Instructional Design and Technology Student and Instructor Perceptions Regarding Collaborative Learning Groups
Collaborative group learning is a popular method of instruction that is used in a variety of academic disciplines but little is known about how it is perceived as an instructional approach. The purpose of this study was to discover how college-level learners and instructors perceive collaborative group learning in regard to value and benefit, role of the instructor, and factors that contribute to positive and negative collaborative experiences. A non-experimental study provided information about participants in the form of descriptive data, correlational statistics, and qualitative analysis. Findings indicated that collaborative group learning was valued because it supported the achievement of learning goals, was an effective method of learning, and held professional benefit. However, value and benefit were reported to be affected by a variety of factors, such as work and reward inequities, the social context of collaboration, and the appropriateness of the activity to the learning situation and objectives. Findings related to the instructor's role showed that students acknowledged and accepted ownership of group processes; however, they also indicated that they would like the instructor to play an active role in the collaborative activity to support the learning process. This and other instructor role findings indicate the complexity of balancing instructor functions, as highlighted in results that showed some learners and instructors preferred a hands-off approach on the part of the instructor, while other learners and instructors felt that instructor involvement was a necessity. Suggestions provided by learners and instructors regarding instructor functions that supported effective collaboration included such activities as mentoring collaborative behavior, monitoring group and individual progress, and providing clear expectations and guidance. Findings from this study may be useful for informing the design, development, and implementation of collaborative group learning activities by providing insight into the factors that contribute to effective collaborative experiences, as well as perceptual differences and similarities between the learners and instructors.