Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Enhanced Genetic Approach to Composing Cooperative Learning Groups for Multiple Grouping Criteria

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Enhanced Genetic Approach to Composing Cooperative Learning Groups for Multiple Grouping Criteria

Article excerpt


Cooperative learning is known to be an effective educational strategy

in enhancing the learning performance of students. The goal of a cooperative learning group is to maximize all members' learning efficacy. This is accomplished via promoting each other's success, through assisting, sharing, mentoring, explaining, and encouragement. To achieve the goal of cooperative learning, it is very important to organize well-structured cooperative learning groups. In this study, an enhanced genetic algorithm is proposed to organize cooperative learning groups to meet multiple grouping criteria. To show the usefulness of the algorithm, this study presents a case that, for a given course, the teacher sets the criteria of grouping that each concept of a certain course topic is precisely understood by at least one of the peer students in each group, and the average learning achievement of each group is approximately identical. Based on our enhanced genetic algorithm, an assistant system for organizing cooperative learning groups has been developed. Experimental results have shown that the enhanced approach is able to efficiently organize cooperative learning groups that more fit the instructional objectives set by the instructor.


Web-based learning, cooperative learning, meta-heuristic algorithm, genetic algorithm

1. Introduction

Computer-supported cooperative learning has been a key trend in e-learning since it highlights the importance of social interactions as an essential element of learning that allows teachers to get directly involved in design activities (Hernandez-Leo et al., 2006). "Cooperation" in this context means working together to accomplish common goals. Within the realm of cooperative activities, individuals seek outcomes that are beneficial to all members of the group. Cooperative learning refers to the instructional use of small groups so that students work together in order to maximize the learning efficacy of all group members (Johnson et al, 1991, Johnson & Johnson, 1999, Huber, 2003). Well-organized cooperative learning involves people working in teams to accomplish a common goal, under conditions in which all members must cooperate in the completion of a task, whereupon each individual and member is accountable for the absolute outcome (Smith, 1995).

During the past decades, hundreds of relevant studies have been conducted to compare the effectiveness of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts by a wide variety of researchers in different decades using different methods (Smith, 1995, Keyser, 2000, Ramsay et al, 2000, Rachel & Irit, 2002, Veenman et al, 2002). However, how to group the students in a cooperative learning context may have not been sufficiently discussed (Zurita et al., 2005). Also, for grouping students into a cooperative learning context, instructors may consider more than one factor or criterion, and educators in different educational contexts or backgrounds may have different sets of criteria for grouping students.

In this paper, we formulate a Multi-Criteria Group Composition (MCGC) problem to model the composition of cooperative learning groups that meet multiple grouping criteria for various instructional purposes, and propose an enhanced genetic algorithm to cope with the problem. To evaluate the performance of the proposed algorithm, a series of experiments have been conducted by comparing the novel approach with other previously employed methods.

2. Relevant Research

In past decades, cooperative learning researchers have shown that positive peer relationships are an essential element of success during the learning process, and isolation and alienation will possibly lead to failure (Tinto, 1993). In a cooperative learning group, students are assigned to work together with the awareness that success fundamentally depends upon the efforts of all group members. …

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