The Impact of Social Motivation on Cooperative Learning and Assessment Preferences

By Selvarajah, Christopher; Chelliah, John et al. | Journal of Management and Organization, March 2010 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Social Motivation on Cooperative Learning and Assessment Preferences


Selvarajah, Christopher, Chelliah, John, Meyer, Denny, Pio, Edwina, Anurit, Pacapol, Journal of Management and Organization


ABSTRACT

This study explores the assessment preferences of 453 postgraduate business students in New Zealand, Australia, and Thailand using a survey linking motivational and educational preferences. This study compares the needs of Western students (Australian and New Zealand), Asian (Thai) and international students (predominantly Chinese and Indian students) in Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC). One major finding is that students from these three countries who are socially motivated prefer 'cooperative learning'. Further, the study specifically shows that students from Thailand are more socially motivated than students from Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC) while International ANZAC students have the greatest desire for cooperative learning. It also shows that group assessment poses quite significant challenges for local ANZAC students and therefore, remedial intervention from universities is essential if group assessments are to remain relevant and useful in achieving meaningful teaching and learning outcomes.

Keywords: assessment preferences, social motivation, cooperative learning, international students, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand

Put random collections of people into groups - for instance on a management training course - and they will, if they wish to be a group ... start to find a name, or a private territorial sign, or a ritual, which will give them an independent identity. If they do not do this, it often means that membership of such a group is not important to them, that they are happy to remain a random collection of individuals.

(Handy 1985: 155)

In the tertiary education context over the past fifteen years or so, group working methods and more specifically group work that is assessed have become integral components of both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. These days it is unusual for postgraduate and undergraduate students not to have been involved in group work situations as part of their education.

This article examines assessment preferences of postgraduate business students in New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. Following a brief introduction covering the background of group work in education and a review of the literature, the context of the study and the research hypotheses will be detailed. The results are then presented containing a detailed statistical analysis with discussion on the findings which are unique because of the international composition of the participants surveyed.

For many universities in Australia and New Zealand, international student recruitment is paramount. Universities in both these countries have looked to fee-paying international students both as a means of generating income and as a means of adding diversity to the student body (Ross, Heaney and Cooper, 2007). These universities have internationalization as a key strategic initiative with emphasis placed on the development of learning and teaching approaches that ensure international students are fully involved in classroom, group work and assessment activities for the benefit of all students (AUT 2005: 10).

A New Zealand Ministry of Education report on 'The impact of international students on domestic students and host institutions' (Ward 2001: 1) reports:

On the whole, research suggests that international students expect and desire contact with their domestic peers, and positive social, psychological, and academic benefits arise from this contact; however, the amount of interaction between international and domestic students is low.

The report suggests the need for strategic interventions like peer pairing and Cooperative Learning to improve interaction between international and domestic students. This suggestion initiated this study.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The term 'cooperative learning' is often used interchangeably with collaborative learning, group learning, peer learning, learning community, and constructive learning has become a common practice in tertiary institutions in New Zealand and elsewhere (Ward & Masgoret 2004, Sherman 2000; Brody 1995).

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