Small-group learning in undergraduate STEM disciplines: effect of group type on student achievement

Marina Micari, Pilar Pazos, Bernhard Streitwieser, Gregory Light

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations


Small-group learning in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines has been widely studied, and it is clear that this method offers many benefits to students. Less attention has been paid to the ways in which small learning groups differ from one another, and how these differences may affect student learning and experiential outcomes. This study uses a previously validated instrument to categorize, or type, small peer-led STEM learning groups, and then to investigate the impact of group characteristics on student outcomes. Six hundred and forty-six students were observed over 2 academic quarters. During the fall quarter, no relationship was found between group type and student course grade. During the winter quarter, statistically significant differences in student grade were found among group types. We posit that group type may not make a difference in grade early in the year because the groups are not yet functioning optimally, so that group “noise”, such as facilitator inexperience or student discomfort, may drown out the effects of group type on student performance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-286
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Research and Evaluation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010

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