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Rehman et al.33

Recent studies have suggested that there are several compelling reasons that can make learning in a small group more effective (Blumenfeld, Marx, Soloway, & Krajcik, 1996; Brewer & Klein, 2006; Johnson & Johnson, 1999). There are different approaches in group work and a particular approach of small group works effectively to achieve a particular type of learning outcome.  The effectiveness of group work can be influenced by how the group is organised, what the tasks are, who the participants are and how the group is held accountable (Blumenfeld, et al., 1996). Besides, participants often play certain roles and develop or practice some social skills in working within a small group to make learning more effective. Also different types of discourse and cognitive processes occur in small group work that make group learning more productive (Hackling, 2003).

However, being closely involved in the teaching-learning processes of IER Science Education, we have experienced that in many cases, students are not satisfied in working within a group. For example, as students, we found very few groups work actively. We also noticed that in many cases, all members within a group did not participate equally. Consequently, one or two students had to do the entire task from a group of 4/5 students, however a single grade went to the group; hence the student who actually did the task and those who did not contribute at all, got the same grade in the end. This often created dissatisfaction among some of the group members. Also, sometimes students were not satisfied with the task they were assigned to or the organization of the group.

These experiences have triggered our thinking about the nature of science learning in small groups at IER. As our collective experiences suggest, students are not satisfied with group work; we aim to listen to the students’ voice in this respect. Therefore, this study intends to explore the nature of science learning within a small group from students’ perspectives. Also, to the best of our knowledge, there is no research regarding small group science learning in Bangladesh; this is the first such initiative. Thus, this research may make a significant contribution in current understanding of the students’ views about the issue. This research will inform teachers and other related personnel of IER and other higher educational institutions about students’ perceptions of learning science in small groups, which may in turn contribute to maintain quality science education.   

Theoretical Background

This section covers Approaches in Group Learning and Factors influencing group work

Approaches in Group Learning

Group learning engages students in discussing a task with each other. Different small groups like to work using different approaches. Linn and Burbules (1993) identified two approaches in small group work: cooperative approach and collaborative approach. According to Linn and Burbules, “cooperative learning involves dividing a task into parts and having each group member complete one of the parts. In collaborative learning two or more students jointly work out a single solution to a problem” (p. 92). Students might choose any of these approaches.

Johnson and Johnson (1999) argued that when students work cooperatively to achieve a common goal, they produce higher achievement and demonstrate greater output than they do working single-handedly. This practice also produces greater psychological health, higher self-esteem, and greater social competencies. Johnson and Johnson (1999) also argued that cooperative group work  makes students learn “how to communicate effectively, provide leadership, help the group make good decisions, build trust, repair hurt feelings,

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