This qualitative inquiry is characterized by field observations in the natural setting of a suburban high school. Observations included two sophomore interdisciplinary classes, one from 1990-1991 and one from 1993-1994, and two Advanced Placement English classes, one from the spring and one from the winter of 1993. The purpose was to discover what happens in a classroom organized by the I democratic structures of Group Investigation, and what teachers can learn from such classrooms about how students learn. Group Investigation combines an inquiry based approach to active learning with a democratically organized classroom, engaging students' intrinsic motivation to learn. This method of teaching is consistent with a constructivist psychology of lea..rning with emphasis on the social construction of knowledge, and with the empowerment of students through their involvement with curricular decisions. The methodology included observations of Group Investigation in my own classrooms. My observations were recorded in field notes, audio and video tape recordings, student interviews and surveys, and student journals, essays, exit slips, and feedback letters. I examined the data to study the social construction of knowledge and the development of higher cognitive skills. The findings suggest that students exhibit high levels of motivation with these units, and utilize several strategies for developing higher-level thinking skills. A key finding, unanticipated at the beginning. of the study, is the rich potential for joining the methodology of Group Investigation with the unit design of problem-based learning.
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