20 November 2009

Is Collaborative Group Learning Useful?

A study on the effectiveness of group problem solving was conducted by Heller et al. (1992). The instructional approach was as follows:
  • students were taught general problem-solving strategies
  • a set of context-rich practice and test problems were given to help students focus their attention on the need to use conceptual knowledge to analyze a problem
  • students worked in carefully managed groups to practice solving context-rich problems
Students' work were judged based on "expert" level of problem solving which is characterized by the following:
  • evidence of conceptual understanding
  • usefulness of information identified to solve the problems
  • match of equations with information identified
  • reasonable plan
  • logical progression
  • appropriate mathematics
Results: Group problem solutions were significantly better than those produced by the best problem solvers from each group on matched problems. Individual problem solving performance also improved over time. The key seems to be explicit problem solving strategy instruction and having the students practice using the strategy in groups.


Heller, P., Keith, R., Anderson, S. (July 1992). Teaching Problem Solving Through Cooperative Grouping. Part 1: Group versus Individual Problem Solving. American Association of Physics Teachers. 60(7). pp 627 - 636.

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