Does group size affect students’ inquiry and collaboration in using computer-based asymmetric collaborative simulations?

Meeli Rannastu, Leo Aleksander Siiman, Mario Mäeots, Margus Pedaste, Äli Leijen

This study investigated students’ collaborative inquiry. It was carried out with 5th grade (N=58, Mage=11.3 years) and 6th grade (N=74, Mage=12.4 years) students. Students were divided into two- and four-person groups to study whether group size affects their learning with asymmetric collaborative simulations. They worked in an online digital learning space using smart devices and communicated face-to-face. The Collaborative Rate of Photosynthesis Lab from the Go-Lab portal (golabz.eu) was used to establish the condition of asymmetric collaboration and for developing tasks that assessed students’ inquiry. This new type of lab introduces asymmetry into the collaborative process by dividing control over different variables and requiring students’ to effectively communicate their unique information in order to successfully solve tasks. To assess students’ collaboration, we used an adapted self-assessed collaboration skills instrument to measure three dimensions: contribution, interaction with others and team learning. The results show that collaboration did not statistically significantly differ depending on group size for 5th grade groups but did for 6th grade groups. Regarding students’ inquiry, analysis of performance on the asymmetric collaborative tasks showed that there were no statistically significant differences between group size in either grade. Overall, however, the inquiry scores were low (28% and 40% for 5th and 6th graders respectively) indicating that asymmetric collaborative inquiry is quite challenging for students in these grades.