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42                                                                                                           Learning science in small groups

Group Task. Teachers play the dominant role in deciding about the group task at IER. We come to this conclusion because the majority of the students (71.7%) said that decision about the group assignment topic is made by the teachers (see Table 5).

However we liked to know what the students actually prefer. Most of the students (83.2%) opine that they prefer students and teachers to mutually decide the group task (see Table 5). A student’s comment reflects this view as,

By negotiating with each other [teacher and student], students’ interest for the task remains positive, hence it is possible to produce a quality work.

This preference for mutuality reflects that the integration between teacher’s experiences and student’s interest is possible if and only if both teachers and students take the decision.

While a small number of them (9.6%) like to choose the group task by their own that help them to reduce “social loafing” after Carroll (1986) and Harkins and Petty (1982).

Table 5

Decision About the Group Task

Decision made by

Ongoing practice in IER (%)

Student’s preferences (%)

Teachers

71.7

7.2

Students

1.2

9.6

Mutual understanding between teachers and students

27.1

83.2

Nature of the Group Task. The nature of the group task was also explored in this study. More than half of the students (51.9%) consider their group task as life-oriented, while the rest (48.1%) consider their group task as something that is often far away from their life contexts. Here are some comments which seem to be very thought-provoking to us.

The group task is often curriculum related, but is the curriculum life oriented?

Our teachers do not think enough to give such assignments which would be life related.

In many cases, I do not see the relation of science with real life; hence there is not enough opportunity for that [life-oriented task].

The first two comments are related to curriculum of IER and teachers’ commitment, while the last comment is very significant in terms of the students’ perception of science. Literature reveals that in many cases, school students do not find their school science relevant to their life (Jenkins, 2006; Lindahl, 2003; Lyons, 2006a, 2006b; Osborne & Collins, 2001). The comment in our study appears to indicate that students’ such perceptions about school science also prevail up to their higher studies.

Most of the students (80.4%) consider that the group tasks provide with opportunities to nurture their creativity. At this point, many of them opine that they often do different project works and present them in different ways, for example, by the PowerPoint slides and posters, which may provide them with an opportunity to cherish their creativity. Also, tasks like preparing teaching-learning aids, bulletin boards and models are mentioned by the students, which leave with enough scope for creativity. However, some students (19.6%) think their group work does not involve their creativity. One such comment is as follows.

The assigned tasks are traditionally structured. I can do it using the textbooks or just following a senior student’s previous work.

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