How Peers Support and Inhibit Learning in the Classroom: Assessment of High School Students in Collaborative Groups

By Strom, Paris S.; Hendon, Kelli L. et al. | School Community Journal, Fall/Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

How Peers Support and Inhibit Learning in the Classroom: Assessment of High School Students in Collaborative Groups


Strom, Paris S., Hendon, Kelli L., Strom, Robert D., Wang, Chih-Hsuan, School Community Journal


Introduction

Leaders of American corporations have reported disappointment with the way secondary schools report achievement, based solely on the way students perform while working alone. This traditional method of reporting is seen as too narrow because it ignores the teamwork competencies that graduates will need for the interdependent workplace (Hart Research Associates, 2015, 2018; Pew Research Center, 2016). School records should include evidence of how individuals perform in cooperative learning groups (Gordon, 2018; Karlgaard & Malone, 2015; Malone & Bernstein, 2015; Rodriguez-Campos, 2015). Cooperative learning is a widely applied teaching approach in which small structured groups of students meet to provide peer support for solving problems, sharing knowledge of materials, and practicing collaboration skills (Coyle, 2018).

The purpose of the study reported here was to determine how 443 students at one high school viewed the peer support they received in their cooperative learning groups. Such information can contribute to continuous school improvement planning to prepare students for the workplace. The research literature identifies some ways peers support and inhibit learning. Studies suggest that respect for student voice should be considered in making decisions about improving school practices. In addition, cooperative learning is also acknowledged as a means to support student development in the social context.

Respect for Student Voice to Make Changes About School Improvement

A movement promoting what is called "student voice" has gained attention in many countries including the U.S. The common goals of this movement have been to (a) describe aspirations of youth, (b) explain how students perceive the assets and shortcomings of their schooling, (c) reveal how adolescents think instruction could be improved, and (d) identify ways to enable equity for the provisions of education (Quaglia & Corso, 2014).

Three award-winning American school superintendents-Lubelfeld, Polyak, and Caposey (2018)-explained their leadership experiences with student voice in Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable. The premise of their book was that student voice has not been heard, and this was a possible reason why public schools have not innovated to the extent they should to effectively serve students. They encouraged administrators to connect with students by finding out their ideas about how to improve learning, assess relevance of curriculum, and determine results of instruction. This process also provided students with understanding of democratic methods and preparation for leadership expected by employers (Caposey, 2018; Lubelfeld & Polyak, 2017).

A meta-analysis involving 49 studies about student voice was conducted by Gonzalez, Hernandez-Saca, and Artiles (2017). These studies confirmed that student voice is able to reveal insights not otherwise available in research that is framed only from the viewpoint of administrators or teachers. Studies included in the analyses generally recommended that schools consider ways to shift from the present adult-centric pattern to become more student-centric.

Landsman, Gorski, and Salcedo (2015) explained that students are the stakeholders with the most to gain from efforts to keep American education competitive. Recommendations were made for teachers, administrators, and boards of education to become more informed about the educational experiences youth value and aspects of guidance they feel are missing. Ryan, Urdan, and Anderman (2018) urged that adolescents should participate in planning efforts to improve education so schools can become more appealing for disengaged students who are likely to drop out. Unless student voices are considered, adults assume how youth interpret their experiences in the classroom and what they expect of their teachers.

Cooperative Learning Supports Social Development

Schools can nurture social development by arranging cooperative learning that engages students in teams to study the subject matter of their courses. …

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