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Cooperative learning effects on peer relations and alcohol use in middle school

We tested a prevention approach aimed at reducing growth in alcohol use in middle school using four waves (2 years) of data from a cluster randomized trial (N = 15 middle schools, 1890 students, 47.1% female, 75.2% White). Our approach exposed students to a broad cross-section of peers through collaborative, group-based learning activities in school (i.e., cooperative learning). We hypothesized that the increased social contact created by cooperative learning would promote greater peer relatedness, interrupting the process of deviant peer clustering and, in turn, reducing escalations in alcohol use. Our results supported these hypotheses, suggesting that the social nature of cooperative learning, and the emphasis on group work and collaboration, can provide social and behavioral as well as academic benefits for students.

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