Webb, Noreen, Mari Nemer, Kariane, & Zuniga, Stephen
Short Circuits or Superconductors? Effects of Group Composition on High-Achieving Students' Science Assessment Performance
University of California, Los Angeles
Analyze the group processes intensely in order to understand the impact of group composition on group functioning & the scores of high-ability student
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
American Educational Research Journal
Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 943-989
- Two distinct subgroups of students in heterogeneous groups emerged: high-ability students in heterogeneous groups who performed as well as, or better than those in homogeneous groups and high-ability students in heterogeneous groups who performed less well than those in homogeneous groups.
- The science knowledge of the three group composition subgroups did not seem to differ in any substantial or systematic way prior to group work.
- Three main findings: 1) high-ability students performed well in homogenous groups and in some heterogeneous groups but not in other heterogeneous groups, 2) the types of group interactions that occurred during group work strongly influenced performance 3) group interaction predicted student performance more strongly than did either student ability or the overall ability composition of the group.
- Some of the variables that directly predicted student performance: the level of help that high-ability students received and the frequency with which they produced worked at a lower level than the test answers they provided. The frequency of negative socio-emotional behavior has an indirect effect on performance by significantly predicting the level of help received and lower-level work than students provided previously.
- What accounts for the different routes that high-ability students in heterogeneous groups take is not clear.
- Some heterogeneous groups may function better than others, with consequent effects on outcomes.
- Group functioning, not group composition, may be most likely to predict outcomes for high-ability students.
- For heterogeneous groups to function well, high-ability students should collaborate fully with their group mates and welcome their participation, share their own knowledge fully, and invite others' suggestions, challenges, and corrections.
- The quality of group functioning served as the strongest predictor of high-ability students' performance and explained much of the effect of group composition.
Journal Article Empirical Research
Ability Groups, Academic Achievement, Science, Tracking
Method of Analysis:
Eight graders in five schools in LA County
Unit of Analysis:
- Sample consisted of 662 eight grade students (21 classes) from five schools in Los Angeles County.
- Study focuses on students in the highest quartile of the sample (top 25% of the sample).
- Collected information on a pretest (Phase I) vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and non verbal reasoning. After this, teachers conducted a 3-week unit on electricity and electric circuits in their classrooms. At the end of the instructional unit, student completed two immediate posttests (Phase 2): a hands-on test and a paper pencil test measuring their knowledge of the relationship between components of electric circuits and the voltage, resistance, current, and brightness of bulbs in those circuits. One month later, with no intervening instruction or review, student re-completed the same two science assessments.
- In summary, the measures in the study were non-science pretests (Phase 1, individual), immediate science posttests (Phase 2, individual hands-on and paper pencil), and delayed science posttests (Phase 3a, group hands-on; Phase 3b, individual paper-and-pencil).
- DV: Measure of achievement
- IV: Group compositions
- Used measures coded through videotapes of group discussions to get individual behavior of students in groups.
- (1) Examined group performance across group ability compositions. (2) Investigated the behavior variables that predicted student performance. (3) examined group process differences across group compositions.