Cooperative Learning: Who Benefits the Most?

Wednesday 3:00pm REC Center Medium Ice Overlook Room


Rebecca Teed, Wright State University-Main Campus
"Concepts in Geology" is an Earth-science class for pre-service K-8 teachers with a number of cooperative-learning elements. The students vary considerably in their initial understanding of Earth science and their motivation to learn more about it. The purpose of the study was to see whether those levels of prior content-knowledge and motivation affected the students' learning gains in this context.
The students take a 12-question test at the beginning of the semester (the pre-test). The instructor assigns students to heterogeneous groups based on their pre-test scores, and the groups work together throughout the semester on projects such as creating presentations and designing experiments. The groups also participate in team-based testing about ten times during the semester. This form of assessment involves the students taking a ten-question multiple-choice quiz on assigned reading, first as individuals, then a second time, using the same questions, as a group. During the group quiz, the students are allowed to discuss the answers and to explain their reasoning for choosing one as correct. At the end of the semester, the students re-take the 12-question test that they took on the first day(as a post-test).

The normalized learning gain between the pre- and post-test for each student tended to be weakly correlated with students' pre-test scores. Better-prepared students apparently learned slightly more. During cooperative work, these students were probably in a better position to explain their answers to their less-confident colleagues, further deepening their own understanding by articulating it in their own words. Individual-quiz averages across the semester were moderately correlated with students' pre-test scores. Prior knowledge may be partly a result of greater interest in the subject, which is also likely to result in a greater motivation to do the assigned reading and possibly in greater reading comprehension.