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Current Editor: Dr. Robert T. Howell  bhowell@fhsu.edu
Volume 38, Number 3
Spring 2001


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A Comparison of Classroom Interpersonal Goal Structures and Their Effect on Group Problem-Solving Performance and Student Attitudes Toward Their Learning Environment

Steven Shumway
Brigham Young University
Walter Saunders
Utah State University
Gary Stewardson
Utah State University
Edward Reeve
Utah State University

Concurrent with the change from industrial arts to technology education, technology educators became involved and have remained involved in many new curriculum development efforts. The results of these efforts are curricula in which there is a strong emphasis on students being engaged in discussion, problem solving, research, and the design and development of technological devices (International Technology Education Association [ITEA], 1996, 2000). Whether students are engaged in discussion, solving a problem, or designing a device, the implication is that students will be interacting with each other and the teacher in order to accomplish the learning task. Humphreys, Johnson, and Johnson (1982) assert that the way in which students interact with each other as they learn may be just as important, and perhaps have a greater impact on students' performance, than the curriculum. They suggest that how students interact with each other and the teacher depends primarily upon the interpersonal goal structure of the classroom.

Deutsch (1962) first conceptualized the three types of interpersonal goal structures that are typically used in classrooms: cooperative, competitive, and individualistic. These goal structures specify the type of interdependence that exists among students as they strive to accomplish learning goals. In a cooperative goal structure, students work in small groups to accomplish a task and are usually rewarded based upon the performance of the group. In a competitive goal structure, students compete against each other for a limited number of rewards (e.g., high grades, teacher praise). By comparison, in an individualistic goal structure students work alone and at their own pace, and are rewarded according to their individual efforts (Johnson & Johnson, 1987; Slavin, 1990).

In the past 15 to 20 years, several researchers (Bossert, 1988-1989; Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, & Skon, 1981; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Qin, Johnson, & Johnson, 1995; Slavin, 1983, 1990) have conducted extensive integrative reviews or meta-analyses to determine the effectiveness of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures on different classroom learning tasks. The findings associated with these integrative reviews or meta-analyses have typically been classified into areas of student achievement and findings other than achievement (i.e., attitudes, motivation). In each of the integrative reviews and meta-analyses, students in cooperative learning environments consistently performed as well as, or outperformed, students in competitive and individualistic learning environments on achievement measures. One of the strongest findings on student achievement was noted for students engaged in higher-level thinking skills such as problem solving while working in cooperative learning groups (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Qin et al., 1995).

Achievement is not the only important outcome of schooling. Since attitudes, motivational patterns, and other affective aspects are important factors in student learning, the effects of the various goal structures on outcomes other than achievement must also be examined. According to Slavin (1990), there is a strong consensus among researchers concerning the positive effects of a cooperative learning environment in areas other than achievement. When compared to competitive and individualistic classroom environments, cooperative learning has been found in many studies to positively influence several non-cognitive variables such as student self-esteem, peer support for achievement, internal locus of control, time on-task, liking of class and classmates, and cooperativeness (Johnson et al., 1981; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Slavin, 1991).

In a meta-analysis of research on classroom interpersonal goal structures, Johnson et al., (1981) recognized a fourth goal structure often used in the classroom. In this goal structure, which Johnson and Johnson (1989) later referred to as "mixed" cooperation, students are organized into cooperative groups and these groups in turn compete against each other to accomplish the learning goal. This mixed cooperative goal structure parallels a cooperative learning approach currently popular in many technology education classrooms and one frequently mentioned in technology education magazines, journals, and curriculum guides (e.g., Stewardson, 1996; Technology Student Association, 1994; Waggoner, 1996; Wright, 1986). In this approach, students are placed into cooperative groups with the groups then competing to design top solutions to technological problems.

In an attempt to investigate the effectiveness of this mixed cooperative goal structure, a review of literature was conducted in which findings from several integrative reviews and meta-analyses of related literature were analyzed. When the findings concerning the effectiveness of pure cooperative interpersonal goal structures (cooperative groups without inter-group competition) were compared to mixed cooperative interpersonal goal structures (cooperative groups with inter-group competition), there was some disagreement between the reviewers' conclusions (Johnson et al., 1981; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Qin et al., 1995; Slavin, 1983), a point also noted by Bossert (1988-1989). Several reviewers (Johnson et al., 1981; Johnson & Johnson 1989; Qin et al., 1995) suggested that student levels of achievement were greatest when groups did not compete against each other. In contrast, in his review of similar studies, Slavin (1983, 1991) concluded that group competition had a positive effect on students' achievement insofar as the requirements of group goals and individual accountability are met. However, Slavin (1983) and Johnson et al. (1981) both agreed that their conclusions were tentative, since the number of studies in which pure and mixed cooperative interpersonal goal structures were directly compared was too small to form a firm conclusion.

Because of the noted disagreements among leading researchers and the apparent lack of related research, this study was conducted to investigate the effects of a cooperative goal structure that incorporates inter-group competition on high school students' group performance and attitudes toward their learning environment. This study was conducted in high school technology education laboratories and involved students participating in a problem-solving activity.

Specifically, an interpersonal goal structure that employed intra-group cooperation as well as inter-group cooperation (cooperation-cooperation) was compared to an interpersonal goal structure that employed intra-group cooperation and inter-group competition (cooperation-competition). An investigation of what effect each of these goal structures had on group performance and students' attitudes was conducted to determine if differences between students' mean scores on measures of attitude and group performance were large enough to be considered statistically and practically significant.1

Research Methods

The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of cooperative-cooperative and cooperative-competitive interpersonal goal structures on group problem-solving performance and students' attitudes toward their learning environment within the context of a problem-solving activity in a high school technology education laboratory. The following research questions were addressed:

Question 1: Will scored responses from students in the cooperation-cooperation condition differ from scored responses from students in the cooperation-competition condition on the following variables: (a) expression of commitment to their group's solutions, (b) perception of effective communication within their group, (c) indication of enjoyment, (d) rating of the problem-solving activity, (e) indication of levels of interpersonal attraction such as trust and member satisfaction (i.e., how much they liked the members of their group), (f) rating of other members of their group, and (g) indication of perceived liking (how much their team members liked them)?

Question 2: Will students' scores in the cooperation-cooperation condition differ from students' scores in the cooperation-competition condition on a measure of group problem-solving performance?

Population and Sample

The target population for this study was all students enrolled in Foundations of Technology (FOT) classes in high schools in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. The experimentally accessible population was high school classes participating in FOT courses in two large Salt Lake City area school districts. Technology directors from each district were contacted to identify and list schools that had the necessary program enrollment and facilities needed to participate in the experiment. From this list, two schools were chosen in which a pilot study was conducted during the fall of 1998. Information gathered from the pilot study was used to refine the procedures of the final study conducted in the spring of 1999.

In performing the final study, a random sampling procedure was employed to select six schools from the list of schools identified. At least two classes from each of these schools were then randomly selected, with one of the classes randomly assigned to the cooperative-cooperative treatment and the other class assigned the cooperative-competitive treatment. A total of 388 students from 18 classes participated in the study.

The schools from which the sample was drawn had enrollments of between 1,100 to 2,500 students living in western suburban communities consisting of middle socioeconomic families. Additionally, 6.5% of the students in the study represented minority populations, with 22% of the participants being female and 78% male.

Research Design

An experimental design in which nine classes were randomly assigned to the cooperative-cooperative condition and nine classes randomly assigned to the cooperative-competitive condition was used. When separating students in each of the classes into their cooperative groups, a random assignment of 3 to 5 students to each of the groups was performed. Teachers who participated in the study were rotated across conditions so that they taught at least one class in each goal structure to help control for experimenter (teacher) effect.

In this study, students were presented with an open-ended, problem-solving activity in which they were asked to work in cooperative groups in order to design and develop a solution to the problem. Specifically, the groups were required to design, develop, and launch a water bottle rocket as a solution to a problem presented in a design brief. The activity was designed so that in one setting the cooperative groups in the class were asked to cooperate with other groups in order to achieve the learning goal and in the other setting the cooperative groups were in direct competition with each other in order to achieve the learning goal.

For example, in the classes that incorporated a cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structure, the reward structure of the activity was designed so that each group could only achieve the top score if each of the groups in the class reached a specific performance criterion. In addition, after an experimental launch period in which each of the groups was able to make multiple launches and thus collect data on effective rocket design, the groups were given an opportunity to share their findings with the rest of the class. Conversely, in the cooperative-competitive classes, groups were encouraged not to share "company secrets," and the reward structure was set up so that only one group could achieve the top score.

Data and Instrumentation

A posttest-only design was used to collect information concerning student attitudes toward their learning environment. Student attitudes were assessed with the Perception of Peers Scale (Garibaldi, 1979). This instrument has been used by researchers investigating student attitudes in cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning environments and was made available by its authors, Antoine Garibaldi and David Johnson. Some of the items on the questionnaire were reworded to fit the activity for this study. Cronbach's (1951) Coefficient Alpha internal reliability coefficients of 0.83 and 0.94 were calculated for the cooperative-cooperative and cooperative-competitive groups, respectively. These values parallel previous reliability coefficients reported for this questionnaire (Garibaldi, 1979; Yu, 1996).

To assess group problem-solving performance, two judges using stopwatches measured the "airborne" time of each rocket. Initially, in the pilot study, the launch height of each group's final rocket was used as a measure of group performance. However, the lack of reliable methods to measure rocket height and student tendencies to exaggerate the calculated height of their group's rocket influenced the researcher and the two teachers participating in the pilot study to use airborne time as a measure of group problem-solving performance.

Analysis

Because classes were randomly assigned to treatments rather than students, the unit of analysis for the attitudinal measure was the number of classes. Eighteen classes from the six schools that participated in the study were selected, nine classes in each of the treatment groups. For group problem-solving performance, however, because students within each of the goal structures were randomly assigned to groups, the unit of analysis was the number of groups participating in each of the goal structures. A total of 129 groups participated in the study, 64 in the cooperative-cooperative condition and 65 in the cooperative-competitive condition.

Estimates of both statistical and practical significance were considered to analyze research question one. To analyze the attitudinal measure, which consisted of a small n-size (n = 9 in each of the two treatments), huge differences in attitude scores between the two groups would be needed in order to realize a statistically significant finding. Because of this, an estimate of practical significance such as a standardized mean difference (SMD) effect size2 that is independent of sample size and scale, appeared to be a more appropriate method of analysis and was employed in this study. The standardized mean difference enables researchers to estimate the extent to which the distributions of scores for the treatment and control group overlap. For example, assuming normal distributions, and using a table that gives the standardized values of a normal curve, an effect size of 1.00 means that students participating in the treatment group had a mean performance score equal to or higher than 84% of the scores from the students in the control group.

Standardized mean difference effect sizes were calculated using the following formulas:

Because there was no control group in this study, the best estimate of a standard deviation (SD) was derived by pooling the standard deviation from the two groups. The resulting pooled standard deviation was then used as the denominator in the effect size formula.

Standards for determining when an effect size is practically significant are somewhat arbitrary, so standards suggested by leading researchers in the social sciences were used. For example, Cohen (1988) has suggested that 0.20 is a small effect, 0.50 is a medium effect, and 0.80 is a large effect. Because calculations using data from studies having small n-sizes, such as this study, typically result in effect sizes that tend to be inflated, conservative estimates were used in this study to approximate small (0.30 - 0.60), medium (0.61 - 0.90), and large (>0.90) effect sizes and to aid in the discussion of the practical significance of the findings.

To answer research question two (group problem-solving performance) the mean airborne times from the cooperative-cooperative and cooperative-competitive groups were compared. Estimates of both statistical and practical significance were calculated and probability levels (p) for statistical analysis and a standardized mean difference (SMD) effect size to estimate the practical significance have been provided.

Because no evidence was found to suggest using a directional test, a null hypothesis (Ho: Mean1 - Mean2 = 0) was used to test research question two. The p values provide information to the reader about the likelihood of obtaining differences between the two groups of the magnitude observed in the long run with repeated same-size sampling, and given the null hypothesis is true. The criterion for statistical significance was the traditionally accepted p > .05. Because students were randomly assigned to groups without matching or other basis for correlation, a t-test for the difference between two independent means was used as a test of statistical significance.

Findings

Commitment

Four items on the questionnaire assessed the students' level of commitment to, and satisfaction with, their group's solution to the design problem.3 The data in Table 1 indicate a pattern of more positive responses favoring students participating in the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups. However, only two of the questionnaire items had standardized mean differences large enough to be considered practically significant.

Table 1
Commitment Scores
Item Cooperation Competition SMD
M SD M SD

Indication of student's commitment to the designed solution. 2.94 0.25 3.19 0.34 -0.85**
Student's satisfaction with the designed solution to the problem. 2.95 0.41 3.02 0.55 -0.15
How pleased student was with his/her part in the designed solution. 2.43 0.22 2.63 0.42 -0.61**
Students' willingness to present their design to another group. 2.94 0.43 3.04 0.68 -0.19

*= small, **= medium, ***= large practical significance.
Note: Negative SMD effect sizes represent more positive responses favoring the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups.

Perception of Effective Communication

Five items on the questionnaire assessed the students' level of perception of effective communication within their group. The data reported in Table 2 show that on four of these questionnaire items students in the cooperative-cooperative groups perceived that their group had higher levels of effective communication than students in the cooperative-competitive groups. On the fifth item, there was no practical significant difference between students' mean scores of the two groups.

The largest of the five effect sizes (SMD = 0.92) shown in Table 2 dealt with the notion that success was a result of the group working well together. An effect size of 0.92 means that students participating in cooperative-cooperative groups had a mean score equal to or higher than 82% of the scores from the students in the cooperative-competitive groups. An SMD effect size this large can be considered to have a large level of practical significance.

Table 2
Perception of Effective Communication Scores
Item Cooperation Competition SMD
M SD M SD

Felt the group was successful because they worked together well. 3.20 0.22 3.35 0.34 -0.54**
Felt differences of viewpoint among group members were helpful. 2.69 0.37 2.58 0.43 0.28
Felt information offered by other members of the group was valuable. 2.95 0.37 3.26 0.29 -0.92***
Student's willingness to share suggestions to promote group success. 3.10 0.21 3.28 0.28 -0.71**
Felt communication of ideas within the group was effective. 2.74 0.40 2.91 0.43 -0.41*

*= small, **= medium, ***= large practical significance.
Note: Negative SMD effect sizes represent more positive responses favoring the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups.

Enjoyment

Three items on the questionnaire assessed the students' perception of enjoyment of the activity. The data presented in Table 3 show that on all three items students in the cooperative-cooperative groups indicated higher levels of perceived enjoyment than students in the cooperative-competitive groups. However, it is interesting to note that students in both treatments had very positive ratings of enjoyment. Whether competing or not, students perceived the group activity to be enjoyable.

Table 3
Commitment Scores
Item Cooperation Competition SMD
M SD M SD

Student description of the activity to a friend as being enjoyable. 2.73 0.47 2.93 0.49 -0.42*
Would urge a friend to volunteer for participation in the activity. 2.62 0.37 2.79 0.63 -0.34*
A rating of how much the student enjoyed the activity. 2.28 0.46 2.45 0.48 -0.35*

*= small, **= medium, ***= large practical significance.
Note: Negative SMD effect sizes represent more positive responses favoring the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups.

Rating of Activity

Seven items on the questionnaire, written in the form of semantic differentials, dealt with students' opinions of the problem-solving activity. As can be seen in Table 4, the student responses to this section of the questionnaire did not follow a clear pattern. For example, students in the cooperative-competitive groups responded that the activity was easier (SMD = 0.69), while students in the cooperative-cooperative groups responded that the activity required more skill (SMD = 0.87), was more relaxing (SMD = 0.50), and was more pleasing (SMD = 0.30). There were no practical significant differences between mean scores of the two groups on items 2, 6, and 7.

Table 4
Rating of Activity Scores
Item Cooperation Competition SMD
M SD M SD

1 Hard / Easy 2.26 0.50 1.98 0.30 0.69**
2 Unenjoyable / Enjoyable 1.15 0.40 1.08 0.51 0.16
3 Requires luck / Requires skill 1.80 0.28 2.10 0.41 -0.87**
4 Frustrating /Relaxing 2.07 0.46 2.30 0.47 -0.50*
5 Upsetting / Pleasing 1.66 0.43 1.77 0.31 -0.30*
6 Learned little / Learned much 1.93 0.27 1.89 0.61 0.10
7 Challenging / Simple 2.76 0.53 2.71 0.42 0.12

*= small, **= medium, ***= large practical significance.
Note: Negative SMD effect sizes represent more positive responses favoring the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups.

Interpersonal Attraction

Two of the questionnaire items assessed students' perceptions of how well they liked the other members of their group (member satisfaction), while the other two items (#36, #37) assessed the students' perception of how much they trusted other members of their group.

Table 5
Interpersonal Attraction Scores
Item Cooperation Competition SMD
M SD M SD

Perception of trust/honesty
How much the student trusted the other members of the group. 2.33 0.33 2.48 0.49 -0.36*
Degree to which student was open/honest with other group members. 2.58 0.33 2.74 0.44 -0.39*
Member satisfaction
How much the student liked working with other group members. 2.87 0.38 2.83 0.44 0.09
Would like to work with the same group again if asked to. 2.92 0.62 2.99 0.71 -0.10

*= small, **= medium, ***= large practical significance.
Note: Negative SMD effect sizes represent more positive responses favoring the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups.

SMD effect sizes reported in Table 5 show that students in the cooperative-cooperative goal structured groups trusted members of their group more (SMD = 0.36), and were more open and honest with the members of their group (SMD = 0.39) than students in the cooperative-competitive groups. However, these effect sizes can only be considered to have small levels of practical significance. The mean differences between the two groups relative to member satisfaction were essentially non-existent.

Rating of Members

Seven items on the questionnaire, written in the form of semantic differentials, were devised to determine students' perceptions of the other members of their group by rating these members on a scale of 1 to 7. From Table 6 it can be seen that students in the cooperative-cooperative groups had more positive responses toward members of their group on all seven questionnaire items than students in the cooperative-competitive groups. A pattern of responses this strong would tend to indicate that students participating in the cooperative-cooperative goal structured groups enjoyed working with the other members of their group more than students in the cooperative-competitive groups. This pattern of responses is consistent with the enjoyment scores presented in Table 3. It is interesting to note that students, whether competing or not, reported positive perceptions of those with whom they were working.

Table 6
Rating of Members' Scores
Item Cooperation Competition SMD
M SD M SD

Friendly / Unfriendly 2.07 0.21 2.15 0.40 -0.27
Easy to work with / Hard to work with 2.25 0.26 2.43 0.47 -0.49*
Intelligent / Unintelligent 2.57 0.32 2.67 0.53 -0.24
Helpful / Not helpful 2.35 0.36 2.54 0.38 -0.50*
Cooperative / Uncooperative 2.18 0.25 2.33 0.44 -0.40*
Honest / Dishonest 1.93 0.30 2.22 0.36 -0.86**
Pleasant / Unpleasant 2.08 0.28 2.28 0.43 -0.56*

*= small, **= medium, ***= large practical significance.
Note: Negative SMD effect sizes represent more positive responses favoring the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups.

Perceived Liking

Four questionnaire items dealt with students' perception of how much the other members of their group liked them. The data reported in Table 7 show that there were no practically significant differences between the two groups relative to perceived liking.

Summary and Discussion

Student Attitudes

The student responses to questionnaire items relating to research question one showed that students participating in the cooperative-cooperative environment generally expressed more positive attitudes toward various aspects of their learning environment than students participating in the cooperative-competitive environment. The most positive responses were in the areas of students' commitment to their groups' solutions and students' perception of effective communication within their group during the activity.

Table 7
Perceived Liking Scores
Item Cooperation Competition SMD
M SD M SD

How much other members of the group valued the student's opinions. 3.13 0.23 3.19 0.30 -0.23
How accepting other members of the group were. -0.24 2.63 0.28 2.73 0.46
Perception of how much the other group members liked the student. 2.86 0.32 2.81 0.52 0.11
Perception of how much other group members were interested in the student's ideas. 2.93 0.45 2.94 0.20 0.00

*= small, **= medium, ***= large practical significance.
Note: Negative SMD effect sizes represent more positive responses favoring the cooperative-cooperative interpersonal goal structured groups.

In addition, the student responses showed that while students participating in both the cooperative-cooperative and cooperative-competitive groups had very positive perceptions toward the other persons in their groups, students participating in the cooperative-cooperative environment generally expressed more positive attitudes toward the members of their group than the students participating in the cooperative-competitive environment. Finally, there was essentially no difference between the two groups regarding member satisfaction (how much they liked other members of the group) and perceived liking (their perception of how much the other members of the group liked them).

Group Performance

For research question 2 the group problem-solving performance of the students in the cooperation-cooperation condition was compared to the students in the cooperation-competition condition. The computed t score for the collected data (Table 8) was 0.96. With an alpha level of .05, the difference between the means of the two groups was not statistically significant, t (127) = 1.98, p > .05, and the null-hypothesis, Ho: Mean1 - Mean2 = 0, was retained. When the null is true, given alpha = .05, randomization, and the n-sizes of the groups, results as large as the difference in mean "airborne" times between the two groups was a likely chance occurrence, in the long run over repeated samples.

Table 8
Group Performance Scores
Item Cooperation (n = 64) Competition (n = 65) SMD t comp
M SD M SD

Time 9.92 5.87 10.95 6.54 0.17 0.96

Note: Time is measured in seconds. A positive SMD effect size favors the cooperative-competitive groups.

To gain an estimate of the practical significance of the student scores relative to group problem-solving performance, a SMD effect size was calculated using the data collected from the 129 groups participating in the study. From Table 8 it can be seen that, relative to group problem-solving performance, the magnitude of difference between mean scores of the two groups was too small to be considered to have practical significance (SMD = 0.17).

Discussion

Previous researchers of cooperative education (Johnson et. al., 1981; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Slavin, 1991) have concluded that when compared to competitive classroom environments, cooperative learning has been found to positively influence several non-cognitive variables such as student self-esteem, peer support for achievement, liking of class and classmates, and cooperativeness. The student responses in this study appeared to parallel these previous conclusions. Generally, students in this research study participating in the cooperative-cooperative environment expressed more positive attitudes toward various aspects of their learning environment than students participating in the cooperative-competitive environment.

In two research studies that closely paralleled this study, both Garibaldi (1976, 1979), and Yu (1996) reported that students participating in cooperative-cooperative conditions had more positive perceptions of interpersonal relationships with members of their groups than students participating in inter-group competition. Garibaldi (1976) specifically reported that students in cooperative-cooperative groups had (a) higher levels of interpersonal attraction, (b) more positive ratings of other members of their group, and (c) more positive levels of perceived liking than students in the cooperative-competitive groups. With the exception of perceived liking, for which the student responses in this study were inconclusive, the findings from this study support those of Garibaldi (1979) and Yu (1996).

An additional point of agreement between this research and other, similar studies (Okun & DiVesta, 1975; Garibaldi, 1979) was that students in cooperative-cooperative conditions had more positive perceptions of effective communication within their group than did students in the cooperative-competitive conditions. In each of these studies, the findings relative to effective communication were among the strongest, providing some indication that a cooperative environment can help facilitate effective communication among group members while engaged in problem solving.

One final point of agreement between this study and the Garibaldi study was the lack of differences between mean scores of the two groups relative to student enjoyment of the activity. In both studies, whether cooperating or competing, students responded positively that they enjoyed the activities. It is possible that students experienced enjoyment just because they were working cooperatively within their own groups and that competition between groups was not a factor in their perception of enjoyment.

One point of contrast between this study and the study of Garibaldi (1979) was in the area of student commitment to their solution to the problem. The findings in this research study show greater commitment by students in the cooperative-cooperative condition, whereas Garibaldi found almost no differences between the two groups on items measuring student commitment.

In relation to student achievement or performance, educational researchers have had some disagreement concerning the effectiveness of cooperative-cooperative groups when compared to cooperative groups in which there is an incorporation of inter-group competition. Generally, students in cooperative learning environments have consistently performed as well as, or outperformed, students in competitive and individualistic learning environments on achievement measures. In this research study, groups of students in the cooperative-cooperative condition performed as well as, but did not outperform, the groups of students in the cooperative-competitive condition. In fact, groups of students participating in the cooperative-competitive environment had a mean group problem-solving performance score equal to or higher than 57% of the scores from the students in the cooperative-cooperative groups. However, as noted previously, the magnitude of difference between mean scores of the two groups was too small to be considered to have statistical or practical significance.

Recommendations to Teachers

When involving students in group problem-solving activities, technology education teachers should consider using a cooperative-cooperative goal structure in order to help students develop more positive attitudes toward their learning environment. This is especially true in a situation where the teacher would like to facilitate effective communication among group members while engaged in problem solving. Students in cooperative-cooperative groups will also likely express greater commitment to their solutions while engaged in group problem-solving activities than students in cooperative-competitive groups. In addition, it is likely that they will have increased positive responses toward other members of their group and express high levels of enjoyment and interpersonal attraction with other members of their group. Finally, it was found that this increase in positive student attitudes can be realized without sacrificing group performance.

For teachers who have previously found competition between groups to be an effective classroom goal structure, it should be noted that even in a cooperative-cooperative environment some characteristics of informal competition will continue to exist between the groups. Incorporating a cooperative-cooperative goal structure in the classroom allows for a de-emphasis of formal competition among groups, resulting in an increase in positive student attitudes toward the activity without sacrificing the problem-solving performance of the group.

Limitations of the Study

Although the findings in this study are consistent with the findings of other researchers, they are still not conclusive. This study was limited to high school students participating in a group problem-solving activity of medium difficulty. In addition, the duration of this study was five to six class periods in duration. It is possible that an activity in a different setting, or of a greater or lesser duration or difficulty, would result in findings different from this study. Finally, as was previously noted, the sample for this study was drawn from a mostly homogeneous population. Group dynamics of students from heterogeneous populations might differ significantly from the student groups in this research study. Additional research related to any or all of these limitations are recommended to establish confidence in the findings of this study.

Authors

This article is the result of a dissertation conducted by the first author. Shumway is an Assistant Professor, Technology Teacher Education, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Saunders is a Professor, Secondary Education; Stewardson is an Associate Professor, and Reeve is a Professor, Industrial Technology and Education, Utah State University, Logan Utah. Shumway can be reached at steve_shumway@byu.edu.

Notes

1Estimates of practical significance provide information regarding the magnitude of differences between mean scores and relationships that are independent of sample size in a standardized form. Estimates of practical significance are typically calculated as effect sizes.

2An effect size (ES) is a metric that enables researchers to investigate the magnitude of the differences between mean scores or relationships between variables in a sample or population. In this study, the standardized mean difference (SMD) effect size described by Glass (1977) has been used.

3In Tables 1-7, the data shown represent student responses to a Likert-type questionnaire. The items on the questionnaire had a range of 1 - 7 (1 being the most positive response and 7 being the most negative response). Therefore, the lower the mean score the more positive the student response to questionnaire items.

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