The present study had two foci. The first focus was to examine the effects of cooperative learning on peer relations, achievement motivation, classroom learning environment, academic performance, and creativity in the subject of Craft, Design and Technology (CDT). The second focus was to explore the predictive power of peer relations, achievement motivation, classroom learning environment, and academic performance on creativity based on the conceptual perspectives of cognitive development theorized by Piaget (1963, 1977) and Vygotsky (1978), as well as on the theoretical framework of creativity advocated by Amabile and associates (Amabile, Collins, Conti, Phillips, Picariello, et al., 1996; Conti, Coon, & Amabile, 1996; Ruscio, Whitney, & Amabile, 1998).
Ninety-three seventh grade students (30 boys and 63 girls) in a co-educational secondary school in Singapore voluntarily participated in the study. A group of forty-seven students (17 boys and 30 girls) were trained to use cooperative learning to study the basic contents of materials in CDT with the Student Teams Achievement Divisions (STAD) approach and jointly construct an assigned project with the Learning Together approach. Another group of forty-six (13 boys and 33 girls) students received the traditional whole-class learning approach to study the materials and construct the project individually. The study lasted 20 weeks in total and started with a pretest to collect the baseline data. A posttest was conducted to serve as a mid-point assessment after 10 weeks of cooperative learning intervention, followed by a post-posttest at the end of the cooperative learning intervention.
The results showed that students in the cooperative learning group scored significantly higher on the measure of peer relations than did students in the traditional learning group after the 20-week cooperative learning intervention. However, cooperative learning students were found to have significantly lower scores on classroom environment and academic performance than did traditional learning students. No statistically significant differences on achievement motivation and creativity were found between the cooperative learning students and traditional learning students.
Nevertheless, for the cooperative learning students, an enhanced performance on the individual test of the basic knowledge and concepts in CDT and a trend of increasing scores on creativity were noted. In addition, it was also revealed that creativity could be predicted by peer relations and achievement motivation. The results indicated that a strong rapport with peers was a more important motivating factor for the cooperative learning students to get involved in creative activities than for the traditional learning students.
Several factors are mentioned as possible causes for the partial success of the study. The implications and the direction for future research are also discussed. Although the present study was not successful in every respect and many improvements will have to be made, cooperative learning still appears to be a promising approach to create a learning environment that helps enhance the interpersonal relationships among students.