36 Learning science in small groups
social skills can be considered as an important factor to make a group more effective. All of these concerns are included in the analytical frame of our intended study by adapting a methodology as follows.
Aims and Objectives
This case study aims to explore science students’ perceptions about the nature of ongoing small group activities at the Institute of Education and Research [IER], University of Dhaka. To analyse the students’ responses, we considered different aspects of learning in small groups including the approach in group learning, factors influencing the group activities and the nature of students’ discourse and norms of participation in groups. In particular, objectives of this study is to
find out students’ preference in small group learning approaches
examine how different factors influence learning in a small group activity
explore what social skills students like to practice in working within a small group.
This study followed a mixed model research design integrating both quantitative and qualitative approaches. A mixed research design allows a better understanding of a research problem compared to either qualitative or quantitative data itself (Creswell, 2008; Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2006). Quantitative approach primarily provides a scanned description of an issue, whereas qualitative approach is more focused on the exploration and understanding of an issue. It is essential to use the mixed model design because the current study required a description, explanation as well as an understanding of the nature and discourse of group activities from the student’s views, which provided with an opportunity to understand the participants’ opinions with respect to relevant variables of the study.
Consistent with the research design, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected concurrently to understand the nature of small group learning in science education through a questionnaire. Consequently, the questionnaire included closed-ended, open-ended and mixed-type questions. Open-ended items were included to get a more detailed perspective from the students. We did not anticipate any answer to such questions; rather we intended to get responses in students’ words. In mixed-type questions, we leave some space for students to write down their additional comment in words followed by some prescribed options. For these reasons, the language of the questionnaire was set in Bangla (the official language of Bangladesh) as we anticipated that students will feel more comfortable both in understanding the questions and expressing their perspectives in their own language – Bangla.
In aligned with the objectives of this research, the questionnaire items addressed three aspects: students’ preference in learning approach, influencing factors of students’ group learning and the social skills students like to practice in working within a small group. 30 items were included in this questionnaire to address these aspects whereas five items addressed the first aspect, 24 items dealt with the second one and one checklist concentrated on the third aspect.