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Cooperative small-group instruction combined with advanced organizers and their relationship to self-concept and social studies achievement of elementary school students.

Research has shown that the use of small-group instruction in the classroom may positively affect student self-concept, as well as academic achievement. The purpose of this study was to determine if the use of the Jigsaw cooperative learning approach incorporated with social studies materials presented in the form of advance organizers could positively affect the sell-concept mid academic achievement of elementary, school students. Five third-grade social studies classes served as the subjects of the study, four experimental and one control. Three assessment instruments were used: the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale, the Teacher Inferred Self-Concept Scale, mid a researcher developed social studies test based on information contained within the third-grade textbook. The students" self concepts increased in three of the experimental classes and in the control class: however, a significant decline occurred in teacher perceptions of student self concept in the control class; as opposed to the experimental classes. Finally, the social studies test scores revealed considerable gains in all five classes. In conclusion, the researchers believe that teachers should consider the use of cooperative small groups with advance organizers as a method of improving self-concepts and social studies achievement of their students.

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Numerous articles have explored the relationship between academic achievement and the self-concept of children. A study by Aspy and Buhler (1975) supports the influence of general self-concept in learning situations. A study by Lyon (1993) also reveals data in support of academic self-concept as a powerful predictor of academic achievement.

Research has shown that the use of small-group instruction in the classroom may affect student self-concept. Aronson, Blaney, Rosenfield, Sikes, and Stephan (1977) conducted an experiment using a cooperative form of small grouping along with regular classroom instruction. Results of the study indicated that students who received only small-group instruction gained in self-esteem. A decrease in self-esteem occurred in the control groups.

Aronson and his associates (Aronson, Blaney, Sikes, Snapp, and Stephan 1975) developed a method of classroom instruction that incorporated the beneficial aspects of small-group cooperation and peer teaching into the tightly structured environment of the traditional classroom. With this Jigsaw approach, teachers are no longer the maj or source of instruction within the classroom. In time, students, through teaching and listening in cooperative learning situations, depend on each other for instruction. Peer teaching is essential to the concept of cooperative learning. Aronson has indicated that four to six students form into small groups to study assigned instructional material. Members of each group are assigned questions or activities about the material being studies. Then each student is placed in a subgroup composed of members from each of the other groups who are responsible for studying the same material. After completing their specific questions in subgroups, al members return to their regular groups to share the answers to the assigned questions.

Ausubel (1963), in his theory of meaningful verbal learning, advocated the use of advance organizers to facilitate the learning of written material. Ausubel reasoned that advance organizers presented students an overview of the more detailed material being studied. This could facilitate learning when presented before the actual presentation of material to be learned. Advance organizers, as defined by Barnes and Clausen (1975), are written materials that serve the function of facilitating the incorporation and retention of reading material. The use of chapter summaries, outlines, key terms, and chapter questions, as introductions to more detailed text are examples of advance organizers.

The purpose of this study was to determine if the use of the Jigsaw cooperative learning approach coupled with social studies materials presented in the form of advance organizers could positively affect the self-concept and academic achievement of elementary school students. Also measured within this study was the effect of the two treatments on teacher-inferred self-concept toward the students being taught.

Methodology

The subjects of the study included members of five third-grade social studies classes at a suburban elementary school located in the Southeast. Third grade was chosen because developmentally third grade is when children's self-regulatory skills become more proficient (Alexander, Cart, & Schwanenflugel, 19951). Approximately twenty-five students were assigned to each class and were heterogeneously grouped.

Three assessment instruments were used in the study. The Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale (Harris & Piers, 1969) measured student reported self-concept with a pretest to posttest design. The Teacher Inferred Self-Concept Scale measured the pre- to post assessments of students' self concepts' as reported by their classroom teachers (McDaniel, 1973). The researchers developed a social studies test based on information contained within the third-grade textbook used in the study to assess the pre- to posttest social studies achievement of the students.

Four experimental third-grade classes received social studies instruction in small groups instructionally designed according to Aronson's Jigsaw cooperative learning approach. In addition, one of the four types of advance organizers used in the study was randomly assigned to each experimental group.

A fifth third-grade class served as the control group. In this class, the teachertaught using traditional, large-group instruction techniques. Small groups or advance organizers were not included in the instructional design of the control group.

Data Analysis

The raw scores from the self-concept scales and the social studies test were analyzed by using a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Analyses of the simple main effects and Tukey's KSD test results were conducted to determine if significant differences existed between pre- and posttest mean scores on the three assessment instruments. An alpha level of p<.05 represented the criterion for statistical significance.

Results

The results of the study were varied. Observation on the differences between pre- and post evaluation mean scores for the Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale revealed gains in three of the experimental classes concerning students' self ratings of self concept. The evaluation of the mean scores for the fourth experimental group showed a decline in the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale scores from pre- to posttest. On the other hand, significant gains in self-concept occurred in the control class.

Observations of the differences between pre-and post evaluations mean scores for the Inferred Self-Concept Scale revealed significant gains in three of the experimental classes concerning teacher rating of self-concept. A fourth experimental class revealed a slight decline in the mean scores from pre- to posttest. In the control class, a significant decline occurred in teacher perceptions of student self-concept.

Observations of the differences between pre- and post evaluation mean scores for the social studies test revealed significant gains in the four experimental classes. A significant gain was also reported for the social studies scores of the control class.

Discussion

The advantages of the Jigsaw Small-Group Approach combined with advance organizers could be placed in two categories: Academic and psychological. First, the researchers noted that the use of the Jigsaw approach combined with advance organizers was effective in improving the self-concepts of students as measured by the Piers-Harris Children's Self Concept Scale. The teacher-inferred self-concept as measured by the Inferred Self-Concept Scale was also found to be effective.

Second, the researchers noted that the instructional procedures used in all five classrooms were effective in improving the social studies achievement of the third-grade students. While no clear cause for this outcome is evident, the researchers believe that the results may indicate that the students and teachers who participated in the study possessed a high level of motivation. Third, of major concern is the significant decline in scores for the control group on the Inferred Self-Concept Scale. The question could be asked if the continuous teaching of students in large groups could negatively affect how the teacher views the self-concepts of the students in the class.

Overall, the researchers believe that the results of the study support the use of cooperative small-group instruction and advance organizers in teaching classes. It should be emphasized, however, that the use of such small groups and advance organizers should serve as a supplement to conventional instruction, rather than an alternative to it.

References

Alexander, J.M., Cart, M., & Schwanenflugel, P.J. (1995). Development of metacognition in gifted children: Directions for future research. Developmental Review; 15, 1-37.

Aronson, E., Blaney, N., Sikes, J., Snapp, M., & Stephen, C. (1975). Busing and racial tension: The jigsaw route to learning and liking. Psychology; Today, 8(9), 43-50.

Aronson, E., Blaney, N. T., Rosenfield, D., Sikes, J., & Stephan, C. (1977). Interdependence in the classroom: A field study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69(2), 121-128.

Aspy, D.N., & Bulder, J.H. (1975). The effect of teachers' inferred self concept upon student achievement. Journal of Educational Research, 68, 386-389.

Ausubel, D.P. H963). The psychology of meaningful verbal learning. New York: Grime and Stratton.

Barnes, B.R., & Clauson, E.U. (1975). Do advance organizers facilitate learning? Recommendations for further research based analysis of 32 studies. Review of Educational Research, 45, 637-659.

Harris, D.B., & Piers, E.V. (1969). The Piers-Harris children's self-concept scale. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Lyon, M. (1993). Academic self concept and its relationship to achievement in a sample of junior high students. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 53, 201-209.

McDaniel, E.L. (1973). Inferred self-concept scale. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Jeanie A. Box, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Academic Affairs and David C. Little, Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies, Stanford University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Jeanie A. Box, Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, AL 35229: jbox@samford.edu
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Author:Little, David C.
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:1546
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