Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.
Cooperation Is More Than a Seating Arrangement
Structuring cooperative learning involves more than seating a number of students close together and telling them to help each other. Many actions can hurt group efforts. Less able members sometimes “leave it to George” to complete the group's tasks, thus creating a free rider effect (Kerr and Bruun 1981) whereby group members expend decreasing amounts of effort and just go through the motions of teamwork. At the same time, “George” may expend less effort to avoid the sucker effect of doing all the work (Kerr 1983). While working in a group, students might also defer to high-ability group members, who may take over the important leadership roles in ways that benefit them at the expense of the rest of the group (the rich-get-richer effect). For example, a high-ability group member may give all the explanations of what is being learned. Because the amount of time spent explaining correlates highly with the amount learned, the more able member learns a great deal while less able members flounder as a captive audience. Group efforts can also be characterized by self-induced helplessness (Langer and Benevento 1978), diffusion of responsibility and social loafing (Latane, Williams, and Harkin 1979), reactance (Salomon 1981), dysfunctional divisions of labor (“I'm the thinkist and you're the typist”) (Sheingold, Hawkins, and Char 1984), inappropriate dependence on authority (Webb, Ender, and Lewis 1986), destructive conflict (Collins 1970, Johnson and Johnson 1979), ganging up against a task, and other patterns of behavior that debilitate group performance.