Group activities give students the opportunity to interact with their peers. The purpose of this paper is to examine the interactions that occur during various small-group activities to discover how we can better use them as a source of meaningful development for students. My research began with two questions. What do student interactions in small-group learning activities look like in an elementary classroom? . And, how do students respond to the interactions occurring in these learning activities?" I attempted to answer these questions by examining several different types of small-group learning activities: cooperative learning, cooperative learning strategies, and ability grouping. In conducting my research, I noted all student interactions in various small-group learning activities and the responses of participants to these interactions. I conducted formal and informal interviews with teachers and students and collected artifacts from the classroom in the form of lesson plans, student handouts, and examples of student work. I examined these group activities through the ideas of Richard and Patricia Schmuck (Group processes in the classroom, 1988). The Schmucks state that informal and formal interactions help to shape group outcomes. The informal interactions of students relating to one another ii as friends and peers have an affect on the formal interactions of students performing their roles as learners and participants. This is, in fact, confirmed by my research. I found the manner in which students related to one another informally had an affect on the formal outcomes of the group. Interactions also had an affect on the academic performance, motivation, and self-concept of the students.
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