«CLASSROOM COMPETITION AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY American education has been in a state of crisis for almost as long as we can remember. This has ...»
THE PROBLEM Before describing the resulting research, a word about the social psychology of desegregation. In 1954 in the landmark case of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court declared that separate but equal schools were by nature unequal. This decision was based, in part, upon social psychological research which suggested that sending minority children to separate schools damages their self-esteem. The reasoning was that segregation implies that children from minority groups are inferior; thus there is no way that separate but equal schools can ever be equal, at least in spirit. That is to say, even if schools serving minority children were to have books and teachers and buildings of comparable quality to those serving the children of the establishment, they would still be by nature unequal because they are separate, and being separated makes minority children feel inferior.
The Supreme Court decision was not only humane, it was also the beginning of what to us, as working social psychologists, was a very exciting social experiment. In those days, most social scientists believed that, as a direct result of this ruling, prejudice would be markedly decreased because increased JIGSAW BASICS !6 contact among children of various racial groups would produce greater liking and understanding.
Moreover, we had reason to believe that busing as a means of increasing interracial contact would not only increase mutual understanding but would also provide minority children with a richer educational experience. Indeed the monumental Coleman Report indicated that the exam performance of black children improved as the percentage of white children in their classroom increased. But Coleman's data were based primarily on black children who were living in neighborhoods that were predominantly white. One might suspect that these children might differ in many significant respects from children living in impoverished inner city neighborhoods.
And, sure enough, subsequent research in the California public schools by Harold Gerard and Norman Miller showed that when busing was used to integrate schools, no such improvement in the performance of African American children occurred. Moreover, several years later, when Walter Stephan reviewed scores of studies done in the aftermath of desegregation, he found no clear evidence that desegregation increased self-esteem among minority students. Rather, in 25 percent of the studies, the self-esteem of minority children actually decreased. This is ironic and tragic when viewed in the context of the reasoning behind the 1954 decision.
For us, the crucial variable is not busing--but what happens when children get off the bus--that is, the process that exists in the typical classroom. And, as we have indicated, it is our contention that the academic competitiveness that exists in the classroom is crucial--for it is not a process that encourages students to look benevolently and happily upon their classmates; it is not a process that is designed to increase understanding and interpersonal attraction even among people of the same racial or ethnic background. Rather, the process induces competitiveness, one -upmanship, jealousy, and suspicion.
When one adds to this situation the already existing racial tensions that are present in our increasingly multi-cultural society, it is little wonder that turmoil and even violence is frequently the result.
Moreover, the situation is even more volatile than we have pictured it. In most American cities, when schools were first desegregated students were competing with each other on unequal ground.
Prior to 1954, the law of the land was "separate but equal". Unfortunately, there was plenty of separation, but very little equality. That is, schools in the neighborhoods that housed most ethnic minorities were not providing the same quality of education that was being offered in most middle-class white neighborhoods. Consequently, in Austin, for example, just prior to busing, the knowledge, reading skills, intellectual curiosity, and ability to compete in cognitive skills of most minority-group youngsters was inferior to that of their more privileged counterparts. This inequality still exists. Specifically, in most JIGSAW BASICS !7 communities today there are impoverished neighborhoods from which some of the neediest and least prepared students emerge, taxing severely the resources of a school. Existing conditions can frustrate even the most gifted teacher.
Today, integration issues are even more complex. Instead of students bused from across town, teachers are now being asked to welcome into their crowded classrooms, immigrant children from dozens of nations, some of whom have had little schooling and speak no English. Other students are the children of economic refugees with a history of frequent moves and family environments that make education a low priority. The skills these children bring to school are for survival in a world very different from the one the school culture assumes. Teachers are also being asked to provide appropriate education for children with assorted learning difficulties and include into their classrooms, disabled students who were once educated in separate facilities. At the very least, these students are also likely to experience increased anxiety and low self-esteem when entering an educational environment for which they are not prepared.
Needless to say, we no longer believe that the simple act of desegregating classrooms is, in and of itself, a panacea. We are convinced that it is a necessary first step toward helping children accept and respect one another as individuals. But it is only the first step. It is clear that changes in the classroom process itself are vitally important.
Returning now to the Austin project, if our understanding of the process was correct, it was necessary to find a way to change the process - that is, to change the atmosphere in the classroom so that the children would no longer be competing against each other but would begin to treat each other as resources. Further, if our reasoning was correct, changing the process could have a beneficial effect upon the interpersonal relations of all the students, not simply minority-group members. Recall that in the process we described, there was only one human resource in the classroom: the teacher. The teacher is the source of all answers and virtually all reinforcements. In that process there is no payoff for consulting and collaborating with one's classmates. They are your enemies, your competitors; they, too, are trying to impress the teacher and get that approval and respect you want. Indeed, if a student does try to use the others as resources in the typical classroom, he may be reprimanded. Thus, not only is the process highly competitive and destructive to interpersonal relations - which is itself a heavy cost - but, in addition, a potentially valuable pool of human resources in the classroom is out of bounds.
JIGSAW BASICS !8
THE COOPERATIVE CLASSROOM1Our attempt to change the process was a relatively simple one employing a synthesis of principles gleaned from Aronson's years of work on small-group dynamics and social interaction.
First, Aronson and his colleagues changed the basic structure of one expert (the teacher) and thirty listeners. This was accomplished by placing the students in small groups of ﬁve or six students each.
The role of the teacher was changed so that he or she was no longer the major resource for each of the learning groups by creating a process that made it imperative that the children treat each other as resources. This was achieved in three
1. The learning process was structured so that individual competitiveness was incompatible with success.
2. It was certain that success could occur only after cooperative behavior among the students in a group.
3. Each student (no matter what her prior status in the classroom) was in a position to bring to her group-mates a unique gift of knowledge (i.e., a piece of vital knowledge that was not readily available accept from that student).
As mentioned earlier, in a traditional classroom, the students are often rewarded when they succeed in attracting the teacher's attention by outshining their competitors. In the cooperative classroom, the students achieved success as a consequence of paying attention to their peers, asking good questions, helping each other, teaching each other, and helping each other teach.
How did this come about? An example will clarify. In the initial experiment, Aronson and his colleagues entered a ﬁfth-grade classroom where the students were studying biographies of great Americans. The upcoming lesson happened to be a biography of Joseph Pulitzer. The researchers created a biography of Joseph Pulitzer that consisted of six paragraphs. The ﬁrst paragraph was about Pulitzer's ancestors and how they came to this country; the second described his childhood and growing-up years; the third covered Pulitzer as a young man, his education, and his early 1 Throughout, we use the term "cooperative classroom" or "jigsaw classroom." By this we do not mean to imply that cooperation is used exclusively in the classroom, merely that it is systematically used some of the time.
JIGSAW BASICS !9 employment; the fourth told of his middle-age years and how he founded his newspaper; and so forth. Each major aspect of Pulitzer's life was contained in a separate paragraph.
They copied the biography, cut it into six one-paragraph sections and gave each child in the sixperson learning group one of the paragraphs. Thus, each learning group had within it the entire biography of Joseph Pulitzer, but each child had no more than one-sixth of the story. In order to learn about Pulitzer, the students had to master their paragraph and teach it to the others in their group. For example, David was responsible for Pulitzer as a young man, Geoﬀ for Pulitzer as a child, and so forth.
Each student took his paragraph, read it over a few times, and then joined his counterparts from the other groups. That is, David, who had Pulitzer as a young man, consulted with Geoﬀ, Christy, Lori, and Jon, who had also been given Pulitzer as a young man. They could use each other to rehearse and to be sure they understood the important aspect of that phase of Pulitzer's life. In this way, each student would become an expert in his or her segment of Joseph Pulitzer's life. We call these temporary groupings "expert groups".
This part of the process is of great importance in that it provides time, space and practice for the less articulate and less skillful students to learn the material and aﬀords them an opportunity to make use of the more adept students as models for organizing and presenting their report. The mediation of the expert group, helps to make the jigsaw experience virtually foolproof. As psychologist Roger Brown has pointed out, if it weren't for the expert groups, the jigsaw method might backﬁre; Brown likens the jigsaw experience to a group of youngster's playing baseball: If the boy playing right ﬁeld keeps dropping ﬂy balls, it hurts your team and you might begin to get a little annoyed at him. By analogy, suppose you are dependent on the performance of a Hispanic youngster who is less than perfectly adept in English, and he is having some diﬃculty articulating his segment of the lesson. You might resent him. The "expert" groups provides all students with the opportunity to get a clear idea of how to present the material--regardless of prior inequities in skill or preparation.
After spending ten or ﬁfteen minutes in their expert groups, the children went back to their original jigsaw groups, where they were informed that they had a certain amount of time to teach that knowledge to each other. They were also told that, at the end of that time (or soon thereafter) each person would be tested on her individual knowledge of Pulitzer's entire life. Clearly the students had to depend on one another to learn all their material. The process is highly reminiscent of a jigsaw puzzle, with each student possessing a single vital piece of the big picture. Because of this resemblance, we came to refer to our system as the "jigsaw" model.
1. None of them could do well without the aid of every other person in that group, and
2. Each member had a unique and essential contribution to make. Suppose you and I are in the same group. You have been dealt Joseph Pulitzer as a young man; I have Pulitzer as an old man. The only way that I can learn about Pulitzer as a young man is if I pay close attention to what you are saying. You are a very important resource for me. The teacher is no longer the sole resource; indeed, he is not even in the group. Instead, every kid in the circle becomes important to me. I do well if I pay attention to other kids; I do poorly if I don't. It's a whole new ball game.
A jigsaw classroom is not a loose, "anything goes" situation. It is highly structured.
Interdependence is required. It is the element of "required" interdependence among students which makes this a unique learning method, and it is this interdependence that encourages the students to take an active part in their learning. In becoming a teacher of sorts, each student becomes a valuable resource for the others. Learning from each other gradually diminishes the need to try to out- perform each other because one student's learning enhances the performance of the other students instead of inhibiting it, as is usually the case in most competitive, teacher-oriented classrooms. Within this cooperative paradigm the teacher learns to be a facilitating resource person, and shares in the learning and teacher process with the students instead of being the sole resource. Rather than lecturing to the students, the teacher facilitates their mutual learning, in that each student is required to be an active participant and to be responsible for what he learns.
Cooperative behavior does not happen all at once. It requires time and practice for children to use this technique eﬀectively because it is not easy to break old habits. In Austin, for example, the children had grown accustomed to competing during their ﬁrst four years in school; accordingly, for the ﬁrst several days of jigsaw, the students tried to ﬁnd a way to compete, even though competitiveness was useless--and even dysfunctional. Let us illustrated with an actual example, which is typical of the way the children stumbled toward the learning of the cooperative process.