Improving learning outcomes in small group collaboration
In today’s world, students are undeniably tech-savvy digital natives, which led Ian Fogarty, a teacher at Riverview High School in New Brunswick, Canada, to determine how effectively classroom technology supports small group collaboration. In his study, Small Groups of Science Students Gathered Around Interactive Whiteboards and Laptops, Fogarty explores the difference in student performance using a laptop versus using a SMART Board interactive whiteboard.
Fogarty’s study consisted of three twelfth-grade chemistry and science classes, with students aged 15 to 17, broken into small groups of three or four. Each small group completed a pre-test to determine a base performance, followed by a number of tasks conducted on either a laptop or SMART Board interactive whiteboard, and finally a post-test to assess overall performance. Each group completed learning activities using either a laptop or SMART Board interactive whiteboard, before rotating so that those who first used a laptop then completed similar activities on the interactive whiteboard, and vice versa.
The study found that students had increased performance on assessments given after using a SMART Board interactive whiteboard to complete small group activities, as opposed to those who used a laptop. It also determined that using the interactive whiteboard as a collaborative, student-centered tool is especially effective when students are working on activities that are discussion oriented, less structured and cognitively challenging.
According to the study, students who used a SMART Board interactive whiteboard to solve logic puzzles outperformed students using a laptop by 51 percent. After the groups rotated, and those students who had first used a laptop completed a new set of logic puzzles using the interactive whiteboard, students who had first used a laptop and then the interactive whiteboard showed improved results. However, Fogarty found that they didn’t fully catch up to those students who had used the interactive whiteboard first.
The same was true for students using a laptop to complete an activity that required them to recall information. Students using the interactive whiteboard outperformed those using a laptop by 31percent. When the groups rotated, though results improved for students who had at first used a laptop, they still didn’t quite catch up to their counterparts who had used the interactive whiteboard first.
According to Fogarty’s research, students using the SMART Board interactive whiteboard conversed more than those students completing the same activities on a laptop. It also became clear that each student had more opportunities to interact with the learning activities while using the interactive whiteboard. When completing tasks using a laptop, a leader amongst the group would emerge, with the student driving the mouse taking greater control of the group dynamic. In contrast, when small groups completed the same activities using the interactive whiteboard, no defined leader was evident and all students took turns manipulating content, answering questions and working together to arrive at an answer.
The study illustrates that – as well as being a valuable tool for front-of-class instruction – the SMART Board interactive whiteboard can also be effectively harnessed to support small group learning, promote collaborative conversation, engage more students in group work and improve learning outcomes.