Collaborative Learning in the Graduate C

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Teaching method techniques for various learning styles have become increasingly popular among educators. However, the lecture only format is still very widely used among educators. Research has shown that there are various methods of collaborative group activities, which increase learning. Graduate students learn better by interacting with one another and the teacher verses the lecture only format (Abel & Campbell, 2009). Collaborative group activity can take place in many different forms. There is not one universal definition of collaborative learning. Method Discussion Collaborative Learning in the Graduate Classroom Bender Dylan, Brown Cindy, Hetschel Debbie Azusa Pacific University Chart #2 Chart #3 References Literature Review Results The participants in our study were graduate Psychology students at APU, ages 22-55 years of age. We contacted 28 students and 18 participated in the survey. The materials we used included our eCourse web page which was updated each week with an entertaining and helpful video. The majority of the data produced by the survey displayed a positive correlation to our hypothesis. When responding to the statement “An interactive class helps me to learn class material” the majority of participants responded positively; 78% agreed and 17% strongly agreed only 5% strongly disagreed (See Chart #3). Because the participants of the study were all graduate psychology students, the results could be generalized to other graduate students. However, generalization could not go beyond the population surveyed without further research. Abel, E. and Campbell, M. (2009). Student-centered learning in an advanced social work practice course: Outcomes of a mixed methods investigation. Social Work Education, American Society for Horticultural Science (2007). Teamwork Improves Learning And Career Success. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 26, 2010,

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Literature Review Teaching method techniques for various learning styles have become increasingly popular among educators. However, the lecture only format is still very widely used among educators. Research has shown that there are various methods of collaborative group activities, which increase learning. Graduate students learn better by interacting with one another and the teacher verses the lecture only format (Abel & Campbell, 2009). Collaborative group activity can take place in many different forms. There is not one universal definition of collaborative learning. Research has shown the effectiveness of collaborative group activity to have an increase in learning. Students learn better and develop higher-level skills by participating in cooperative team activities as compared to traditional classroom teaching (Science Daily, 2007). In a two-year study at Pennsylvania State University, students liked participating in cooperative activities and stated that they learned from other team members. In this study, instructors noted that students participated more in the lecture after team activities were completed (Science Daily, 2007). In this same study, professors admitted it took more organization and planning to use cooperative activities than traditional lecture method, however the student outcomes showed an increase in several indicators of higher level thinking including the application of concepts and analysis and synthesis of information (Science Daily, 2007). Collaborative learning is not confined only to traditional classrooms; it can take place in online classes through interaction in discussion forums (Science Daily, 2008). Research has shown that mutual engagement as well as having a safe environment are key aspects to having an effective learning environment (Kiener, 2009). Mutual engagement is the process where an instructor and students work together to construct a safe environment to give and receive feedback in order to facilitate learning. A safe environment is defined by being a place where students feel comfortable voicing their opinion while remaining respected both in and out of the classroom (Kiener, 2009). Group interaction in graduate school does not only affect learning, it also led to more completed degrees. They found that graduate students in cohort programs had more peer-student relationships and higher levels of persistence, which led to more completed degree programs. This would suggest that relationships among graduate peers are an important element in the learning environment for graduate students (Little, 2009).

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Literature Review Teachers who develop a classroom culture that encourages explanations and constructive activity in peer-directed small groups will help maximize the benefits of small-group work for all group members (Webb, Trooper & Fall, 1995). In this study, the extent to which students continued working on the problems after they received help was the strongest predictor of posttest achievement, more important than prior achievement or the level of help received.” Continuing to work on a problem after an explanation showed higher test scores (Webb et al., 1995). People have different degrees of how strong their learning style is (Kinshuk, Lui, & Graf, 2009). Learners with strong preferences for a specific learning style have more difficulties in learning than learners with mild style preferences. Active learners need more scaffolding to help with their learning (Kinshuk et al., 2009). Depending on an individuals learning style, collaborative learning may be more or less beneficial. Self-assessment in terms of understanding personal learning style could be impactful for students (West, Kahn & Nauta, 2007). In an evaluation of a graduate psychology program, students were asked to rank ten program components in terms of importance for their overall development of psychologists and ranked on the top of the top of the list was relationships with faculty (Fernald, 1995). With the opportunity for more connections with the faculty, comes the possibility of a mentoring relationship being established which research has shown has many positive benefits (Darwin & Palmer, 2009). Collaborative group interactions provides an opportunity for the professor to give feedback to students and research has shown that graduate students learn better when they are getting periodic feedback from their professor throughout the course (Fish, 2008). Collaborative group interaction is not limited to the traditional classroom setting. Collaborative learning can also happen in online classrooms through discussion blogs. In a recent study of graduate students participating in online discussion blogs, 60% reported that blog participation increased their learning quite a bit. Also, 60% of participants stated that they found it easier to write on the discussion board than to speak in class (Goldman, Cohen, & Sheahan, 2008).

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Method The participants in our study were graduate Psychology students at APU, ages 22-55 years of age. We contacted 28 students and 18 participated in the survey. The materials we used included our eCourse web page which was updated each week with an entertaining and helpful video. Videos were included for creating a blog, using SurveyMonkey and creating the Poster Project. We utilized a blog and the tool SurveyMonkey for posting and gathering information.   The procedure began with forming our group and naming ourselves the iResearchers. We set up a blog and posted 12 literature reviews that included research regarding our topic of Collaborative Learning in the Classroom. After interacting with classmates in an online discussion of potential topics for research, we made our formal proposal, which included our hypothesis, problem to be solved and proposed participants. Next we engaged in an informal IRB role play online with our classmates in which we could comment on any ethical concerns about each other’s topic proposals. There were no significant ethical concerns about our proposal, and it was subsequently accepted by Dr. Bledsoe. Finding it difficult to communicate and coordinate our project by online interface alone, we met in person to develop a list of 10 questions for our survey. Eight of the questions were quantitative and two were qualitative. Our format for the quantitative questions consisted of strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree and strongly disagree. Subsequently we posted our questions onto our blog page. One member of our group submitted a formal proposal of our topic for approval to the OIRA online, copying Dr. Bledsoe. One day later we received our approval from the OIRA with the requisite seal of approval. An email was sent to prospective participants requesting their involvement in our research study. They were asked to reply if they did not wish to participate. We received no declines to our offer. We set up our survey on SurveyMonkey and provided a link to the survey in a second email sent out to participants. This email included a statement of informed consent and the seal of approval for the OIRA. After 10 days the results of the survey were collected and analyzed through SurveyMonkey. We met again in person to discuss the results of the survey and how to proceed and divide the remaining work for the poster session.

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Results The majority of the data produced by the survey displayed a positive correlation to our hypothesis. When responding to the statement “An interactive class helps me to learn class material” the majority of participants responded positively; 78% agreed and 17% strongly agreed only 5% strongly disagreed (See Chart #3). The majority of participants indicated that they learned more when they had the opportunity to participate in collaborative learning. Whereas, when asked if they “learned better by lecture alone” the Mean for this question was mostly “undecided” or 3.0. Means and Standard Deviations for each of the questions of our survey are located in the Table section of this presentation. Overall, our research supports our hypothesis that grad students learn better in a collaborative classroom learning environment. However, it appears that the greatest disagreement was specifically in the area of small group learning. It produced the lowest Mean of all the questions in the survey (See Table and Chart #2). The uncontrollable variable of personalities and learning/working styles in those groups is a significant factor in the degree of learning in small groups. This is demonstrated in the answers to our qualitative questions. Examples of the negative outcomes of collaborative learning were: “I guess that sometimes you get too many opinions and perspectives that are sometimes irrelevant and take time away from the professor sharing new material. I really like the approach though.” ‘some participants do not come prepared” ‘the negative aspect of collaborative learning is the lack of equal response for everyone; there is usually someone who is better prepared and that person ends up taking on the weight of the discussion material. Professors were also included in reasons for not enjoying collaborative learning: “I really don't see anything that is really negative in collaborative learning. I think that the teachers are the ones that make it a bad experience for the students.” “An instructor sometimes fails to specify the parameters of a discussion and groups can tend to drift, wasting valuable time. “Teacher should require feedback from each group, so, each group would make an effort to really participate.”

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Table Insert Chart #1 here. Title the chart so that it is easily identified Make sure that there is a direct reference to this chart in your Results section. Make sure that there is a direct reference to this table in your Results section

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Chart #1

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Chart #2

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Chart #3

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Discussion Results from the present study continue to suggest that student learning is increased in classrooms that use collaborative learning (See Chart #1). The results from our study supported our initial prediction. Our findings contribute to the literature in providing evidence showing students feel that collaborative learning helps increase their learning. Because the participants of the study were all graduate psychology students, the results could be generalized to other graduate students. However, generalization could not go beyond the population surveyed without further research. People have different degrees of how strong their learning style is (Kinshuk, Lui, & Graf, 2009). Depending on an individuals learning style, collaborative learning may be more or less beneficial. This takes into consideration the percentage of people in our study that disagreed with collaborative learning being effective. Because this study was a self-report questionnaire, participants rated what they preferred in terms of collaborative learning. For future studies, it would be meaningful to have the dependent variable be test scores and have one group be in a classroom with collaborative learning and the second group to be in a traditional lecture only classroom. Therefore, the results would be based off of the amount learned and not just on what individuals prefer. Learning preferences can be based off of variables such as personality, introversion and extroversion, and mood. In order to eliminate the extraneous variables, it would be important to measure test scores for an increase in learning. Findings from the present study suggest an ongoing need to consider the effects that collaborative group interaction have on learning. Continued research in this area would allow educators to see the positive effects that collaborative group interaction has on learning, and in turn would be able to incorporate those techniques into their curriculum. This research would have a direct positive result on classroom teaching techniques that would increase the rate of student learning.

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References Abel, E. and Campbell, M. (2009). Student-centered learning in an advanced social work practice course: Outcomes of a mixed methods investigation. Social Work Education, 28, 3-17. American Society for Horticultural Science (2007). Teamwork Improves Learning And Career Success. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/11/071105095721.htm Darwin, A. and Palmer, E. (2009). Mentoring circles in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 28, 125-136. Fernald, P. (1995). Preparing Psychology Graduate Students for the Professorate. American Psychologist, 50, 421-427. Fish, L. (2008). Graduate student project: Employer operations management analysis. Journal of Education for Business, 84, 18-30. Goldman, R., Cohen, A., & Sheahan, F. (2008). Using seminar blogs to enhance student participation and learning in public health school classes. American Journal of Public Health, 98, 1658-1663. Kiener, M. (2009). Applying the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Pursuing a Deeper Understanding of How Students Learn. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 4, 21-27. Kinshuk, Lui, T.C, and Graf, S. (2009). Coping with Mismatched Courses: Students' Behavior and Performance in Courses Mismatched to Their Learning Styles. Journal of Educational Technology Research and Development, 57, 739-752. Little, D. (2009).  Graduate program culture and intention to persist: Working adults in cohort and non-cohort programs. (Doctoral dissertation, Florida International University). Retrieved from http://0proquest.umi.com.patris.apu.edu/pqdweb?did=1886869641&Fmt=6&clientId=23686&RQT=309&VName=PQD University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2008). E-learning Can Have Positive Effect On Classroom Learning, Scholar Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 26, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/12/081209221713.htm Webb, N., Trooper, J., & Fall, R. (1995). Constructive activity and learning in collaborative small groups. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 406-423. West, C., Kahn, J., & Nauta, M. (2007). Learning Styles as Predictors of Self-Efficacy and Interest in Research: Implications for Graduate Research Training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1, 174- 183.

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