ERG SES C 09, Children and Education
Encouraging primary aged children to collaborate in their learning is an increasingly used pedagogic technique in classrooms across Europe. However, reports on the benefits of this practice, on recall of information, vary. Previous collaborative memory research has tended to focus on the potential negative impact of collaboration on the group’s recall of information. Weldon and Bellinger (1997) coined the term collaborative inhibition to describe the counterintuitive phenomenon that collaborative group recall of information is worse than the pooled recall of the same number of individuals who have worked alone. Subsequent research has replicated this detrimental impact of collaboration in adults (Rajaram and Pereira-Pesarin, 2010) and children (Gummerum, Leman and Hollins, 2013). However, another way of examining the effects of collaborative work on the recall of information is to examine the subsequent individual performance of group members following a period of collaboration. Blumen and Rajaram (2008, 2009) had participants either repeatedly recall a list as part of a collaborative group or repeatedly recall it on their own, prior to a final individual recall test for everyone. They found that repeated collaborative recall led to superior individual recall of information in a final test. They argued that this occurred because re-exposure to items from other group members and cross-cuing between recalled items during the collaborative stage lead to subsequent beneficial effects on recall. Thus, the collaborative inhibition effect that reduces the performance of the group as a whole (relative to an equal number of individuals working alone) is not apparent in the subsequent individual performance of group members. The claim that group collaboration may impair performance may be misleading, at least in terms of potential long-term benefits for the individual group members.
Whilst collaborative inhibition has been shown in primary aged children (Gummerum, Leman and Hollins, 2013), to date, no-one has looked at the potential individual benefits of group membership shown by Blumen and Rajaram (2008, 2009) in this age group. Given that collaborative group work followed by individual work is a common pedagogic technique used in primary classrooms in many countries, this is an important omission. The two experiments reported here thus sought to replicate Blumen and Rajaram’s findings with primary aged children, using a single collaborative session prior to individual recall rather than repeated collaboration because a single collaborative session more closely imitates common classroom practice. Experiment 1 followed Blumen and Rajaram (2008, 2009) by looking at episodic recall of word lists, whilst Experiment 2 looked at semantic category generation. Our expectation was that we would observe collaborative inhibition when comparing the performance of the groups versus equivalent numbers of individuals working alone, but that group membership would bring benefits to individual performance when tested subsequently.
These experiments also looked at another unexplored issue: whether any benefit of group membership extends to all members of a group, regardless of the role within the group. In particular, we were interested to know whether active participation in the work of the group is essential to reaping the subsequent benefits of group work. Consequently, both experiments examined the final individual performance of children who had been instructed to actively participate during group collaboration with those who had been instructed to passively observe without contributing during the collaborative group stage. It is of relevance to know whether there is any subsequent individual benefit for pupils who have not actively engaged in the collaborative stages of learning.
Blatchford, P. and Kutnick, P. (Eds.) (2003) Developing group work in everyday classrooms: An introduction to the special issue [Special issue]. International Journal of Educational Research, 39 (1-2) Blumen, H.M. & Rajaram, S. (2008). Influence of re-exposure and retrieval disruption during group collaboration on later individual recall. Memory, 16(3), 231-244. Blumen, H.M. & Rajaram, S. (2009). Effects of repeated collaborative retrieval on individual memory vary as a function of recall versus recognition tasks. Memory, 17(8), 840-846. Gummerum, M., Leman, P. and Hollins, T. (2013) Children’s collaborative recall of shared and unshared information, British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 31(3), 302-17. Rajaram, S. and Pereira-Pasarin, L.P. (2010) Collaborative memory: Cognitive research and theory. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5, 649-663 Weldon, M.S. and Bellinger, K.D. (1997) Collective memory: Collaborative and individual processes in remembering. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 23, 1160-1175
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