Co-operative Learning is an educational methodology which has been around for the past thirty years but has only come to prominence in the UK since 2000.
According to David and Roger Johnson, the originators of Co-operative Learning, it is mainly an offshoot of 'social interdependence theory'. This can be traced back to the great German thinker of the 1920s and 30s Kurt Lewin who is credited as being the father of action research and the participative group methodology commonly used in training. Lewin's ideas on the importance of co-operation and group learning were extended by his student Morton Deutsch and eventually taken up and applied to education by Johnson and Johnson at the University of Minnesota.
Johnson and Johnson argue that Co-operative Learning works because it encourages social interdependence and facilitates relationships:
Caring and committed friendships come from a sense of mutual accomplishment, mutual pride in joint work, and the bonding that results from joint efforts.
The more students care about each other, the harder they will work to achieve mutual learning goals. Long-term and persistent efforts to achieve do not come from the head; they come from the heart. Individuals seek out opportunities to work with those they care about. As caring increases, so do feelings of personal responsibility to do one's share of the work, a willingness to take on difficult tasks, motivation and persistence in working toward goal achievement, and a willingness to endure pain and frustration on behalf of the group. All these contribute to group productivity.
In addition, the joint success experienced in working together to get the job done enhances social competencies, self-esteem, and general psychological health.