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38                                                                                                           Learning science in small groups

For analyzing qualitative data, we employed “data transformation” procedure (Creswell, 2009). In this procedure, qualitative data were coded according to themes; codes were then assigned to numbers and the frequency of codes appeared were counted to get a numerical data to be presented in this research. For example, students’ responses to the question “what do you do if debate arises while working in a group” emerge four themes: (a) arguing with logic and evidence for a consensus by co-constructing ideas, (b) trying to establish one’s logic, if it is not accepted in the group, then give up, (c) going for the opinion with majority in the group, and (d) trying to establish their ideas at any cost. We then counted the frequencies for each individual theme from participants’ response. Results were then interpreted in terms of percentages as quantitative data. Moreover, quantitative and qualitative data were triangulated to validate the participants’ responses.

Table 1

Students’ Preferred Approach in Group Work











90 (54.2%)

76 (45.8%)

Results and Discussion

The results are reported in three distinct sections: (a) approaches in group learning, (b) influencing factors of group learning, and (c) social skills.  

Approaches in Group Learning

Students were asked whether they prefer cooperative or collaborative approach in group learning. Their responses are summarized in Table 1.

Data in Table 1 may indicate that a higher number of students prefer cooperative approach to collaborative approach for science learning within a small group. In particular, female students mostly prefer cooperative approach compared to their male counterparts. As majority of the students seemed to prefer cooperative approach in working within a small group, it is expected that these students may have a higher academic achievement. As well, greater psychological health, higher self-esteem, and greater social competencies may also be expected from those students as suggested by Johnson and Johnson (1999). As 45.8% students prefer collaborative approach, it may be reasonable to consider that these students are more able to be involved in problem solving, and more equipped in transferring the knowledge and skills, and hence working as effective team members in line with what is suggested by the literature (e.g., Dickinson, 2000; Kapp, 2009) discussed earlier.

As there are perceived differences in students’ preferences in working within a small group, it is necessary to know why they prefer a particular approach as well as the degree of their preference. As discussed previously, a five point Likert scale was used in this regard. The following sections discuss with the rationale of students’ preferences.

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