The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the role of self-perception in predicting performance of cooperative learning groups in graduate-level research methodology courses. A total of 29 groups was examined (n = 102 students), ranging in size from 2 to 7. A series of multiple regression analyses revealed that the groups attaining the lowest scores on the article critique assignment (i.e., group outcome variable) tended to report the lowest levels of perceived job competence and perceived self-worth, the highest levels of perceived creativity, the greatest variation with respect to perceived scholastic competence and perceived humor, and the least variation with respect to perceived social acceptability. These six variables model explained 75.8% (adjusted [R.sup.2] = 69.2%) of the variation in article critique scores, which indicated an extremely large effect size. Thus, self-perception appears to be a very powerful predictor of performance of cooperative learning groups involving graduate students.
Over the last several decades researchers have examined a variety of strategies that have the potential to increase or even maximize student learning in the classroom. Perhaps the strategy that has received the most attention is what is formally known as cooperative learning. This term refers to the concept of students working together to maximize their own learning and those of their group members (Johnson & Johnson, 2002). Indeed, Cuseo (1992) asserts, "cooperative learning is the most operationally well-defined and procedurally structured form of collaboration among students ..." (p. 3). Upon completing a meta-analysis of cooperative learning studies conducted at the college level, Johnson and Johnson (1993) identify five reasons supporting the use of cooperative learning as an instructional approach: cooperative learning has a rich and long history of theory, research, and practice; the research on cooperative learning has yielded findings that have validity and generalizability rarely found in the education literature; cooperative learning concurrently affects many different instructional outcomes; much is known about the essential elements that make it work; and, lastly, cooperative learning creates opportunities that do not exist when students work individually or competitively.
Johnson and Johnson, and their colleagues (Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991 a, 1991b), recommended incorporating in cooperative learning groups the following five-component model to maximize performance outcomes: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual accountability, social skills, and group processing. Because of its emphasis on positive interdependence, individual accountability, and group processing, cooperative learning may be especially effective for graduate students enrolled in courses that are distinctly different from their preexisting experiences, such as research methodology courses.
Recently, researchers have investigated the impact of group characteristics as a predictor of group outcomes of graduate students enrolled in research methodology courses. Collins, Onwuegbuzie, and DaRos-Voseles (2004) reported that graduate groups enrolled in a research methods course who attained the lowest scores on a course-related performance calibrate (i.e., an article critique assignment) tended to report the highest anxiety levels and to be the most heterogeneous with respect to research anxiety. Further, DaRos-Voseles, Onwuegbuzie, and Collins (2003) found that graduate students' levels of perfectionism play a role in determining cooperative group outcomes.
Onwuegbuzie, Collins, and Elbedour (2003) found what they identified as a Matthew effect. Specifically, cooperative learning groups that contained the highest achievers, as demonstrated by individually obtained grades, in contrast to groups containing lowest achievers, produced group outcomes of the highest quality. …