Cooperative and Collaborative Learning 15:295:510 Fall 2012
Introduction This article was a review of 12 studies and was conducted to evaluate cooperative learning as a technique to promote the academic competence of handicapped students. The review of all these studies was conducted to see if students of low academic ability benefit academically from participation in cooperative learning groups in a mainstream class. For this review, journal articles were selected that included (a) special education students in the sample, (b) achievement as a dependent variable, and (c) cooperative learning methods as an independent variable. Studies that included achievement as a dependent variable only to confirm that handicapped students performed lower academically than non-handicapped students (Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, 1984b) were not included in this review. Further, studies were excluded if they did not identify cooperative learning as an independent variable (Nevin, Johnson, & Johnson, 1982) or if they failed to specify the number of handicapped students included in the sample (Johnson, R. T., Johnson, & Stanne, 1986).
Public Law 94-142 mandates that students with mild handicaps spend at least part of the school day mainstreamed into regular education classrooms. This is not as easy as it sounds. This collaboration of regular and special education requires the identification of techniques and strategies for instructing students with handicaps within the regular classroom. Cooperative learning has been advocated as a technique that promotes positive peer relationships between handicapped students and non-handicapped students and assists as handicapped students' academic achievement. D. W. Johnson and R. T. Johnson (1986b) stated that students achieved more in cooperative learning than in individualistic learning situations and that "this finding held for all age groups, ability levels, subject ages, and learning tasks.”
A number of studies have examined the effects of cooperative learning on achievement. Reviews by Sharan (1980) and Slavin (1983b) reported that cooperative learning methods are superior to traditional classroom methods. Sharan (1980), however, reported that "these gains are not consistent for all groups or on all measures" (p. 255); Slavin (1983b) concluded that achievement gains result only if the cooperative learning methods include group study and group reward for individual learning. In an evaluation of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning methods on productivity and achievement, D. W. Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, and Skon (1981) concluded that cooperative learning is superior to other goal structures in promoting achievement and productivity: "Educators may wish to considerably increase the use of cooperative learning procedures to promote higher student achievement. McGlynn (1982) and Cotton and Cook (1982), however, criticized the conclusions from D. W. Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, and Nelson's meta-analyses as misleading in both theoretical and practical terms. Cotton and Cook stated that overall generalizations about the effectiveness of cooperative learning obscure the effects of other variables (e.g., type of task, duration of study, type of rewards, subject characteristics). The research studies that were evaluated here are of great importance to me considering I am a special education teacher. The reason for these studies are adequately address in this article and it does state that more research on the effects of collaborative education with disabled students and mainstream students does need to be conducted.
Method They reviewed 12 studies that met the selection criteria. The studies examined the effects of cooperative