Social barriers to meaningful engagement in biology field trip group work

May 1st, 2009 | RESEARCH

This paper reports on a study that employed metacognition and social cognition theoretical frameworks to explore and interpret students' views of their cognitive roles and the nature of the mechanisms that they considered influenced and mediated their learning within small group contexts. An instrumental interpretive case study methodology was used to capture students' descriptive accounts of their Year 11 Biology learning experiences, as conveyed through their recollections and reflections concerning their interactions and roles, perceptions of the learning task, and their learning strategies that they considered to be manifest during a field trip visit to a nature center. We conclude that, even among apparently highly collegial student groups, deemed by their teacher to be effective learning groups, and constituted in ways consistent with the literature on effective collaborative group work, there existed metasocial metacognitive factors that influenced and shaped cognition in ways counterproductive to the effective learning of science. This study reveals the existence of metacognitive knowledge and processes, common among students and related to their views of what is appropriate thinking and behavior within small groups, which inform collective and individual task actions. We contend that students are highly aware of their social status within groups and of their individual group's social conditions and that this awareness affects cognition and behavior. Moreover, they monitor these conditions and employ strategies that simultaneously service both the task and social relationships and their learning processes to varying extents depending on individual and group factors.


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Team Members

David Anderson, Author, The University of British Columbia
Gregory Thomas, Author, The University of Alberta
Samson Nashon, Author, University of British Columbia


Identifier Type: issn
Identifier: 0036-8326

Publication: Science Education
Volume: 93
Number: 3
Page(s): 511

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Audience: Educators | Teachers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | Life science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Park | Outdoor | Garden Programs | Public Programs