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      Student perception of group dynamics predicts individual performance: Comfort and equity matter

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          Abstract

          Active learning in college classes and participation in the workforce frequently hinge on small group work. However, group dynamics vary, ranging from equitable collaboration to dysfunctional groups dominated by one individual. To explore how group dynamics impact student learning, we asked students in a large-enrollment university biology class to self-report their experience during in-class group work. Specifically, we asked students whether there was a friend in their group, whether they were comfortable in their group, and whether someone dominated their group. Surveys were administered after students participated in two different types of intentionally constructed group activities: 1) a loosely-structured activity wherein students worked together for an entire class period (termed the ‘single-group’ activity), or 2) a highly-structured ‘jigsaw’ activity wherein students first independently mastered different subtopics, then formed new groups to peer-teach their respective subtopics. We measured content mastery by the change in score on identical pre-/post-tests. We then investigated whether activity type or student demographics predicted the likelihood of reporting working with a dominator, being comfortable in their group, or working with a friend. We found that students who more strongly agreed that they worked with a dominator were 17.8% less likely to answer an additional question correct on the 8-question post-test. Similarly, when students were comfortable in their group, content mastery increased by 27.5%. Working with a friend was the single biggest predictor of student comfort, although working with a friend did not impact performance. Finally, we found that students were 67% less likely to agree that someone dominated their group during the jigsaw activities than during the single group activities. We conclude that group activities that rely on positive interdependence, and include turn-taking and have explicit prompts for students to explain their reasoning, such as our jigsaw, can help reduce the negative impact of inequitable groups.

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          The ICAP Framework: Linking Cognitive Engagement to Active Learning Outcomes

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            Unseen disadvantage: how American universities' focus on independence undermines the academic performance of first-generation college students.

            American universities increasingly admit first-generation college students whose parents do not have 4-year degrees. Once admitted, these students tend to struggle academically, compared with continuing-generation students--students who have at least 1 parent with a 4-year degree. We propose a cultural mismatch theory that identifies 1 important source of this social class achievement gap. Four studies test the hypothesis that first-generation students underperform because interdependent norms from their mostly working-class backgrounds constitute a mismatch with middle-class independent norms prevalent in universities. First, assessing university cultural norms, surveys of university administrators revealed that American universities focus primarily on norms of independence. Second, identifying the hypothesized cultural mismatch, a longitudinal survey revealed that universities' focus on independence does not match first-generation students' relatively interdependent motives for attending college and that this cultural mismatch is associated with lower grades. Finally, 2 experiments at both private and public universities created a match or mismatch for first-generation students and examined the performance consequences. Together these studies revealed that representing the university culture in terms of independence (i.e., paving one's own paths) rendered academic tasks difficult and, thereby, undermined first-generation students' performance. Conversely, representing the university culture in terms of interdependence (i.e., being part of a community) reduced this sense of difficulty and eliminated the performance gap without adverse consequences for continuing-generation students. These studies address the urgent need to recognize cultural obstacles that contribute to the social class achievement gap and to develop interventions to address them. 2012 APA, all rights reserved
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              Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Formal analysisRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: Data curationRole: InvestigationRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: SupervisionRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                20 July 2017
                2017
                : 12
                : 7
                : e0181336
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America
                [2 ] Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, United States of America
                [3 ] School of Life Sciences and Center for Evolution and Medicine, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States of America
                University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNITED STATES
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Author information
                http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4263-2343
                Article
                PONE-D-17-07476
                10.1371/journal.pone.0181336
                5519092
                28727749
                ea591f91-ce96-4a59-b740-3642cbb2ebfe
                © 2017 Theobald et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                History
                : 24 February 2017
                : 29 June 2017
                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 2, Pages: 16
                Funding
                Funded by: funder-id http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100000001, National Science Foundation;
                Award ID: DUE-1244847
                Award Recipient :
                The project was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation ( https://www.nsf.gov/) to AJC (DUE-1244847). The funder had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. There was no additional external funding received for this study.
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