Small-group learning in the STEM disciplines has been widely studied, and it is clear that this method offers many benefits to students. Less attention has been paid to the ways in which small learning groups differ from one another, and how these differences may affect student learning and experiential outcomes.
This study uses a previously validated instrument (Pazos, Micari, & Light, 2010) to categorize small, peer-led STEM learning groups and investigate the impact of group characteristics on student outcomes.
Six hundred forty-six students were observed over two academic quarters.
During the fall quarter, no relationship was found between group type and student course grade. During the winter quarter, statistically significant differences in student grade were found among group types.
We posit that group type may not make a difference in grade early in the year because the groups are not yet functioning optimally, so that group "noise," such as facilitator inexperience or student discomfort, may drown out the effects of group type on student performance.
Micari, M., Pazos, P., Streitwieser, B., & Light, G. (2010). Small-group learning in undergraduate STEM disciplines: Effect of group type on student achievement. Educational Research and Evaluation, 16(3), 269-286.
Pazos, P., Micari, M., & Light, G. (2010). Developing an instrument to characterize peer-led groups in collaborative learning environments: Assessing problem-solving approach and group interaction. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(2), 191-208.
This project is part of more than 10 years of research on the Gateway Science Workshop program at Northwestern.