European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 473–492 | Cite as

Group work does not necessarily equal collaborative learning: evidence from observations and self-reports

  • Mark Summers
  • Simone Volet


Situative and sociocognitive analyses were combined to examine engagement in high-level collaborative learning and its relationship with individuals’ cognitions. Video footage of 53 science university students’ (nine groups) collaborative learning interactions as they worked through a case-based project was analysed in combination with students’ appraisals and reflections on the activity. Sizeable group differences in amount of high-level discussion of learning content were revealed. Individual high-level contributions were positively correlated with overall unit performance. Motivation at task onset predicted amount but not depth of content-related group discussion. Interviews with participants suggested that groups’ divergent patterns of engagement with content could be related to different perceptions of the notion of collaborative learning. Results are discussed in terms of implications for collaborative learning research and educational practice.


Collaborative learning Co-regulation Group work Situative perspective Sociocognitive perspective 


Des perspectives situées et sociocognitives ont été associées pour mieux comprendre l’apprentissage coopératif le plus profitable aux apprenants. Les interactions de 53 étudiants en science ont été filmées pendant qu’ils travaillaient en groupes de 5 ou 6 personnes sur une étude de cas. Ces interactions ont été analysées en relation avec les perceptions et les réflexions des participants. D’importantes différences entre les groupes ont été observées en ce qui concerne leur degré d’engagement en profondeur dans les interactions. Au niveau individuel, l’engagement en profondeur était corrélé positivement avec la performance finale de l’étudiant dans le cours en question. La motivation au début de l’activité a pu prédire la fréquence avec laquelle l’étudiant a participé à des interactions du groupe centrées sur le contenu mais pas le niveau d’engagement en profondeur. Des interviews avec les étudiants ont révélé que les divergences d’engagement en profondeur pourraient être en relation avec leurs interprétations du concept d’apprentissage coopératif. Les résultats de ces analyses suggèrent de nouvelles pistes de recherche à creuser et des idées pratiques pour l’enseignement.



This research was supported under Australian Research Council's Discovery Projects funding scheme (project number DP0986867).


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa, Portugal and Springer Science + Business Media BV 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Murdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia

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