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Getting A Grip On Groups

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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

4.275.1 - 4.275.12

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Marilyn Dyrud

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

Session 3230

Getting a Grip on Groups

Marilyn A. Dyrud Oregon Institute of Technology


Teamwork: industry wants it and ABET 2000 requires it. But effectively implementing and managing student groups for class projects, lab work, and presentations is a complex affair, one that requires organization, understanding, and tact. This paper offers a general overview of the current state of group work in technical classes by examining ASEE literature for the past three years and comparing that information with the results of a survey of Oregon Institute of Technology technical faculty, aimed to pinpoint practices and problems involving student work groups.

Literature Trends

The literature regarding student groups is rich and varied. Even a small snapshot of focused journals and conference proceedings yields dozens of resources, with content ranging from a variety of study results to classroom methodologies. To determine the current state of affairs, I searched ASEE publications for 1996-1998, specifically the Annual Conference Proceedings, FIE Conference Proceedings, Prism, and the Journal of Engineering Education. Articles which discuss student groups appear under a variety of general subject headings: cooperative learning, collaborative learning, active learning, group work, teamwork, interactive learning. Despite the diversity and number of articles, most tend to fall into one of the themes explained below: enhanced learning, course applications, group formation, interpersonal skill development, and assessment.

Enhanced Learning

Most of the articles that detail positive experiences with group work note an important side benefit: students tend to learn more in groups because the members develop what Johnson and Johnson have dubbed a “positive interdependence,”22 resulting in enhanced “short-term memory, long-term retention, understanding of course material, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.”34

A 1996 study by Jones and Brickner compared two sections of a sophomore basic mechanics course, one traditional lecture and the other cooperative learning. In the three areas evaluated, the cooperative learning class consistently fared better, scoring 7-10% higher on exams and averaging half a letter grade higher. In addition, the experimental section displayed a better attitude towards study habits and rated teachers higher on faculty evaluations. The authors further note that 90-95% of students in the cooperative learning section “expressed positive comments towards this approach.”23

Dyrud, M. (1999, June), Getting A Grip On Groups Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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