Preference for group learning is correlated with lower grade point average.
Discussions of group and cooperative learning have often ignored individual difference as potential confounding variable. It is possible that some individuals may be disadvantaged by cooperative learning. The purpose of this study was to see if there was a relationship between preference for group learning (itself an individual difference variable) and self report GPA.
University students (N = 66) completed the group learning and individual learning scales of the Perceptual Learning Style Preference Questionnaire and provides GPA information. Preference for group learning was negatively correlated with GPA (Spearman's rho = -.31). Preference for individual learning was positively correlated with GPA (Spearman's rho = .27).
In the last two decades cooperative learning has become a popular approach to instruction. However, recently criticism has emerged. Some evidence suggests that group learning may be less effective than often claimed (Haberyan & Barnett, 2010). Others have suggested that the effects of cooperative learning may be mediated by individual differences (Genovese, 2005). This study asked a very simple question; is there a correlation between preferences for group and individual learning and self-report grade point average (GPA)?
The participants in this study were 66 undergraduate students enrolled in teacher education classes at a Midwestern urban university. Participant ages ranged from 20 to 51 with a mean of 27.7. There were 40 females, 22 males, and 4 individuals who did not provide gender information. The sample included 7 African Americans, 1 Asian American, 7 Hispanics, 45 White, and 4 identified as other.
Materials and Procedures
Participants were asked to complete the group learning and individual learning scales of the Perceptual Learning Style Preference Questionnaire (PLSPQ; Reid, 1987),provide demographic information, and report their university GPA.
Student GPA ranged from 2.04 to 4.00 with a mean of 3.37. Preference for group learning was negatively correlated with GPA (Spearman's rho = -.31; p = .01). Preference for individual learning was positively correlated with GPA (Spearman's rho = .27; p = .03). Both learning preference scales had the same level of reliability (Cronbach's [alpha] = .89). Preference for group learning was negatively correlated with preference for individual learning (Spearman's rho = -.64; p < .001).
This research suggests that preferences for group and individual learning may be important predictors of GPA. As in any correlational argument it is unclear why this relationship exits. For example, it is possible that students who prefer cooperative learning do not receive enough of their preferred learning modality in class. On the other hand, it is equally conceivable that lower achieving students perceive cooperative learning as less demanding. It is important that ongoing research on instructional methods consider the mediating effects of individual difference variables.
This study had several limitations. The sample size was small and included only students enrolled in teacher education classes. GPAs were self reported. Because of minimum GPA requirements for education students the possibility of range restriction exists.
It is worth remembering that there are many different forms of group and cooperative learning including reciprocal peer tutoring and group projects. Thus, universal statements about the effectiveness of this form of instruction must always be qualified.
Genovese, J. E. C. (2005). Why educational innovations fail: An individual difference perspective. Social Behavior and Personality, 33, 569-578.
Haberyan A. & Barnett, J. (2010). Collaborative testing and achievement: Are two heads really better than one? Journal of Instructional Psychology, 37, 32-41.
Reid, J. (1987).The perceptual learning style preferences of ESL students. TESOL Quarterly, 21, 87-111.
Jeremy E. C. Genovese, Associate Professor of Human Development and Educational Psychology, Cleveland State University, College of Education and Human Services.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Jeremy E. C. Genovese at email@example.com