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«Many African societies divide humans into three categories: those still alive on the earth, the sasha, and the zamani. The recently departed whose ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

Kurt Lewin’s contribution to the theory

and practice of education

in the United States: The importance

of cooperative learning

Lawrence w. Sherman

richard Schmuck and Patrica Schmuck

Many African societies divide humans into three categories:

those still alive on the earth, the sasha, and the zamani.

The recently departed whose time on earth overlapped with

people still here are the sasha, the living-dead. They are not

wholly dead, for they still live in the memories of the living, who can call them to mind, create their likeness in art [photography, sic], and bring them to life in anecdote. When the last person to know an ancestor dies, that ancestor leaves the sasha for the zamani, the dead. As generalized ancestors, the zamani are not forgotten but revered.

Loewen (1996) Correspondence regarding this paper should be addressed to Lawrence Sherman, e-mail: shermalw@muchio.edu 192 Lawrence w. Sherman, richard Schmuck and Patrica Schmuck Introduction The above description of the sasha and zamani are particularly relevant to the purpose of our coming together in Bydgoszcz, Poland to celebrate the life of Kurt Lewin and dedicate a memorial in his childhood home of Mogilno. The three of us (Lawrence Sherman and Richard and Patricia Schmuck) owe a great debt to Kurt Lewin and his theories and research, and appreciate partly repaying that debt now in 2004, because like many other American social psychologists, we are acknowledging several important anniversaries this year: Fifty years after the famous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in which public schools were required to desegregate the races; at Miami University the Fortieth anniversary of “Freedom Summer” was remembered (where civil-rights demonstrators were trained to desegregate lunch counters and assist in voter registration throughout the Southern United States; and for those of us who are members of the IASCE, the twenty-fifth Anniversary of the founding of the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education (IASCE), a professional association of educators worldwide who are dedicated to the study and practice of cooperation in schools. All of these seminal events, including the present conference, are closely related to Kurt Lewin and to his commitment to democratic social change. As we make our tributes to him, we continue his status as a zamani, one who is revered.

Our purpose in this paper is to focus on Lewin’s influences upon American education, especially with regard to a pedagogical practice known as “Cooperative Learning”. Cooperative learning occurs when two or more students work together to learn the same subject matter. We also wish to acknowledge that Lewin’s theories go beyond cooperative learning and have influenced many other current educational practices including “action research”, classroom management and discipline, leadership, and the psychological ecology of schools and their classroom settings. We consider those several aspects of education as strongly related to one another. And, the social psychologists who have been most influential in advancing American educational practice were students of Kurt Lewin, primarily when Lewin was at the University of Iowa from 1935 to 1944, which was obviously when he was still among the living. Nevertheless, most direct influences on us took place after 1947 (the year of his “initial” death) when he took on the status of the sasha. It was his former students and colleagues (Roger Barker, Morton kurt Lewin’S contribution to the theory and Practice of education... 193 Deutsch, Leon Festinger, Jacob Kounin, Ronald Lippitt, Herbert Wright and many others), who in the last half of the 20th century made many important contributions to our understanding of children and educational practice.

It is important to remember that Lewin had considerable interest in the lives of children including their responses to frustration-regression, leadership styles (democratic-autocratic-laissez-faire), unfinished tasks, closure, and recall, and on children’s levels of aspiration, satiation, co-satiation, etc. Thus, children were an important focus of Lewin’s research even when he was a practicing researcher in Berlin before coming to America in 1932 [Lewin, of course, was one of many European intellectuals “Exiled in Paradise” (Heilbut, 1983; Duggan & Drury, 1948). His interest in children is also reflected in the fact that the first two American academic positions he held were in university departments that were concerned with children and families: Cornell University and the University of Iowa (Ash, 1992). It was not until later in the mid 1940’s, however, when he went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology that Lewin created the Research Center for Group Dynamics, a topic for which he became well known worldwide. Indeed, many presenters at this conference have emphasized this “group dynamics” aspect of Lewin. And we wish to point out that research on group dynamics is particularly relevant to children, especially children in classroom settings. Thus, for the three of us in American education we wish to reflect on these important contributions. Larry Sherman (a former student of Jacob S. Kounin) will focus his discussions on the influences of Kurt Lewin in the world of Cooperative Learning, classroom management and discipline, and classroom behavior settings. Richard Schmuck (a former student of Ronald Lippitt) will focus his discussion on the role of Action Research. Patricia Schmuck (also a former student of Ronald Lippitt) will focus her discussion on the work of Ron Lippitt and the Science Research Associate’s (SRA) published texts on social science curriculum for elementary school students.

Cooperative Learning: Lawrence Sherman To give “cooperative learning” some context within the larger field of American education a few important events should be mentioned. Lewin’s colleagues in the organization Commission on Community Interrelations (CCI) of the American Jewish Congress made highly influential testimony to the United States Supreme 194 Lawrence w. Sherman, richard Schmuck and Patrica Schmuck Court’s Brown v. Board of Education hearings (most notably Kenneth Clark, Isador Chein and Stuart Cook) (See American Psychologist, 2002; and more specifically Clark, Chein & Cook, 2004) resulting in the decision of the United States Supreme Court that “Separate” or segregated schools, were NOT equal.

This resulted in the Brown II (1955) Court’s decision to “...proceed with all deliberate speed…” in desegregating American schools. For detailed discussions of the 1955 Court decision, see Bell, 2004; Kluger, 2004; Philogene, 2004; Sullivan, 2004; Monitor in Psychology, 2004; and American Psychologist, 2004;).

In 1966 the Equality of Educational Opportunity Report (Coleman, et. al, 1966) also suggested that desegregation was not being achieved in fact in the nation’s schools, bringing about several new attempts at desegregating American schools.

The challenge of fostering more positive interpersonal relations among diverse groups (especially Black minority and White majority students) became a major focus for research after the desegregation plans were put into effect during the late 1960’s and 1970’s. During the 1970’s several independent research groups engaged in “action research” that was designed to establish classroom behavior settings and pedagogies that might have a more positive effect on interpersonal relations in the classroom. Schofield & Hauamnn (2004) reference several “cooperative learning” research articles which address those issues. At the end of the 1970s David Johnson (a student of Morton Deutch), Elliot Aronson (a student of Leon Festiger), Richard Schmuck (a student of Ronald Lippitt) and Larry Sherman (a student of Jacob Kounin) came together to discuss their “cooperative learning” solutions at the first international conference on cooperative learning in Israel in 1979. They all presented data to demonstrate that cooperative learning contributed positively to the integration of Black and White students.

At that initial meeting the International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education (IASCE) was founded and Richard Schmuck became it’s first President. Soon many others joined the IASCE as well; the earlier history of cooperative learning has been detailed by Emmy Pepitone (1980). Her descriptions of the genesis of cooperative learning point out the strong links to Lewin’s earlier theories. And, most recently at the 25th International IASCE conference in Singapore the last 25 years of cooperative learning are discussed (Brody, et.

al, 2004). Not surprisingly those second-generation individuals and groups were strongly influenced by Kurt Lewin’s original students as noted in the parentheses above. These intergenerational relationships are detailed in Figure 1 where we kurt Lewin’S contribution to the theory and Practice of education... 195 have attempted to construct a genealogy of Lewin’s influence on us and on the cooperative learning movement in education.

–  –  –

We might add that our interactions with Dr. Bertram Raven at this very conference (Bydgoszcz, Poland, 2005) has also revealed another interesting connection. Raven & Eachus (1963) published an earlier study on “cooperation and competition in means-interdependent triads.” Their study was supported by a grant from the “Group Psychology Branch, Office of Naval Research” thus indicating serious interest in cooperation even in the context of national defense.

We believe that this also demonstrates wide spread interest in cooperation that has had considerable Lewinian influence. We might add that we are extremely grateful for Dr. Raven’s reminder us of Emme Pepitone’s (1980) earlier interest in cooperative learning. She was in attendance at the 1988 IASCE conference held in Tel Aviv, Israel.

There is a considerable literature on the positive effects of “cooperative learning” (e.g., Sharan, 1990; Slavin, 1995; Johnson, et. al., 1981). Much of that research grew out of Morton Deutsch’s seminal early studies (Deutsch, 1949a;

1949b). While there are many variations of cooperative learning structures, each associated with their originators, the five main elements that appear in all of them


Positive Interdependence: all group members share a common fate where they all gain or lose with the overall group performance. With positive interdependence no member is alone; all strive together for mutual benefit.

Individual Accountability: Each group member perceives that he/she is responsible for completing the assigned task.

Face To Face Interactions: Members communicate encouragement while providing each other with help and assistance. Members provide feedback to one another to improve performance on assigned tasks and responsibilities.

Heterogeneous Grouping: Members differ from one another in sex, attitudes, social class, cognitive perspectives, ability levels, and skills.

Social Skills: To achieve mutual goals, group members must communicate accurately, resolve conflicts constructively, trust one another, and accept and support one another.

The various cooperative learning structures include such names as Jigsaw Puzzle Technique (Aronson et al, 1978; Aronson, 2000), Creative Conflict and Controversy Procedure (Johnson & Smith, 1987), Group Investigation (Sharan & Sharan, 1992), STAD (Student Teams and Achievement Divisions), TGT kurt Lewin’S contribution to the theory and Practice of education... 197 (Teams Games Tournaments), TAI (Team Accelerated Instruction), CIRC (Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition)(all described more fully in Slavin, 1995), DEC (Dyadic Essay Confrontations, Millis & Cottell, 1998 and Millis, Sherman & Cottell, 1993), STP (Student Team Projects, Sherman & Woy-Hazelton, 1988), Complex Instruction (Cohen, 1994), and many others.

Slavin (1995) provides descriptions and guides to implementation of many of these techniques, most of which are designed for use in elementary and secondary education settings. In addition for an excellent conceptual overview of Cooperative Learning see Johnson & Johnson (1994).

Many of these techniques are used in higher education as well (See Millis & Cottell, 1998; Sherman, 1991). For instance, at Miami University there is an interdisciplinary graduate program in environmental studies in which the first year of the program makes use of “Student Team Projects” (STP). The STP (now known as the CTP or “Community Team Projects” is a direct outgrowth of Lippitt’s earlier work (Lippitt et al., 1958) at the University of Michigan (see Sherman & Woy-Hazleton, 1988).

A large body of research exists on the positive effects of cooperative learning; these studies indicate enhanced academic achievement, more supportive and trusting intergroup relations, and greater individual self-esteem. Slavin (1995) reports a variety of other important educational outcomes such as “..liking of school, development of peer norms in favor of doing well academically, feelings of individual control over the student’s own fate in school and cooperativeness and altruism.” In summary, Kurt Lewin’s zamani status has been very influential in the cooperative learning educational community. Emerging from his direct descendents (Deutsch, Lippitt, Festinger, Kounin) cooperative learning originated in their students (Johnson, Aronson, Schmuck, Sherman) solutions to improving human relationships. We believe that his concern for improving intergroup relations has been realized through the implementation of cooperative learning pedagogy. As a means to “resolving social conflicts,” (Lewin, 1948), cooperative learning has been one of the great success stories in American educational practice, so much so that it is generally considered as one of those “best practice” approaches to structuring classrooms for effective learning.

198 Lawrence w. Sherman, richard Schmuck and Patrica Schmuck

Other influential areas

We would be remise if we did not also mention other direct influences of Lewinian Theory. The work of Roger Barker and Jacob Kounin are also important examples of research effecting American education. Barker’s (1963; 1968;) psychological ecology research established the importance of “behavior settings”.

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