American Sociological Association

Do They Have to Like It to Learn from It? Students’ Experiences, Group Dynamics, and Learning Outcomes in Group Research Projects

Small-group pedagogies, such as group research projects, are a common instructional method in undergraduate education. The literature suggests that small-group learning has positive effects on learning outcomes, but some students have negative attitudes toward group work, and student complaints about negative group dynamics, such as free-riding, are common. This study examines the relationship between learning outcomes associated with group research projects, student experiences, and group dynamics, controlling for students’ individual characteristics, group composition, task type, and incentive structures. The sample includes data on course records and self-assessment narratives for 240 students who completed a sociology research methods course at a small, private liberal arts institution between 2004 and 2015. Multivariate analyses indicate that students’ experiences have indirect effects on individual learning outcomes, and some aspects of group composition, task type, and group dynamics predict students’ experiences with group research projects.


Renee A. Monson





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