The Center for Learning and Teaching Newsletter Teaching News

Author's Department

Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT)

Document Type

News Article

Publication Title

New Chalk Talk

Publication Date



The immediate answer to the question is a very definite and emphatic NO. In fact the rest of this short essay will argue that as all forms of social cooperation are based on some type of self-interest thus, cooperative/collaborative learning is also anything but altruistic. Nevertheless, I will also argue that it is precisely because self-interest is embedded in all forms of cooperative/collaborative learning that it enables this style of learning to lead to an interactive and constructivist approach to learning, i.e. active learning. The logic of the argument once again derives from established social theory and in particular the “theory of social cooperation” as exemplified in such classic accounts as “The Prisoner’s Dilemma Game” in which the players are confronted by only two choices: to cooperate or to defect. (McConnell, 2000: 6) The dilemma, of course, is that if both players defect they will both lose whereas if they were to agree to cooperate on some form of agreed upon reciprocity then both will gain.