Content-Related Interactions and Methods of Reasoning within Self-Initiated Organic Chemistry Study Groups
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractStudents often use study groups to prepare for class or exams; yet to date, we know very little about how these groups actually function. This study looked at the ways in which undergraduate organic chemistry students prepared for exams through self-initiated study groups. We sought to characterize the methods of social regulation, levels of content processing, and types of reasoning processes used by students within their groups. Our analysis showed that groups engaged in predominantly three types of interactions when discussing chemistry content: co-construction, teaching, and tutoring. Although each group engaged in each of these types of interactions at some point, their prevalence varied between groups and group members. Our analysis suggests that the types of interactions that were most common depended on the relative content knowledge of the group members as well as on the difficulty of the tasks in which they were engaged.Additionally, we were interested in characterizing the reasoning methods used by students within their study groups. We found that students used a combination of three content-relevant methods of reasoning: model-based reasoning, case-based reasoning, or rule-based reasoning, in conjunction with one chemically-irrelevant method of reasoning: symbol-based reasoning. The most common way for groups to reason was to use rules, whereas the least common way was for students to work from a model. In general, student reasoning correlated strongly to the subject matter to which students were paying attention, and was only weakly related to student interactions.Overall, results from this study may help instructors to construct appropriate tasks to guide what and how students study outside of the classroom. We found that students had a decidedly strategic approach in their study groups, relying heavily on material provided by their instructors, and using the reasoning strategies that resulted in the lowest levels of content processing. We suggest that instructors create more opportunities for students to explore model-based reasoning, and to create opportunities for students to be able to co-construct in a collaborative manner within the context of their organic chemistry course.
Degree ProgramGraduate College