This paper critically analyses the cooperative or team work in learning. This phenomenon has been analyzed from a behavioral psychologist’s point of view, together with two main criticisms on this phenomenon. The critics are topical and well versed. Also, the paper has made possible suggestions to ensure the performance of cooperative learning. This has been viewed in this paper in the form of a theory that seeks to fill the gaps exposed by the criticism.

Radical Behaviorism

The radical behaviorist psychological theory states that behavior gets largely determined by its consequences. This theory first got coined by B. F. Skinner, who was an American psychologist. According to him, the consequences of behavior, whether reinforcement or punishment, are critical in determining whether the behavior will occur again (Skinner, 1961). His theoretical work is applied most importantly in class work to motivate team work.  According to his theory, teamwork is a fundamental aspect of every normal society. Also, radical behaviorists believe that animal behavior can be studied profitably to analyze human behavior. They study the behavior of animals and develop arguments to link the studied behavior. According to Skinner, uniting the reinforcement of individual behavior is the first step towards building team work in any team of learners. When the consequences of individual efforts are reinforced, instead of being punished, it means that these individuals can construct a team-work based society of learning. In environment, the behavior of the learners is functionally necessary in measuring the efficiency of the teamwork established to the learners (Skinner, 1961).


Behavior modification, as presented by the behavioral psychologists is the approach they use to modify behavior. This modification is usually based on the reinforcement of the desired learning behaviors and ignoring the undesired ones. For example, behaviorists would reinforce the behavior of teamwork only if it has a positive impact to the learners. When the learners do not positively use teamwork in learning, behaviorists would not recommend it in the society. Also, behavioral medication stresses on the use of learning techniques like appraising the desired behavior to the learners (Dotson, 2001). Once the learners are made to understand the importance of teamwork, they work hard so that they positively benefit from the behavioral concern.  Team work is a particularly vital behavior in the setting of learning and education. Therefore, behaviorists recommend that this behavior be praised and given recognition like an important moral issue of the society. This enhances the better performance of the learner. Behavioral modification, which is the learning and changing of learning behavior, is also remarkably vital in shaping learning since it enhances the extinction of the inappropriate behavior and the reinforcement of the good behavior.

In this context, collective learning is an extremely vital aspect of the society since behaviorism enhances the learning of class concepts by the students at the same pace. This vastly improves their performance, since they have worked together for so long. Also, it has occurred that behavior modification enhances the improvement of the bad traits in collective learning and the reinforcement of the collective learning aspects that have a positive bearing to the society.

The biological basis of learning and memory can be used to critique the behavioral approach on the issue of teamwork in learning. This is because, learning and remembering the concepts learnt in a group discussion or a class is usually mediated by the central nervous system. Also, it is a fundamental phenomenon that exists independently in the brains of so many individuals. Therefore, the fact that the human memory gets managed by the central nervous system beats the logic of cooperative learning. Cooperative learning according to behavioral psychology is a good way of learning, and it should be recommended. However, the idea of learners sharing the same concept in the cooperative method does not fulfill the basic generalities of biology in learning and memory (Jacobs, 2002).

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 The learning of human beings requires that they should recall their previous thoughts and representations. In the context of team work, in learning, each learner places particular efforts to recall the learnt concepts. The effort by the learners to retain the concept in their memories is independent in all learners, and it does not require teamwork by any chance. According to biology, the brain is able to manage basic and complex memories by the use of nerve cell levels. Therefore, the learners should understand that the concept of cooperative learning does not make life easy for them. For example, when learners are being taught the cooperative skills, there is an ultimate need to ensure that the students get taught, and an emphasis placed on the importance of individual effort to understand class concepts.

In learning, the students should be motivated by their work and be self regulating. The use of this skill beats the logic of self motivation. Motivation and a lot of activity do not necessarily come with team work. It is possible for students to be active in class and perform well, even when they are not guided or functioning as a group. Also, the activity of learners may be motivated by the presence of successful mentors and role models (Roger, 1998). These people encourage the performance of learners in school, even when they are not taught collectively. Learners should also be in opposition to regulate their learning activities by setting achievable goals. This can be done without necessarily having the help of collective learning. Therefore, collective learning is not necessarily in a society where the students easily learn and are aware of their purpose to be in school. Also, the existence of successful people in the society serves as a means to ignite a motivational fire in the learners. This makes them more aggressive and increases their success chances.


Cooperative learning is an effective way of learning, although it needs to be modified. Perhaps it should be viewed with a connotation that students should seek the slightest opportunity to gain knowledge.  Collective learning can also be achieved if only the students get positively advised on their personal strength. This would diminish reliance in group work and discussions. In this case, the students become more flexible, and the performance becomes better compared to the scenario in which students only rely on the cooperative learning system. Also, the system should be created in such a manner that it allows for future changes because the demands and needs of the society are changing every time today (Slavin, 1996). For example, the educational concerns stressed by the society today are decidedly different to those of the previous century. Therefore, the learners should be flexible enough and be dependent on them. Basing the argument on the biological basis of memory and argument criticism, a modified approach of the learning system should include the role of counselors in education. The counselors could encourage the learners, making them realize that they have the required brains to succeed in education.


From the foregoing, it is unequivocally clear that radical behaviorists contribute a lot to learning and development. Also, the behaviorists approach has quite a number of critiques, with regard to cooperative learning. Therefore, this is an ultimate need for the behaviorists to reconsider their concerns at heart when approaching this phenomenon. They should look at cooperative learning in a way that promotes independence of mind among the students.

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