The Effects of Cooperative Learning on Psychological and Social Traits among Undergraduate Students

By Kocak, Recep | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, July 2008 | Go to article overview

The Effects of Cooperative Learning on Psychological and Social Traits among Undergraduate Students


Kocak, Recep, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


The effects of cooperative learning on selected psychological and social traits were investigated. The sample of the study included 114 freshmen and sophomores in a psychology of learning and a fundamental mathematics course, in a public university in Turkey. The University of California-Los Angeles Loneliness Scale (R-UCLA; Russell, Peplau, & Cutrona, 1980), the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS; Taylor, 1984), the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS; Liebowitz, 1991), the Self-Monitoring Scale (SMS; Snyder, 1972), and the Happiness Scale (HS; Fordyce, 1988) were used to assess the levels of loneliness, alexithymia, social anxiety, self-monitoring, and happiness. Results show that cooperative learning was effective in reducing the levels of loneliness and social anxiety and increasing the levels of happiness among the participants. However, it was found that cooperative learning was not effective in increasing students' self-monitoring skills or decreasing their alexithymia levels.

Keywords: cooperative learning, isolation, social anxiety, alexithymia, self-monitoring skills.

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An instructional method, described as a model or a plan, is used to form an educational program, organize teaching materials, and direct activities in a teaching environment (Senemoglu, 2001). The search for more effective methods in teaching has been a challenge for centuries. One of the major discoveries in this context is cooperative learning, which has recently become a dominant method in teaching. Cooperative learning encourages students to work in teams for a common purpose and help each other in learning (Gomleksiz, 2006; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Lee, 1997). According to Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (1991), forming positive dependence among team members is the main distinguishing characteristic of cooperative learning. In addition, in this method, the contributions of each member count towards the success of the team. Cooperative-learning team members pool their efforts and work together to achieve a common goal.

Cooperative learning constantly encourages students to interact with one another. The better they are at such interaction, the more will be gained. In that sense, it may be possible to help children improve their social skills through the use of cooperative learning strategies. It is important to note that students in cooperative learning groups realize that the team might have its own timetable and they need to make appropriate adjustments.

Kagan (1998) emphasizes several important factors that should be taken into consideration when the cooperative learning method is used. First, students who are familiar with working in cooperative learning groups are few in number. Therefore, instructors should prepare their students for working in such groups. Second, careful lesson planning is essential in cooperative learning. Third, instructors should constantly provide facilitating opportunities during the implementation phase. Finally, it is important to make sure that heterogeneous teams are formed based on certain characteristics such as gender, skills, personality, ethnicity, and so on (Acikgoz, 1992; Kagan, 2006; Slavin, 1981).

There has been an abundance of research that indicates the positive effects of cooperative learning on academic success (e.g., Johnson et al., 1991; Mwerinde & Ebert, 1995; Salvin, 1989). In addition, cooperative learning has been found to be more effective than traditional teaching methods in terms of several psychological and social factors such as respect, fear, self-expression, decision making, collaboration, problem solving, responsibility, sharing, listening, critical thinking, and self-esteem (Fennel, 1992; G6mleksiz, 1994; Kagan, 2006; Karp & Shakeshaft, 1997; Kluge, 1999). The present study focused particularly on the effects of cooperative learning on selected psychological variables including loneliness, social anxiety, and alexithymia. …

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