There is a saying, “You do not know how much you have learned
until you start teaching.” So, what is the most effective
method of learning? I would say: “Students teaching other
students.” There is a wealth of evidence showing that students
of different levels and personalities can learn effectively through
peer teaching in a wide range of goals and content (McKeachie, et
Learning is both a personal and social process that results when
individuals cooperate to construct shared understandings and knowledge.
Therefore, education is a personal transaction among students and
between the teacher and students as they work together. The students’
commitment to learning is nurtured by their knowing that (a) their
contributions to classmates’ learning, and (b) their own progress
in gaining knowledge and expertise, are perceived, recognised, appreciated
and celebrated by their classmates and the teacher (Johnson, et
Competitive and individualistic learning situations discourage
active construction of knowledge. It also impedes the development
of talent by isolating students, and creating negative relationships
among classmates and with instructors. However, challenge and social
support must be balanced if students are to cope successfully with
the stress inherent in learning situations. There are considerable
data indicating that higher achievement, more positive relationships
and better psychological adjustment results from cooperative rather
than from competitive or individualistic learning (Johnson &
In university, learning of facts and theories should be considered
secondary to the development of critical thinking skills and the
use of higher level reasoning strategies. McKeachie, et al.
(1986) concludes that at least three elements of learning processes
make a difference in college students’ gains in thinking skills:
(a) student discussion, (b) explicit emphasis on problem-solving
procedures and methods using varied examples, and (c) verbalisation
of methods and strategies to encourage development of metacognition.
They state: “Student participation, teacher encouragement,
and student-to-student interaction positively relate to improved
In comparison to competitive or individualistic learning strategies,
cooperative learning promotes a greater use of higher level reasoning
strategies and critical thinking (Gabbert, et al., 1986;
Johnson, et al., 1980). It takes two or more people interacting
within a cooperative context to think creatively in divergent ways
so that new ideas, solutions and procedures are generated and conceptual
frameworks are constructed.
Hence, students should learn cooperatively, and engage cognitively,
physically, emotionally and psychologically in constructing their
own knowledge, which is important in changing the passive and impersonal
character of our classrooms. More importantly, when students, however
diverse, work together on cooperative tasks in an atmosphere of
cooperative civility where they contribute their fair share, they
grow to like and respect one another. This is a vital ingredient
of students’ success in their respective future careers in
Gabbert, B.; Johnson, D.W.; & Johnson, R.T. (1986). ‘Cooperative
learning, group-to-individual transfer, process gain and the acquisition
of cognitive reasoning strategies’. Journal of Psychology,
Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R.T. (1989). Cooperation and
Competition: Theory and Research. Edina, MN: Interaction Book
Johnson, D.W.; Skon, L.; & Johnson, R.T. (1980). ‘Effects
of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic conditions on children’s
problem-solving performance’. American Educational Research
Journal, 17(1), 83–94.
Johnson, D.W.; Johnson, R.T.; & Smith, K.A. (1995). Active
Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. Edina, MN:
Interaction Book Co.
McKeachie, W.; Pintrich, P.; Yi-Guang, L.; & Smith, D. (1986).
Teaching and Learning in the College Classroom: A Review of
the Research Literature. Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of the
University of Michigan.