It is difficult to determine who "founded" cooperative learning. In collaborative, cooperative cultures, this type of learning theory existed without ever being labled as such. However, in the West, the following theorists strongly influenced the developement of Cooperative Learning theories:
- Lev Vygotsky - His theory of scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development suggested that heterogeneous grouping would work best. Teachers would work as facilitators and the groups would teach themselves in a form of peer-mentoring.
- Alfred Bandura - The Social Learning Theory set the tone for Cooperative Learning. Bandura suggested that students learn from their peer group and that they work best when placed in small groups with defined roles. Bandura's research also suggested the need to consider issues of self-concept and self-efficacy.
- Spencer Kagan - Cooperative Learning began with many theorists doing research about best practices. Kagan, a pioneer in Cooperative Learning, developed specific classroom strategies that utilized Cooperative Learning. In many respects, he is the man most responsible for popularizing Cooperative Learning and making it accessible to the public.