Education in the United States is a continuous source of controversy. How should the generations be taught? This is an extremely important and in depth issue that has many levels. Each level has its own disagreements. One particular level of education that has been researched is whether or not behavioral methods are effective enough to be used in the classroom to improve academic performance. As can be seen in the data included here, there are many forms of positive reinforcement contingencies that can be presented in the classroom. These may include social rewards, like acceptance and encouragement from peers, tangible rewards, like the token economy, or internally motivating rewards, like having a sense of self-efficacy and feeling confident and proud of a particular accomplishment. The studies included here investigate cooperative learning strategies and how behavioral methods relate to academic performance that way, the use of rewards for good or improved performance, and then finally how the removal of a punishing aspect of the classroom environment, like a teacher’s criticism can possibly improve academic performance.
Cooperative learning is one process that includes behavioral methods. A reward structure is included in cooperative learning technology. Rewards can include grades, teacher approval, or physical rewards. In order for a reward structure to be effective, the rewards must be presented to the student quickly after the desired behavior has occurred. What makes this type of reward structure particular to cooperative learning styles is that rewards are given based on how well a group has learned something as a whole. Each person in the group gets rewarded if and only if each individual person has learned the material sufficiently.
A second facet of cooperative learning includes positive goal interdependence and positive reward interdependence (Mesch, Johnson, & Johnson, 1987). Positive goal interdependence is when students perceive that they can achieve their goals if and only if the other students with whom they are cooperatively linked achieve their goals. Whereas, positive reward interdependence exists when each member of a cooperative learning group receives the same reward for successfully completing a joint task (Mesch, Johnson, & Johnson, 1987). Mesch, Johnson, and Johnson (1987) state that on the positive goal interdependence side of the controversy are Deutsch (1962) and Johnson and Johnson (1986), who state that in this situation students will all work to increase one another’s performance to result in increased achievement results. Conversely, in the same study Mesch, Johnson, and Johnson (1987) mention Hays (1976) and Slavin (1983), who state the in a positive reward interdependence setting, students will increase their individual performance only if there is a specific academic group contingency reinforcing them to do so.
Two interesting studies have been conducted in the cooperative learning area with...