Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 79–102 | Cite as

Effects of Small-Group Learning on Transfer: a Meta-Analysis

  • Hui-Hua Pai
  • David A. Sears
  • Yukiko Maeda
Review Article


This study investigated the potential benefit of small-group learning on transfer performance using the method of meta-analysis. Results showed positive support for the hypothesis that small-group learning can increase students’ transfer performance (average effect size of 0.30). Unlike reviews of effects of cooperation on learning, this review of effects on transfer found no greater benefit of structured small-groups compared to unstructured. This finding, in conjunction with the significant variability found across effect sizes, suggests that further investigation into features of effective unstructured small-group tasks might yield heuristics that teachers could eventually use to make decisions about when collaboration would be most useful. Although some of the reviewed studies were published decades ago, the vast majority were published within the last few years, suggesting a growing area of research interest.


Small-group learning Cooperative learning Collaborative learning Transfer Meta-analysis 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Helen Patrick, Dr. Victoria Walker, Dr. Scott Schaffer, and anonymous reviewers for feedback on earlier versions of this work.


References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Beering Hall of Liberal Arts and EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Beering Hall of Liberal Arts and EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Beering Hall of Liberal Arts and EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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