Small-Group vs. Competitive Learning in Computer Science Classrooms: A Meta-Analytic Review

Small-Group vs. Competitive Learning in Computer Science Classrooms: A Meta-Analytic Review

Sema A. Kalaian (Eastern Michigan University, USA) and Rafa M. Kasim (Indiana Tech University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7304-5.ch003


The focus of this meta-analytic chapter was to quantitatively integrate and synthesize the accumulated pedagogical research that examined the effectiveness of one of the various small-group learning methods in maximizing students' academic achievement in undergraduate computer science classrooms. The results of the meta-analysis show that cooperative, collaborative, problem-based, and pair learning pedagogies were used in college-level computer science classrooms with an overall average effect-size of 0.41. The results of the multilevel analysis reveal that the effect sizes were heterogeneous and the effects were explored further by including the coded predictors in the conditional multilevel model in efforts to explain the variability. The results of the conditional multilevel model reveal that the effect sizes were influenced significantly by both instructional duration and assessment type of the studies. The findings imply that the present evidence-based research supports the effectiveness of active small-group learning methods in promoting students' achievement in computer science classrooms.
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Small-group learning is defined as an instructional method in which small groups of students work together to accomplish a shared common learning goal. These small-group learning methods stem from both of the cognitive and social constructivist philosophies of learning. These philosophies view that each individual in a learning group actively and collaboratively constructs knowledge based on previously learned conceptual knowledge and through his or her experiences and social interactions with the other learners in their teams. Cooperative learning, collaborative learning, pair learning/programming, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, and team-based learning are such systematic forms of active small-group learning methods. In collaborative learning environments, students perceive that they can reach their common learning goals if they work collaboratively with the other group members. In competitive environments, students perceive that they can reach their goals if and only if the other students in the classroom cannot achieve their learning goals (Johnson & Johnson 1989; Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000; Johnson & Johnson, 2009; Qin, Johnson, & Johnson, 1995).

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