Researchers based in Turkey show that effective group work in the classroom improves students' understanding of science

Students working as a team

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Cooperative learning describes what happens during effective group work. Burcin Acar and Leman Tarhan of the University of Dokuz Eylul, Turkey have shown that students taught using this method develop a significantly better understanding of metallic bonding than those taught by traditional methods.

The researchers selected 57 15-year olds from two classes in one school. The classes were selected because of the similarities in the students' background and ability, and that they were taught by the same science teacher. The teacher taught metallic bonding to one class using a traditional, didactic approach and to the other class using material that fostered cooperative learning. The teacher received training in ways of encouraging students to work as a group.  

The students completed tests before and after the series of lessons to see how much they had learnt. In addition, the researchers interviewed groups of students from each class about their understanding of metallic bonding. Students from the cooperative learning class were interviewed individually to gather their views on this type of learning activity.  

Comparison of the pre-test results showed that there was no significant difference between the scores of the two groups. But analysis of the answers in the post-test showed that the cooperative learning group outperformed the traditional group on each of the questions.  

The interviews to test understanding revealed that students who had experienced cooperative learning held far fewer misconceptions of ideas related to metallic bonding than their counterparts in the other class. The students' comments on the cooperative learning experience were also positive, eg'I recognised that only listening was not sufficient for learning, and I had to share my ideas and discuss'.