A Quantitative Literature Review of Cooperative Learning Effects on High School and College Chemistry Achievement

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Research: Science and Education116 Journal of Chemical Education Vol. 77 No. 1 January 2000 JChemEd.chem.wisc.eduA Quantitative Literature Review of Cooperative LearningEffects on High School and College Chemistry AchievementCraig W. BowenDepartment of Chemistry, Clemson University, Hunter Laboratories, Clemson, SC 29634-1905; cwbowen@clemson.eduSeveral reviews are available on the effects of cooperativelearning on student learning at the K12 level in general and inscience and mathematics (13). In addition, there are reviewsabout effects of cooperative learning in college populations (4).However, no quantitative review has been done of cooperativelearning in high school and college chemistry courses. Thepurpose of this paper is twofold. First, a brief overview of meta-analysis (a quantitative approach to conducting literaturereviews) is given. The second purpose is to illustrate the powerof this technique by reporting quantitative effects of coop-erative learning on chemistry achievement in high school andcollege classes.Background on Cooperative LearningBefore considering meta-analysis and how to conductquantitative summaries of articles on data-based research andevaluation, a short overview is needed to orient readers un-familiar with components of cooperative learning strategiesbecause this will be the focal area for the meta-analyses reportedlater. This Journal has published several articles on how toincorporate cooperative learning into chemistry lecture andlaboratory classrooms (511) and there are other availableresources as well, such as those compiled by Nurrenbern andKrupp (12) and a brief review provided by Nurrenbern andRobinson (13). However, most of these cite a key referencethat highlights components of cooperative learning in itsdifferent forms. Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (4 ) point tofive important components of cooperative learning thatshould be included in activities:1. POSITIVE INTERDEPENDENCEStudents are given tasks that they perceive being able tocomplete only if all group members contribute to theeffort. This can be achieved through several designapproaches: (i) providing a group reward for successfulinterdependence; (ii) having activities in which resourcesare shared; or (iii) providing a task that is too difficultfor students to do individually.2. FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTIONStudents are given time and space as part of the activityfor meeting with group members and providing assistancewith the learning task at hand.3. INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABILITYStudents are required to learn the material at hand anddemonstrate that they have mastered it. The group shouldfacilitate the learning of all group members, but eachgroup member needs to be responsible for demonstratinghis or her own learning.4. INTERPERSONAL SKILLSStudents are given opportunities to practice variousgroups skills such as developing trust, communicatingeffectively, and handling conflicts. Feedback should beprovided so students can enhance these skills.5. GROUP PROCESSINGStudents are given time and space to reflect on the pro-cesses that took place in their group that facilitated (andstymied) achieving the goals of the group. The focus isto learn about group dynamics for future situations.This set of components is useful to consider when readingthe articles cited in this paper, in which cooperative learningstrategies are used in chemistry classes.Background on Meta-AnalysisA meta-analysis is a quantitative approach to reviewingresearch literature in a specific area. In educational research,the many factors that vary from one teaching context toanother make it difficult to design definitive experiments todetermine the extent to which a given instructional approachaffects a given student outcome. A meta-analysis combines anumber of studies (usually conducted by different researchersin a variety of educational contexts) to quantify the effect aninstructional approach has on a given outcome. By broadeningthe pool of data to include different contexts and to increasesample sizes, a better quantitative estimate can be made ofhow an instructional practice affects student outcomes.Technical details on conducting meta-analyses can be foundelsewhere (1416 ). However, the process usually includesthese general steps:1. Describing the independent variables (e.g., cooperativelearning as a teaching method) and outcome variables(e.g., academic achievement) of interest.2. Identifying quantitative research studies that addressrelations between independent and outcome variables.3. Tabulating quantitative information from each studythat indicates the effect the independent variable hason the outcome variable.4. Determining the effect size for the data reported inthe study so the data are normalized. The effect sizeis the difference between the means of the outcomescores of the experimental and control groups dividedby the standard deviation of the scores of the controlgroup (although sometimes a pooled standard devia-tion from all scores is used). A positive effect of theinstructional strategy on the outcome variable is indi-cated by a mean effect size across the studies that isgreater than zero. Effect size =Meantreatment group Meancontrol groupStandard deviationcontrol groupChemical Education Researchhttp://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/issues/2000/Jan/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Research: Science and EducationJChemEd.chem.wisc.edu Vol. 77 No. 1 January 2000 Journal of Chemical Education 117One caveat when estimating effect size of an instructionaltreatment is that studies that show no effect are less likely tobe published in the literature. In addition, many studies failto report all the information needed to calculate effect size(e.g., only reporting mean scores). Different formulas fromthe one shown here may be used if different quantitative in-formation is reported in a study (e.g., 2 values, t-test results,or F-test results from analyses of variance).Because an effect size shows how far the mean outcomevariable of one treatment group is above or below the meanoutcome variable of another group in terms of number ofstandard deviations, the percentile difference in performancein the two groups can be determined by looking at standardnormal scores (or Z scores) found in most applied statistics texts.An effect size of zero is thesame as a Z-score of zero.This means that a studentperforming at the 50th per-centile in one group is per-forming at the same per-centile in the other group.With an effect size of 0.20,a student at the 50th per-centile in the treatmentgroup is performing 0.20standard deviations higherthan a student at the 50thpercentile in the controlgroup. By looking up a Z-score of 0.20, we see thatthe student in the treat-ment group is performingat the 58th percentile of thecontrol group. Table 1 giveseffect size and percentilechange information for selected values; more extensive val-ues can be found in most applied statistics books. Becausethe standard normal distribution is symmetric, negativeeffect sizes are of the same absolute size change in percentiles,but in the opposite direction.Using effect sizes is a way to normalize different out-come measures so quantitative comparisons can be made. Forexample, consider two different studies examining the effectsof cooperative learning on different aspects of chemistryachievement. Lonning (27 ) studied high school students(n = 36) taking a physical science course who were assignedto either a control group or a treatment group being taughtthe particulate nature of matter over a four-week period. Bothgroups of students were encouraged to work in groups as theylearned various chemical concepts regarding the particulatenature of matter. However, students in the experimentalgroup were also taught collaborative skills and had both groupand individual components to their grade. Outcomes weremeasured by a test of conceptual understanding about theparticulate nature of matter. These data are summarized inTable 2.In a second study examining how cooperative learningaffects chemistry achievement, Dinan and Frydrychowski (25)worked with students in organic chemistry. College students(n = 36) in a first-term organic chemistry course were assignedto team-learning groups for the semester. The teams were re-quired to read material before lecture and were then given anindividual minitest followed by a group minitest. Responseswere graded immediately and a lecture was given on materialnot well understood. Comparison of the students achievementon the final exam with previous cohort performance (tradi-tional lecture classes) showed that students achieved more inthe team group. Their data are also summarized in Table 2.The mean scores from these two studies cannot be directlycompared across the treatment groups because differentachievement measurements were used and they had a differentrange of possible scores. However, by calculating the effectsize from each study, a quantitative summary of the overalleffect can be estimated even though different ways of mea-suring the outcome were used. In both studies, cooperativelearning had a positive effect on chemistry achievement.Summary of Meta-Analysis of Cooperative LearningEffects on Outcomes in College-Level SMET CoursesA review and meta-analysis was conducted to answer thequestion Is cooperative learning more effective than tradi-tional instruction in promoting academic achievement, per-sistence, and attitudes among undergraduates in science,mathematics, engineering, and technology [SMET]courses?(17 ). The authors used these criteria for including researchstudies in the analysis:1. The target instructional population was undergraduatesin SMET courses.2. The instructional treatment took place in a classroom,incorporated one or more components of cooperativelearning (described earlier), and included individualaccountability.3. Experimental and control groups were used in thestudy, and sufficient statistical information was pro-vided to generate the data needed for the meta-analysis(e.g., means and standard deviations are reported).4. The research was reported in English between 1980and 1996 (journal articles, conference proceedings,dissertations, and unpublished manuscripts).Using various abstracting services (e.g., in education andpsychology), a total of 37 research studies were identified thatmet these criteria for examining how cooperative learningimpacts achievement. Of these studies, four involved chemistrycourses (1821). Nine studies contained persistence data(none in chemistry), and 11 studies contained attitudinal data(one in chemistry).Achievement OutcomesA summary of the analysis of the studies, which involvedalmost 3,500 students, indicates that cooperative learning (inits varied forms) has a significant and positive effect onaA student performing at the 50thpercentile of the treatment group isperforming at this percentile of thecontrol group.dnaseziStceffE.1elbaTneewtebsegnahCelitnecrePspuorGlortnoCdnatnemtaerTeziStceffE egnahCelitnecreP a00.0 0502.0 8504.0 6606.0 3708.0 9700.1 4802.1 8804.1 2906.1 5908.1 69tnemeveihcAyrtsimehCnoscitsitatS.2elbaTseidutSowTmorf)maxEmreT-fo-dnE(ydutS puorGtnemtaerT naeM )DS( tceffE eziS(gninnoL 72 ) gninraelevitarepooCgninraellaudividnI92.2 )12.1(24.1 )22.1(17.0dnananiD(ikswohcyrdyrF 52 )gninraelevitarepooCgninraellaudividnI8.07 )2.01(1.76 )2.41(62.0http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/issues/2000/Jan/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/Research: Science and Education118 Journal of Chemical Education Vol. 77 No. 1 January 2000 JChemEd.chem.wisc.eduachievement-related outcomes of college students in SMETcourses. From these 37 studies a total of 49 effect sizes werecalculated (some studies measured multiple outcomes) forachievement outcomes. Figure 1 shows the distribution of theseachievement effect sizes. The mean effect size is 0.51 with astandard deviation of 0.35. Because it shows a positive effect,the data support the assertion that cooperative learning cansignificantly enhance student achievement in undergraduateSMET courses. In practical terms, an effect size of 0.51 meansthat median student performance is increased from the 50thpercentile in the group taught by traditional methods to the70th percentile in the cooperative learning group.Persistence and Attitude OutcomesA summary of the 9 studies that collected persistencedata and 11 studies that reported attitudinal data indicatesthat cooperative learning also has a significant and positiveeffect on student attitudes towards SMET courses. The authorsreport that persistence for continued study in SMET coursesof students taught with cooperative learning approaches was22% greater than persistence of students taught by traditionalapproaches. Students in cooperative learning classes also hadmore positive attitudes toward their classes.Meta-Analysis of Cooperative Learning Effects onAchievement in High School and College-LevelChemistry CoursesAlthough the meta-analysis reported in the previoussection involved some college-level chemistry students, anadditional meta-analysis is reported here. It focuses on highschool and college chemistry courses using cooperativelearning. In addition to the four chemistry studies identifiedin the SMET meta-analysis, other college-level studies werefound, and studies involving high school students were alsoincluded. Identification of these studies was not limited toabstracting services; the author located additional articles byscanning articles that might involve cooperative learning inchemistry in these journals: Journal of Chemical Education,Science Education, International Journal of Science Education,and Journal of Research in Science Teaching. This was donebecause these journals tend to publish data-based articles thatcan be used in meta-analysis and because abstracts do notalways indicate the educational treatment (in this case coop-erative learning) that is applied in a study.A total of 437 high school and almost 1,100 collegestudents participated in the 15 chemistry studies that wereidentified (11 more chemistry studies than were included inthe previous meta-analysis). Table 3 shows the effect sizes ofcooperative learning on chemistry achievement (as defined byeach study) associated with these chemistry-related studies, aswell as the grade level, content area, and number of students.Figure 2 shows the effect-size outcomes in a graphic form.These research reports on cooperative learning inchemistry courses show a mean effect size of 0.37 (and astandard deviation of 0.39) across the 30 effect sizes reportedin the 15 identified chemistry studies. This indicates thatwhile median student performance in a traditional course isat the 50th percentile, the median student performance in acooperative learning environment is 14 percentile pointshigher.ConclusionThis paper has briefly introduced a quantitative approachto summarizing research results. Meta-analysis can providequantitative estimates of the effects of an instructional treatmenton an outcome variable. It can be used as a starting point toexamine influences of our instructional practices on chemistrylearning. For example, additional meta-analyses could addressquestions like these:What effects does computer-based instruction have onstudent attitudes toward and learning of chemistry?To what extent does the use of demonstrations help stu-dents learn or enjoy chemistry?Figure 1. Frequency distribution of 49 effect sizes from 37 researchstudies on cooperative learning in college-level SMET courses.Figure 2. Frequency distribution of 30 effect sizes from 15 researchstudies on cooperative learning in college and high school chemistrycourses.http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/issues/2000/Jan/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Research: Science and EducationJChemEd.chem.wisc.edu Vol. 77 No. 1 January 2000 Journal of Chemical Education 119Once general questions such as these have been answered,additional research can probe aspects of computer-basedinstruction, or demonstration use, that have the greatestimpact on student learning. Of course, people conductingprimary research or evaluation studies should report sufficientstatistical data so that their work might be included in possiblefuture meta-analyses.To illustrate how meta-analyses are conducted, a topicof interest to the chemical education community was selected.The meta-analysis reported here shows that, on average, usingaspects of cooperative learning can enhance chemistryachievement for high school and college students. On thebasis of the results of this meta-analysis, it is stronglyrecommended that chemistry instructors continue incorpo-rating cooperative learning practices into their classes. Resultssuch as these can be used to support efforts at curriculumchange that instructors might make in their teaching situations.Literature Cited1. Slavin, R. E. Psychol. Bull. 1983, 94, 429445.2. Johnson, D. W.; Johnson, R. T.; Maruyama, G. Rev. Educ. Res.1983, 53, 554.3. Slavin, R. E. Cooperative Learning: Theory, Research, and Prac-tice, 2nd ed.; Allyn & Bacon: Boston, 1995.4. Johnson, D. W.; Johnson, R. T.; Smith, K. Active Learning:Cooperation in the College Classroom; Interaction Book Com-pany: Edina, MN, 1991.5. Cooper, M. M. J. Chem. Educ. 1995, 72, 162.6. Coppola, B. P.; Lawton, R. G. J. Chem. Educ. 1995, 72,1120.7. Amenta, D. S.; Mosbo, J. A. J. Chem. Educ. 1994, 71, 661.8. Anderson, J. S.; Hayes, D. M.; Werner, T. C. J. Chem. Educ.1995, 72, 653655.9. Fleming, F. F. J. Chem. Educ. 1995, 72, 719720.10. Kogut, L. S. J. Chem. Educ. 1997, 74, 720722.11. Towns, M. H. J. Chem. Educ. 1998, 75, 6769.12. Nurrenbern, S. C. Experiences in Cooperative Learning: A Collec-tion for Chemistry Teachers; Institute for Chemical Education:Madison, WI, 1995.13. Nurrenbern, S. C.; Robinson, W. R. J. Chem. Educ. 1997, 74,623624.14. Cooper, H. M. Integrating Research: A Guide for Literature Re-views, 2nd ed.; Sage: Newbury Park, CA, 1989.15. Hedges, L. V.; Olkin, I. Statistical Methods for Meta-Analy-sis; Academic: Orlando, FL, 1985.16. Glass, G. V.; McGaw, B.; Smith, M. L. Meta-Analysis in So-cial Research; Sage: Beverly Hills, CA, 1981.17. Springer, L.; Stanne, M. E.; Donovan, S. Effects of Coopera-tive Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, En-gineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis; National Insti-tute for Science Education: Madison, WI, 1997. This docu-ment can be obtained from L. Springer, National Institute forScience Education, 1025 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI,53706.18. Lundeberg, M. A. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 1990, 27, 145155.19. Smith, M. E.; Hinckley, C. C.; Volk, G. L. J. Chem. Educ.1991, 68, 413415.20. Basili, P. A.; Sanford, J. P. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 1991, 28, 293304.21. Springer, L. Relating Concepts and Applications through Struc-tured Active Learning; Presented at the annual meeting of theAmerican Educational Research Association; Chicago, April1997.22. Banerjee, A. C.; Vidyapati, T. F. Int. J. Sci. Educ. 1997,19, 903910.23. Bowen, C. W.; Phelps, A. J. J. Chem. Educ. 1997, 74, 715719.24. Burron, B.; James, M. L.; Ambrosio, A. L. J. Res. Sci. Teach.1993, 30, 697707.25. Dinan, F. J.; Frydrychowski, V. A. J. Chem. Educ. 1995,72, 429431.26. Dougherty, R. C. J. Chem. Educ. 1997, 74, 722726.27. Lonning, R. A. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 1993, 30, 10871101.28. Metz, P. A. The Effect of Interactive Instruction and Lectures onthe Achievement and Attitudes of Chemistry Students; Ph.D. Dis-sertation, Purdue University, 1987; Dissertation Abstr. Int.1998, 49, 474A.29. Niaz, M. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 1995, 32, 959970.30. Okebukola, P. A. Int. J. Sci. Educ. 1986, 8, 7377.31. Ross, M. R.; Fulton, R. B. J. Chem. Educ. 1994, 71, 141143.32. Tingle, J. B.; Good, R. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 1990, 27, 671683.yrtsimehCniseziStceffEtnemeveihcA.3elbaTseidutSgninraeLevitarepooC)feR(rohtuA leveL esruoC stnedutS ).oN( eziStceffEeejrenaB & (itapaydiV 22 ) egelloC lareneG 86 36.0 )1tset(03.0 )2tset(43.0 )3tset((drofnaS&ilisaB 02 ) egelloC lareneG 26 87.0 )rettam(76.0 )ygrene(94.0 )sesag(67.0 )sdiuqil(39.0 )sdilos((splehP&newoB 32 ) egelloC lareneG 76 59.0,norruB ,semaJ &oisorbmA ( 42 )egelloC lareneG 15 11.0 ).eveihca(21.0 )lanifbal(naniD & ikswohcyrdyrF ( 52 ) egelloC cinagrO 301 62.0(ytrehguoD 62 ) egelloC cinagrO 062 82.0(gninnoL 72 ) hgiH loohcs lareneG 63 17.0(grebednuL 81 ) egelloC lareneG 841 16.0(zteM 82 ) egelloC lareneG 521 )1tset(81.0)2tset(50.0 )3tset(42.0 )4tset(61.0 )lanif(22.0(zaiN 92 ) egelloC lareneG 27 .borp(34.0 )1.borp(46.0 )2.borp(10.1 )3.borp(30.0 )4.borp(54.0 )5(alokubekO 03 ) loohcshgiH lareneG 322 95.0(notluF&ssoR 13 ) egelloC lacitylanA 56 62.0,htimS ,yelkcniH & kloV ( 91 ) egelloC lareneG 25 27.0(regnirpS 12 ) weiverrofelbaliavatoN 15.0(dooG&elgniT 23 ) loohcshgiH lareneG 871 70.0http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/issues/2000/Jan/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/Journal/http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/journal/issues/1997/jun/abs720.htmlhttp://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/journal/issues/1998/jan/abs67.htmlhttp://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/journal/issues/1997/jun/abs623.htmlhttp://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/journal/issues/1997/jun/abs623.htmlhttp://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/journal/issues/1997/jun/abs715.htmlhttp://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/journal/issues/1997/jun/abs715.htmlhttp://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/journal/issues/1997/jun/abs722.html


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