Cooperative learning and adults

Eija Korpela

Research output: Book/ReportReport


Cooperative learning means using small groups so that individuals work together to maximize their own and each other's productivity and achievement - group learning with cooperation. The questions posed in this review are: What are the key elements to be implemented when using cooperative learning with adults? Are the principles and methods of cooperative learning effective and efficient in adult learning according to research results? What are the experiences of cooperative learning with adult learners? This review surveys the current literature on theoretical explanations of why this type of cooperation might work, analyzes the needed elements in the groups, and describes and compares nine common approaches to cooperative learning. In the review of research, the main studies are surveyed that report results on the impact of cooperative learning with adults as subjects are surveyed. Then follows the review of practical experiences which concern using cooperative learning approaches with adult learners. The key elements to be implemented with adult learners are, in principle, the same as with children: positive interdependence, individual accountability, face-to-face interaction, careful grouping of participants, and appropriate use (and, if needed, learning) of social skills for cooperation. The amount and focus of research studies conducted to date do not warrant firm conclusions of how to apply these. Most of the research results on learning outcomes support use of cooperative approach. High- ability participants with poor social skills, however, show greater achievement when studying individually. Most of the cooperative learning experiences with adults are in school-type settings: military academies, colleges and universities, and long-term adult basic skills training programs. There are very few experiences in business and industry. The success of the experimentations seems to depend on how carefully all the elements of cooperative learning were implemented in the particular situation.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages82
ISBN (Print)951-38-4200-2
Publication statusPublished - 1992
MoE publication typeNot Eligible

Publication series

SeriesVTT Tiedotteita - Meddelanden - Research Notes


  • cooperative learning
  • adults
  • groups
  • interdependence


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