The Research Base for Cooperate with Others

Although cooperation is often cited as a critical "behavioral skill" for adults, particularly by employers and practitioners in workforce development, "cooperation" is not a skill that is often found in the traditional, academics-focused adult basic skills curriculum. So teaching and assessing cooperation in adult basic/literacy/ESOL education is a fairly new endeavor. That has made our job -- to develop a Performance Continuum for the standard that will support valid and reliable assessment of individual performance on the standard within a process of social interaction -- a challenging one, and our understanding of competent adult performance in cooperating with others continues to evolve.

The empirical basis for the five performance level descriptions for the Cooperate with Others Performance Continuum was data on adult learner performance collected by EFF field researchers who developed and piloted activities and performance tasks based on this EFF standard in their ABE, GED, and ESL classes. Teachers in five field research states developed performance tasks and measured learner performance on the tasks as part of a rigorous three-year field development process. In addition to analysis of EFF field research data, we conducted a review of available research regarding cooperative behaviors in problem-solving and teamwork.

The EFF approach to defining performance levels for Cooperate with Others depends on a conception of cooperation as a dynamic results-oriented process that requires of each individual

  • a shared conceptual understanding of the process of cooperating and of the demands of a cooperative task;
  • willingness/ability to represent and communicate one's knowledge, experience, and positions that may contribute to effective cooperative activity, and equal willingness/ability to integrate the representations and communications of other members of the cooperative group;
  • consistent participation in team-reinforcing behaviors; and
  • effective interdependence.

Underlying this conception of cooperation is a developmental perspective on changes in adults' sense of self/identity that results in increasingly complex ways of making meaning of, and interacting with the world. This is articulated in the research of Robert Kegan. Kegan's research identifies three progressive levels of identity and ways of knowing: Instrumental (where individuals self-define by personal self-interest, and concrete needs, purposes, and plans); Socializing (where individuals self-define by the opinions and expectations of others); and Self-Authoring (where individuals self-define by their own internal authority).

(See the Cooperate with Others research summary in the EFF Assessment Resource Collection library for a more detailed description of this research and a bibliography).

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