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Dynamics Of Peer Interactions In Cooperative Learning

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.210.1 - 4.210.15

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Paper Authors

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Victoria Gallagher

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Tracey Weldon

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Cynthia R. Haller

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Richard M. Felder

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2630

Dynamics of Peer Interactions in Cooperative Learning

Cynthia R. Haller, Victoria J. Gallagher, Tracey L. Weldon, Richard M. Felder North Carolina State University


Although many recent studies demonstrate that cooperative learning provides a variety of educational advantages over more traditional instructional models, little is known about the interactional dynamics among students in engineering workgroups. We explored these dynamics and their implications for engineering education by analyzing work sessions of student groups in a sophomore-level chemical engineering course at North Carolina State University. Using conversation analysis as a methodology for understanding how students taught and learned from one another, we found that group members engaged in two types of teaching-learning interactions. In the first type, transfer-of-knowledge (TK) sequences, students took on distinct teacher and pupil roles, and in the second, collaborative sequences (CS), they worked on problems with no clear role differentiation. Student management of both types of sequences was affected by gender factors and interpersonal communication. Our findings suggest that facilitating effective interactional dynamics can enhance cooperative learning in groups.

I. Introduction

In cooperative learning models, students are generally encouraged to work in groups both in and out of class. Both instructors and students report that structured cooperative learning improves students’ understanding of course material as well as their communication and teamwork skills.1,2,3 The use of cooperative learning has specifically been advocated as a means of retaining women in engineering programs, since women tend to prefer collaborative to individual and/or competitive learning. Strongly positive results have been reported for women working in collaborative teams,3,4 although gender bias in such teams can diminish their effectiveness.5

Despite the acknowledged benefits of cooperative learning in engineering education, not much is understood about the interactional group dynamics that may lead to the success or failure of group efforts. For example, how does group interaction help students master both content and application of engineering concepts? How exactly is peer teaching and learning accomplished in

Gallagher, V., & Weldon, T., & Haller, C. R., & Felder, R. M. (1999, June), Dynamics Of Peer Interactions In Cooperative Learning Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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