2020 Day 3: 27th May Presentation

Exploring small-group learning in a PBL undergraduate chemistry laboratory

Sujatha Varadarajan
Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, TIFR, Mumbai, India 

We designed and implemented a PBL task on indigo dyeing wastewater treatment. PBL advocates self-directed and collaborative learning wherein students work in small groups to find a solution to the given problem. In our present work, we tried to understand – a) learning in a small-group, and b) students’ perceptions about small-group learning.

To understand the learning in a small group, we closely monitored the interactions of three students of one small-group. The data collected for this purpose included field-observation, feed-back questionnaire, and the semi-structured interview. Further, we tried to understand the students’ perception of the small-group learning through a questionnaire. We implemented the PBL task in a college in Pune, and a group of 20 students participated in the study.

The data from our first study suggests that the disagreements between the group members and the subsequent discussion as one of the important ways of knowledge construction within the small-group. Besides, the data also indicates that the small-group interactions during the laboratory work led to students’ engagement with the cognitive dimensions of evaluation and analysis of their planning and execution of the task.

The analysis of the questionnaire suggests that students recognize the contributions of group members in problem-solving during all the three phases of the implementation of the PBL task i.e. the pre-lab work, lab-work, and post-lab work. Students acknowledge the importance of heterogeneity in terms of academic skills within a small group. However, they believe the similarity of ideas that students want to explore should be the basis for the formation of groups.

The presentation would include the interpretive description of the case study of the small-group and the results from the perception study.