Educational Research Analysts

cooperative learning

"Cooperative learning" is a classroom-management technique that conceals, accommodates, and institu­tion­alizes academic under­achievement.  It extends both the self-protective interests of the education establishment and the self-deceptive powers of individual teachers.


  1. higher achievement and retention
  2. greater use of higher level reasoning strategies
  3. greater ability to view situations from others' perspectives
  4. more positive, accepting, and supporting relationships with peers
  5. more positive attitudes toward teachers and learning, etc.
  6. higher self-esteem based on self-acceptance
  7. greater social support
  8. more positive psychological adjustment and health
  9. less disruptive and on task behavior
  10. greater collaborative skills and attitudes necessary for working with others

— D.W. Johnson, Cooperation in the Classroom


CONCEALS INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE  •  It credits one stu­dent for another student's work.

PROMOTES PEER-DEPENDENCE  •  It lets students parrot an­swers they get from peers without thought or research.

BABIES STUDENTS  •  Workers in the real world are hired and fired on their own merits, not on those of their peers.

HUMORS ILLITERACY  •  It lets poor readers succeed as func­tion­al illiterates.

REWARDS ILLITERACY  •  It pairs good readers with poor read­ers, grading poor readers on what good readers read.

IS NOT PEER-TUTORING  •  It gives tutor and tutee the same grade, unlike peer-tutoring.

Cooperative learning is a means of classroom control, not of education.  It is the protective reaction of a public education establishment caught between two in­compatible, ir­recon­cil­able demands — the demand for greater teacher ac­count­a­bil­i­ty (to justify more spending), and the demand for equal education out­comes (to dodge charges of bias or favoritism).  In coopera­tive learning you give group grades, which furnishes a pretense of account­abil­ity; and you pair lazy, ignorant, il­liter­ate students with diligent, know­ledge­able, moti­vated stu­dents long enough to mask in­divid­ual failure and hustle them on to the next grade before getting caught.