A theoretical and empirical study of small group work in schools
A case is made out for the more extensive use of observational methods in educational research generally, and for the study of informal teaching and learning situations, including small-group work, in particular. The theoretical and methodological problems of observational methods are examined, with particular reference to the relationship between theoretical constructs and observational systems, the comprehensiveness of instruments, and the potential value for work in this field of audiovisual devices for recording and analysing behaviour. Literature on the social aspects of learning situations is examined, and the effects of ideological and other influences assessed. Concepts, theory, and research related to 'social climate', sociometry, social facilitation and imitative learning are reviewed. The rationale of small-group work in education is examined and it is concluded that existing theory in this area is sometimes idealistic and generally in need of further development. The implications of some branches of theory and research from the general field of group dynamics are considered. In the empirical part of the research observational instruments of the study of general activities and verbal interaction are developed and applied to a population of three groups of four children, each in six task situations. Some differences in individual and group behaviour patterns are shown that seem to be associated with the nature of the subject matter, the individual or collaborative nature of the tasks, and their degree of structure. Tentative conclusions are drawn and further research suggested.