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Group contingencies, group cohesiveness, and peer interaction as moderators of cooperative learning outcomes in primary-level mathematics classes

Chapman, Elaine S. (1996) Group contingencies, group cohesiveness, and peer interaction as moderators of cooperative learning outcomes in primary-level mathematics classes. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The search for moderating factors in the relationship between cooperative learning and student achievement has recently become a point of focus for theory and research into peer-mediated instruction. In one of the most widely adopted, and yet fiercely debated, proposals that has appeared to date, Slavin (1983) argued that cooperative learning would have positive effects on academic performance only when members of cooperative groups received rewards based on their (collective) individual contributions to an overall group product. Although many objections to this view have focused primarily on the implications of using extrinsic rewards per se (e.g., Kohn, 1991 a, Schaps & Lewis, 1991 ), the proposal has also come under valid attack for its lack of a sound empirical basis (Bossert, 1988).

The four experiments reported here evaluated the effects of three factors (group contingencies, group cohesiveness, and peer interaction) as moderators of cooperative learning outcomes. The effects of these factors were assessed in three outcome areas: Mathematics achievement, mathematics anxiety, and mathematics attitudes. Experiment 1 evaluated the effects of group versus individual reward contingencies in cooperative groups. Experiment 2 extended on these results by comparing the effects of group reward contingencies based on an overall group product (group performance criteria) or on the collective achievements of all group members (individual performance criteria). Experiment 3 compared the effects of group rewards based on individual and group performance criteria in high and low cohesive groups. Finally, Experiment 4 compared the effects of cooperative learning with group contingencies with those of group contingencies alone.

The results of Experiments I, 2, and 3 indicated that members of cooperative groups who received group rewards based on their collective individual achievements made greater learning gains than those who received individualistic rewards or group rewards based on an overall group product. Thus, these results offer clear support for Slavin's (1983) propositions about the positive effects of group rewards and individual accountability on learning in cooperative groups. The results of Experiment 3 further suggested that the same effects could not be achieved by increasing social or interpersonal cohesiveness amongst group members. The results of Experiment 4 suggested that the positive effects found in Experiments 1, 2, and 3 were due to the interactive effects of the group reward contingency and peer interaction in cooperative groups, indicating that both components are essential in the effective use of cooperative learning.

The results for individualistic learning were somewhat more mixed. Positive effects were found for cooperative over individualistic instruction in Experiment 4, but not in Experiments I and 2. Based on these results, a hypothesis for varying effects of cooperative and individualistic instruction as a function of task difficulty was posed. The results for subject-related attitudes and anxiety were also mixed, suggesting no consistent pattern of effects in either of these areas. Implications for future research into factors that moderate cooperative learning outcomes, and for the use of the procedures in applied settings, are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Leach, David
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