Effects of Cooperative Learning in a College Course on Student Attitudes toward Accounting: A Quasi-Experimental Study
Cheng, Kai-Wen, Chen, Yu-Fen, International Journal of Management
The effects of cooperative learning, learning by working on assignments in a team rather than individually, on student attitudes toward accounting, learning about accounting, and involvement in accounting activities were examined in a quasi-experimental study of 98 accounting students at a Technical College in Taiwan randomly assigned to a cooperative and non-cooperative leaning group. Data were collected from both groups before and after aiming the 18-week accounting course. Results showed that cooperative learning improved students' attitudes toward accounting and the learning of accounting suggesting that there may be a place for cooperative learning, as a teaching method, among college students in a subject like accounting.
In the severe competition of modern society, for enterprises to outperform their competitors it is often necessary for them to have a strong team spirit and sense of cohesion among its members. For teaching and learning institutions this frequently means that students need to have positive attitudes toward both how and what they are taught at their institution. Unfortunately, in our view it is difficult to instill these things in Taiwanese educational institutions with their emphasis on competitive and individualistic teaching methods. In Taiwan, where traditional independent learning that depends heavily on the rote acquisition of facts and figures remains the rule, it is difficult for students to develop their social and interaction skills, skills that depend so much on teamwork and learning from each other. Given present circumstance we believe that a 'radical change' in teaching methods is the most appropriate way to tackle the problem, a change that requires students to be given the opportunity and experience of learning cooperatively from each other and their teachers.
Through such 'cooperative learning' students can learn how to work together and benefit from what others know and can do as well as to appreciate the idea of at the same time (Huang & Lin, 2000). In the viewpoint of Johnson & Johnson (1994), cooperative-learning skills are defined by the following five elements:
1. Positive interdependence.
2. Individual and group accountability.
3. Face-to-face interaction.
4. Collaborative skills.
5. Group processing.
It is hypothesized that students whose teachers adopt cooperative learning methods will develop more positive attitudes toward their learning and subject than those whose teachers adopt non-cooperative learning and that as a result their subject performance should also be higher or better. The purpose of this research was thus to explore whether cooperative teaching had 'residual effects' on students' learning attitudes beyond that expected from them being taught according to the methods that are traditional or orthodox in their institution.
Cooperative learning is a method in which students in terms of which students learn through working together with others, helping and supporting each other and sharing information and skills. One of the main aims of such learning is to improve the collaborative and social skills of participants Evaluations are based mainly on the performance of the group, rather than individuals. In cooperative learning with a small group, students should acquire the ability to work together and learn the value of joining with other in joint ventures (Vaughan, 2002). The study of 'cooperative learning' has flourished since the 1970s, although teachers often use slightly different methods to achieve their objectives whilst still practising cooperative learning. Among these methods the most commonly adopted is the Student Team Achievement Division (STAD) method.
STAD was developed by Slavin (1978). The content, standards, and ways of evaluations it employs are similar to those in traditional teaching, so it is the easiest to be put into practice. It has the broadest range of application-among different cooperative learning methods-and has been thoroughly tested with many instances of positive results. Consequently, it was the cooperative teaching method adopted in the present study, in the first phase of the research. There are five characteristics in STAD:
1. Class presentation:
According to the learning objectives of the course, the teacher lectures to the whole class or leads them into discussion designed to get all students to grasp the content and conception of the course.
The teacher divides the students into different teams based on their distinct qualities or abilities. In practice this process of 'dividing on distinct qualities or abilities' typically means that members are put into groups depending on their capacity to assist in and benefit from the course. After the teacher has introduced the method and its aims to the whole class and presented the course material, all the team members are required to analyze- and compare their answers-an assignment about the course material as a whole. In the process of team learning, all the team members are supposed to try their best to provide help to all the other members and spare no efforts for the whole team.
After this phase of team learning, all the students are asked to take a quiz. The quiz is done individually; help from group members is not allowed. Each student is responsible for his/her own learning.
4. Individual improvement:
Each student's average score on these initial quizzes serves as his or hers basic score. The difference between their subsequent or later scores on the quiz, at the end of the course, is used an index of improvement, as the so-called 'translated score' for that student, giving a measure of his or her learning progress. The quizzes are designed so that it is necessary for members to study hard to get a better translated score. These translated scores can be used to assess the contribution of all members to the team, by calculating an accumulated score for each team given by the average of the 'translated scores' of all the group members.
5. Team recognition:
When the score of the team exceeds the agreed standard, the team members get rewards and public praise. In addition to the public praise for the group, the individuals who have made 'great progress' are also rewarded and given praised in public, in front of all the members.
Because their particular research often has aims and a scope that is unlike that of others, different researchers often hold divergent views about the learning attitudes of their subjects. After reviewing relevant studies, we decided that we wanted to measure the effect of cooperative learning on student attitudes toward (1) accounting as a subject (2) the process of learning about accounting and (3) involvement in accounting activities (Chin, 1992; Lin, 2002; Chung; 2004). With strong support for cooperative learning in many schools, most research has shown that students attitudes to learning and to interacting with others favours cooperative learning compared to the traditional method of classroom lecturing (McManus & Gettinger, 1996; Ciccotello, D'Amico & Grant, 1997; Mueller & Fleming, 2001; Vaughan, 2002; Li, 2002; Lin,2002; Chung, 2004 ). However, with exception of a study in Australia (Gillies, 2002,) there is very little research on the residual or extra benefits from cooperative learning, with hardly any studies examining the specific effects of cooperative learning on student learning attitudes. The purpose of this study was to compare the cooperative learning method with the lecturing method, and to investigate their effects on student learning attitudes after 18 weeks (one semester) following an initial experimental semester.
As regard relevant research in Taiwan, Lin (2002) reported that students who were taught by cooperative learning methods had a significantly much more positive attitude to learning than students who were taught by other more traditional methods. Li (2002) applied cooperative learning to social science fifth and sixth grade students and found that, as a learning method, it promoted mutual encouragement among peers and enhanced interest toward social science. In a study of mathematics classes for eight grade students Chou (2002) found that cooperative learning helped to improve students' learning attitudes as a whole. Chung (2004) explored the effects of cooperative learning on the learning attitudes of vocational high school students in an educational-industrial complex in vocational high schools. His results showed that such leaning ameliorated the attitudes to learning of these students. From this relevant literature, it appears that cooperative learning, as a distinct teaching method, is capable of improving the attitudes of students. The present study is an attempt to test this conclusion experimentally among a group of accounting students in Taiwan.
The subjects of this research were students at a technical college in Taiwan, who were randomly assigned to either to an experimental group or to a control group. A teacher (researcher) conducted the teaching experiment in an accounting course. The first (experimental) group consisted of students taught by cooperative learning methods, the second (control) group consisted of students who received the traditional teaching method of lecturing. The numbers of the participants were 53 in the experimental group and 45 in the control group respectively, 98 persons in total. A quasi-experimental design was used in this study. One class was randomly assigned to the experimental group, and the other was assigned to the control group, with a questionnaire being used to measure the dependant variables. This research was done in adopted in two stages:
In stage one, the teacher (the concurrent researcher) taught the accounting students in the experimental group following cooperative leaning methods for half a semester / 8 weeks. Before the commencement of the experiment, the teacher carried out pretests of the students' learning attitudes, in both the experimental group and the control group. As indicated earlier, the cooperative learning method developed and used in this research was the STAD method proposed by Slavin (1995), that follows these phases or steps; lecturing to the whole class, team learning based on distinct qualities or abilities, evaluations, individual progress Scoring followed by the public praising of members of the teams.
In stage two, the teacher (researcher) carried out post-tests of the students' learning attitudes in both groups at the end of the 1 whole semester /18 weeks. The aim was to assess the effect or Impact of cooperative leaning, as a teaching method, on the attitudes of the students to accounting as a subject, to the process of learning about accounting, and to involvement in accounting activities.
We assessed students' learning attitudes using a specially-developed Learning Attitude Test (LAT consisting 25-items presented in a five-point Likert-type scales, ranging from agree to disagree. A panel of specialists that included three educational experts in the field of learning and teaching and two current teachers from technical colleges in Taiwan helped to establish the content validity of the LAT. The LAT contains three subscales, which measured attitudes toward accounting, attitudes toward learning accounting, and attitudes toward involvement in accounting activities. The reliability coefficients of the scales (Cronbach's alpha) ranged from 0.70-0.94; that these were all higher than 0.7 suggests that the scales are sufficiently reliability.
The content and length of the courses taught to the experimental and control groups were held constant. The independent variable was the different teaching methods employed; either the cooperative leaning method or the non-cooperative learning method; the dependent variables were the three learning attitudes of the students. A multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was used to assess the effects of the cooperative learning method on the dependent variables, with pretest measures as the covariates, to determine if there were any significant differences between the experimental group and the control group.
Wilks' λ was used to test the difference between the two groups on the set of posttests. The level of significance was set at .05. To investigate further how the two groups differed, univariate analyses of covariance (ANCOVA) were conducted on the posttest measures, with the pretest scores of the subjects on the learning attitude scales as the covariate. Software from SPSS 10.0 edition was utilized to analyze the data.
Results and Conclusions
The results of the descriptive statistics comparing the students in the experimental group and in the control group are shown in Table 1. The students in the experimental group had significantly more positive learning attitudes than did the subject in the control group on the post tests, conducted at the end of their courses.
The scores in the pre-test were used as covariates in the analysis. The result of the MANCOVA and ANCOVA analyses comparing students in the experimental group and in the control group are shown in Table 2. The students in the experimental group had significantly higher, more positive attitudes than those in the control scores toward (1) accounting, and (2) the learning of accounting.
These findings suggest that cooperative learning, as carried out in the present study, has a positive effect on student learning attitudes, that it does have the kind of 'residual' effect that was hypothesized for it. Given these results we suggest that cooperative learning methods be tentatively adopted, or at least tried out, in the teaching of accounting at technical colleges in Taiwan. Although the present study found that this kind of learning method can improve the attitudes of students, there are other methods that may have the same effect but have not been examined in this study. Future research could profitably examine whether these other method have the same effect or even stronger effects on student attitudes than the cooperative method investigated in the current research.
The research findings suggest that cooperative learning does have an extra or 'residual' effect on students' learning attitudes; that it causes students to hold more positive attitudes toward their subject and how it is taught. Whether these effects will be stronger or longer-lasting if students are taught for a longer period than the 18 weeks of the present investigation is a subject for future research. Such research can examine the impact of cooperative leaning over a longer or more prolonged period of study perhaps over more than one semester Nowadays in Taiwan, technical and vocational schools and colleges are making big efforts to improve the learning attitudes of their students, to get them to learn and think in a way that will enable them to compete more effectively when they leave school or college. The results of the present research suggest that using cooperative leaning methods may be a useful method for helping to achieve this outcome.
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Publication information: Article title: Effects of Cooperative Learning in a College Course on Student Attitudes toward Accounting: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Contributors: Cheng, Kai-Wen - Author, Chen, Yu-Fen - Author. Journal title: International Journal of Management. Volume: 25. Issue: 1 Publication date: March 2008. Page number: 111+. © International Journal of Management Dec 2008. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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