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Survey Conclusions

Survey Form: Survey.pdf

Our project aims at understanding the role of collaboration in undergraduate education, the benefits of collaboration, and how collaboration can be or is incorporated into teaching practices. In addition to our readings, we developed and conducted a survey to evaluate student satisfaction with collaboration in their classrooms and to compare results from two classes, one a large undergraduate class where traditional education methods prevail (CSCI 2270), and the other a small course where collaboration is encouraged and facilitated (CSCI 7000-001).

We had constructed a timeline to pick articles, review them, summarize them, create an overview of the main ideas and concepts in the readings summarized, create and choose survey questions, perform the survey, gather the results, and begin analysis of the results. For all of these milestones, we were able to stay with the schedule.

Creating the survey was a challenge, because of the obvious differences between the two classes chosen for the study, not only in size but in style. We tried to capture the true diversity in respect to the heterogeneous learning styles and methods in the two courses. We wanted to explore each of the students' prior experiences with "collaborative" or group learning, yet we were unsure exactly to what extent they participated in it in the past. We tried to make the questions answerable no matter how much group learning the respondents have had in the past, by asking them how they felt about collaboration. By discovering their likes, dislikes, and motivations we now have a deeper understanding of what collaboration in the classroom means to students.

One key difference between the two classes was that CSCI 7000 had far greater exposure to and experience with collaborative work in the classroom than CSCI 2270. However, the two classes both responded similarly in respect to what they liked and disliked about collaborative learning (both favored "new and different ideas" the most, and felt that "scheduling difficulties" was the biggest problem). We must be weary though when comparing these results, for two reasons: the first being the significant difference in the two class sizes 89 students vs. 13. The second being the fact that one class is based upon the foundation of collaboration as a tool for learning, while the other promotes success through individual achievement. Even though both classes incorporate the idea of group learning, CSCI 7000 seems to encourage it a great deal more than 2270. Both classes cited "suggested by teacher" and "potential for greater achievement" as the most important motivational factors in group work. But the 7000 students felt that the teacher was the most important reason, while the 2270 class cited the potential for greater achievement as their most important reason for working together in a group.

There was a strong commonality in the responses to the question about problems with collaborative learning in both classes. In fact the numbers were overwhelming, 83 % of the 7000 class and 67 % of the 2270 class, selected "scheduling difficulties" as the biggest problem with this type of learning. This tells us something that we already know very well, that all people are different, and whether they are working, studying, or playing, they all have different scheduling needs. This response doesn't surprise us because we hypothesized that it would clearly be the most obvious answer. The response that did strike us was that the least selected choice (except the non-specific "others") was the "conflict of opinions and ides." Initially, we assumed that it would follow scheduling as one of the most important problems with this type of learning experience, because of the number of different people involved. These results showed us that people are willing to put aside their differences of opinion for the good of the group, something that we did not anticipate. We assumed that people were selfish and bull-headed when it came to tasks such as this, but apparently people are more ready to give in to what is best for completing the assignment that we originally thought. There is no guarantee that when someone creates a survey question, one is going to get somewhat expected result, and this is a good example of that.

Benefits and Barriers

7000ís greater experience with collaborative work, the nature of the class, and the growing amount of reflection spent by class members on how group processes can help or hinder collaboration seem to be reflected in their answers (as the problems they cite most frequently are a little different than for 2270).

Overall experience with collaboration is cited more favorably by 7000 (look at question 8 below) than by 2270, again this could be due to less experience and the nature of the class itself.

1) Benefits

One of the benefits of collaboration that students have cited in the readings is that the group product is better than they could accomplish on their own. In other words, greater accomplishment results from working in a group than individual work.

This greater accomplishment comes in part from the diversity of opinions and ideas that are brought together in a group.

i) Q.7 asks of students what they like about collaborative learning. For both classes, option (B) "New and different ideas and opinions" is ranked highest. Obviously, both groups ranked the diversity of opinions very highly as what they considered one of the assets of collaborative work.

62% of the 7000 respondents cited (c) "I feel I can accomplish more in a group than on my own" compared to 41% of 2270. 7000 respondents indicated the greater accomplishment incentive more readily than 2270. Neither class marked this as frequently as (b), which is odd since this particular benefit is cited very widely but for our samples, is not considered as important as (b).

Both classes reported similar percentages regarding (A) "Work is divided up among each member". This option wasn't marked as frequently in either class as the option B (which seems to be the most important).

ii) Q.4 asked regarding the reasons that motivated the class to work in a group.

Both classes reported similar percentages for "Potential for Greater Achievement". This was picked most frequently by 2270 and second most frequently for 7000. 7000 picked (a) "Suggested by teacher" most frequently, which can be explained due to the collaborative nature of our class.

Still (a) and (b) were highest for both 2270 and 7000, (c) invitation from a friend, and (d) were least picked. Friends were picked by 20% of 2270 as compared to 8% for 7000.

Greater achievement was cited as an important incentive for group work, as reported in the literature.

(iii) Q.10 asked whether people would work alone with others. The answers should reflect whether students consider collaboration as beneficial in their work or not.

For 7000, 38.46% chose alone, 53.85% chose with others. For 2270, 41.57% chose alone, 52.81% chose with others.

The numbers seem to be pretty close (without statistical analysis, Iím making a guess here). The percentages are similar across classes and in between options. Students donít seem to be very clear, as yet, whether or when collaborative work might be helpful or should be helpful.

2) Attitudes towards collaborative learning

Studentsí attitudes towards learning and the instruction process were generally much more favorable in contexts where collaboration was incorporated into the learning process.

Q.6 asked "How would you rate your overall experience with collaborative learning for this class?"

The 7000 class picked "Excellent" and "Good" most frequently (both about equal percentages, approximately 46%, 54%), compared to 2270 which picked "Good" and "OK" most frequently (percentages were again similar for these two: 45%, 37%). 7000 never picked "Bad" but almost 6% of 2270 picked bad. About 46% of 7000 picked excellent compared to 13% in 2270.

In other words, a much greater percentage of 7000 picked excellent, and most of their responses were distributed among "Excellent and Good". The highest percentages in 2270 were for "Good" and "Ok", very few picked "Excellent", and a few picked "Bad". Overall, the 7000 class seems to look more favorably towards collaborative learning for this class, whereas 2270 has less favorable attitude towards collaboration.

Given that 2270's experience with collaboration in class was limited until the group project that started around the time of our survey, we can't expect them to be as favorable. Plus, collaboration is a goal in our class, whereas for 2270, the collaborative aspect is limited.

3) Group process (Factors for success and disadvantages)


Aspects of the group process that are considered important for group success are "positive interdependence" where group members can take advantage of the diversity of knowledge to create new resolutions for problems. The diversity of opinions was picked most frequently as an asset in Q.7.

The working well together of members, equal contributions are also considered factors in success (i.e. good teamwork skills, and participation from all).

Q.5 asked "What did you observe when you worked in a group?"

7000 picked (b) Group meetings are constructive and (d)Members work well together most frequently and with the same frequency. (about 58% each). 41% picked (a) All members contributed equally. (c) Ample time on problem solving, was picked least frequently.

2270 picked (d) Members work well together most frequently. Then (b)Constructive group meetings and (c)Ample time on problem solving, were picked with the same frequency. Least frequent was (a) All members contributed equally (24%).

Equal contributions were reported less in 2270 than in 7000 (24% compared to 41%), and Constructive group meetings and members working well together were reported most frequently in both groups.

A much larger percentage in 2270 picked (7) ample problem solving time than in 7000. For 7000, the main concerns were constructive group meetings and good teamwork processes.

(ii) Disadvantages/problems with group processes

Most frequently reported problems in the literature include the presence of free riders and organizational difficulties with respect to scheduling. Also reported are interpersonal conflicts.

About 62% of 2270 respondents picked (c) "Free riders" compared to 50% in 7000. Number one for both classes was (a) Scheduling difficulties. (83% for 7000, about 67% for 2270).

But percentages for (a)Scheduling difficulties and (c)Free riders were similar for 2270, whereas for 7000, (a)Scheduling difficulties was picked much more frequently than (c)Free riders.

q.8 asked "What do you dislike about collaborative learning?" (c) Free Riders was not picked as the most frequent answer, but was third most frequent for 7000 and second most frequent for 2270.

Option (b)Inefficient organization of the work also ranked 2nd most frequent for 7000 and 3rd most frequent for 2270.

Interpersonal conflicts were represented by option (d) "conflicts of opinions and ideas". 33% of 7000 and about 26% of 2270 picked this option, showing less concern but still some concern regarding these issues.

Though free riders were not the most frequently picked, there were still some substantial concern regarding this issue, as reflected in the readings. Also, perhaps given that the 7000 class has had much more experience with group processes, and thus more time for reflection on group processes, than 2270, the problems with scheduling have been experienced by all of us and we have noted this issue much more frequently in our responses. In the readings, reflection on group processes was considered an important objective in integrating collaboration into the way students learn.

4) Barriers for collaborative learning

The reading notes that the traditional educational system promotes isolated work, and the different surveys and readings reveal that students generally are inexperienced with effective group processes. Inexperienced students are not yet in a position to start reflecting on group processes and noting where breakdowns occur or where they may need more help. It should be noted that the 2270 class structure does not promote or faciliate collaboration in the same way as 7000.

Q.9 asked "What do you consider to be barriers for collaborative learning?"

The 7000 class picked (b) Incomplete education on how to work in a group, most frequently (about 45%). Options (c)Lack of resources and (d) Lack of groupwork-supporting technology were each picked by about 36% of respondents. (a) Insufficient support from teachers was picked least (27%) by the 7000 class.

A much greater percentage in 7000 (about 36%) picked (d) lack of supporting technology, compared to about 13% for 2270.
This could be a result of the inexperience with groupwork in 2270, whereas 7000 has had more time to reflect on the nature of collaborative work and to consider what resources or technologies may be helpful. They are in a better position to analyze and reflect on what could help them in their collaborative work because they are becoming more familiar with the nature of the processes themselves.

This familiarity with the nature of processes can also be assumed to be reflected in how (b) Incomplete education on how to work in a group was picked most frequently by the 7000 class (45% for 7000, about 34% for 2270).

For 2270, lack of resources, insufficient support from teachers, and incomplete education were picked most frequently.

A greater percentage in 2270 (about 34%) picked (a) insufficient support from teachers than did 7000 (27%).

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