to communicate with each other and contribute respectively to the success of the other person. Cooperative learning cannot exist without positive interaction.
Process evaluation: This allows the participants to systematically reconsider and improve their cooperation ability. This takes place by the group thinking about their achievements, their possibilities and the limitations and obstacles during the group work.
The strategy of cooperative learning can be used both within the school system and in informal contexts outside it.