New evidence on group work

Filling the pail

A paper by Retnowati, Ayers and Sweller has recently been published that casts new light on the value of group work. If you have access then it’s really worth reading the whole thing. The introduction contains cogent explanations of a number of areas such as the worked example effect, the borrowing and reorganising principle and even the research evidence for collaborative learning where the authors note the strong positive evidence for effectiveness when certain conditions – such as group goals and individual accountability – are met.

I am going to focus here on the experiments described in the paper. All involved maths and participants were schoolchildren in Indonesia where, apparently, traditional teaching from the front of the classroom is effectively banned by the national curriculum.

In the first set of experiments, students were randomly allocated to one of two conditions. In the first, they studied worked examples individually and…

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