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Under-performing students: Does working in cooperative learning groups enhance motivation?

1 June 1998


The central purpose of the study was to find out ways underperforming students were motivated to achieve by working in cooperative learning groups. Secondly, I looked at how social interactions and peer expectations influence an under-performer's motivation to achieve. Questions which were answered directly by this study include: In what ways do cooperative learning groups foster a motivation to achieve among under-performing students? Do peer expectations increase an under-performer's motivation in a cooperative work environment? Does the social interaction that takes place in a cooperative group enhance an under-performers motivation? This study took place in a suburban middle school in the Portland metropolitan area. The five participants were eighth grade history students. A qualitative inquiry approach was utilized in the study, which was characterized by field observations in the natural setting of a middle school classroom. I obtained the data for this study using a variety of methods including observations, written questionnaires and surveys, taped interviews, and collections of student work. In order to protect the anonymity of all participants, I have used pseudonyms in the study. Findings indicated that students were motivated by· a variety of social factors. These included sharing information with other students, helping each other complete work, and developing strategies to complete work. Students also indicated that they were motivated by peer expectations. Verbal reminders and encouragement by other students helped the majority of under-performers stay focused on their work.


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