Do you ever wonder what your students are talking about during group work? We know that collaborative learning contexts lead to better learning outcomes, but the mechanism behind how this works is not clearly understood. A newly published study by Michelle Repice and Gina Frey, from The Teaching Center, and their colleagues, analyzes how chemistry students use language to talk through problems in small groups.
They found that 55% of student discussions showed evidence of disciplinary vocabulary (e.g., talking about chemistry content), and that the other 45% of their discussions functioned to direct the problem-solving process and promote effective group dynamics. In particular, they saw that students built upon one another’s knowledge as they proposed steps in the problem solving process. This study contributes to our understanding of the functions of student communication while solving problems, helping us reveal the learning benefits of students engaging in collaborative problem solving.
Repice, M. D., Sawyer, R. K., Hogrebe, M. C., Brown, P. L., Luesse, S. B., Gealy, D. J., & Frey, R. F. (2016). Talking through the problems: a study of discourse in peer-led small groups. Chemistry Education Research and Practice. doi: 10.1039/C5RP00154D.