Can conflict be constructive? Controversy versus concurrence seeking in learning groups

Karl Smith, David W. Johnson, Roger T. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


84 6th-graders were assigned to the following conditions on a stratified random basis controlling for sex and reading ability: (1) controversy in learning groups, (2) concurrence seeking in learning groups, and (3) individual study. In all 3 conditions, Ss studied 2 controversial issues with materials representing both pro and con views. In (1), each small group was equally divided to represent the pro and con sides. In (2), each small group could study the material any way they wished with the stipulation that they were to avoid arguing. In (3), Ss were told to learn the material without interacting with others. Results indicate that controversy, compared with concurrence seeking and individual study, promoted higher achievement and retention, greater search for information, more cognitive rehearsal, accurate understanding of the 2 perspectives, continuing motivation, and positive attitudes toward controversy and classmates. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-663
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1981
Externally publishedYes


  • controversy vs concurrence seeking in learning group, achievement & comprehension & attitudes, 6th graders


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