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Proefschrift Daphne Hijzen

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Students' goal preferences, ethnocultural background and the quality of cooperative learning in secondary vocational education

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Proefschrift Daphne Hijzen

  1. 1. 1 STUDENTS’ GOAL PREFERENCES, ETHNOCULTURAL BACKGROUND AND THE QUALITY OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING IN SECONDARY VOCATIONAL EDUCATION Daphne M. Hijzen
  2. 2. 2 STUDENTS’ GOAL PREFERENCES, ETHNOCULTURAL BACKGROUND AND THE QUALITY OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING IN SECONDARY VOCATIONAL EDUCATION PROEFSCHRIFT ter verkrijging van de graad van Doctor aan de Universiteit Leiden op gezag van de Rector Magnificus Dr. D.D. Breimer, hoogleraar in de faculteit der Wiskunde en Natuurwetenschappen en die der Geneeskunde, volgens besluit van het College voor Promoties te verdedigen op dinsdag 19 september 2006 te klokke 15:00 uur door Daphne Minette Hijzen geboren te ’s Gravenhage in 1975
  3. 3. 3 Promotiecommissie Promotores: Prof. dr. M. Boekaerts Prof. dr. P. Vedder Referent: Dr. R. Martens Overige leden: Prof. dr. G. Kanselaar (Universiteit Utrecht) Prof. dr. A. E. M.G. Minnaert (Universiteit Groningen) Prof. dr. W. C. M. Resing (Universiteit Leiden) Dit proefschrift werd mogelijk gemaakt met financiële steun van de Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs (NWO).
  4. 4. 4 Voorwoord Bij de totstandkoming van dit proefschrift zijn vele mensen betrokken geweest. Tijdens mijn promotieperiode aan de Universiteit Leiden heb ik behalve een proefschrift, ook een aantal bijzondere vriendschappen gemaakt. Het gaat daarbij allereerst om mijn kamergenoten Michiel en Marie-José. Ik wil hen ontzettend bedanken voor al hun gezelligheid, hun morele en natuurlijk intellectuele ‘support’ die ik de afgelopen jaren dagelijks mocht ontvangen. Ook mijn andere collega’s van de afdeling Onderwijsstudies hebben door hun betrokkenheid en de gezelligheid, niet in de laatste plaats tijdens de congressen die we samen bezochten, mijn tijd in Leiden tot een hele fijne tijd gemaakt. Daarnaast verdienen alle proefpersonen mijn dank. Ik wil van de gelegenheid gebruik maken om alle scholen met hun docenten en leerlingen te danken voor hun medewerking en gastvrijheid. Deze scholen waren: het Koning Willem 1 College te Den Bosch, het Mondriaan College te Delft, Landstede en het Deltion College te Zwolle, het Albeda College te Rotterdam, het ROC ASA Zorg en Welzijn Hoogsticht te Utrecht, het Alfa College te Hardenberg, Hoogenveen en Groningen, het ROC Nijmegen te Nijmegen en Boxmeer, en ten slotte het Horizon College te Heerhugowaard. Voorts ben ik mijn eerste scriptiestudente Lineke Witteman dankbaar voor haar grote inzet tijdens de dataverzameling. Natuurlijk hebben mijn familie en vrienden met hun vriendschap en steun bijgedragen aan dit proefschrift. In het bijzonder dank ik mijn ouders voor hun hulp, adviezen en vooral hun vertrouwen in mij. Met Constant bracht ik eindeloze schrijfsessies door, die het schrijven bijna tot een ‘feestje’ maakten. Daniël bedank ik voor zijn medeleven en zijn bijdragen aan de nodige ontspanning op zijn tijd. Ten slotte ben ik erg blij dat ik Bas heb leren kennen tijdens deze periode en dank ik hem omdat hij altijd lief is, met mij meeleeft en mij stimuleert als dat nodig is. Daphne M. Hijzen Den Haag
  5. 5. 5 CONTENTS 1. Introduction………………………………………………………………. 1 Secondary vocational education: Aim, problems and challenges ………... 2 Problems in secondary vocational schools……………………………….. 2 The Dutch educational system……………………………………………. 4 Structure of secondary vocational schools in the Netherlands………........ 5 Cooperative learning settings in secondary vocational education………... 6 Motivation and the quality of cooperative learning………………………. 7 Contextual factors and the quality of CL..................................................... 8 Aim and design of the study………………………………….................... 8 Research questions………………………………………………............... 9 Structure of the thesis……………………………………………………... 11 2. The relationship between the quality of cooperative learning, students’ goal preferences and perceptions on contextual factors in the classroom…………………………………………………………. 15 Abstract…………………………………………………………………... 15 Introduction………………………………………………………………. 16 Method…………………………………………………………………… 23 Results……………………………………………………………………. 25 Discussion and recommendations…………………………….………….. 29 3. Exploring the links between students’ engagement in cooperative learning, their goal preferences and perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom………………………………………………… 53 Abstract………………………………………………………………….. 53 Introduction……………………………………………………………… 54 Research question..……………………………………………………… 58 Method………………………………………………………………….. 58 Results…………………………………………………………………... 62 Discussion and recommendations………………………………………. 69 4. Instructing cooperative learning; teacher related conditions
  6. 6. 6 steering effective cooperative learning processes of students in secondary vocational education………………………………………… 83 Abstract…………………………………………………………………… 83 Introduction………………………………………………………………. 84 Research question………………………………………………………… 88 Method…………………………………………………………………… 88 Results…..………………………………………………………………... 90 Discussion and recommendations.……………………………………….. 95 5. Explaining cooperative learning in multi-ethnic classes; the limited role of students’ ethnocultural background…………………………… 108 Abstract…………………………………………………………………… 108 Introduction……………………………………………………………….. 109 Method……………………………………………………………………. 116 Results…..………………………………………………………………… 118 Discussion and recommendations………………………………………… 122 6. General conclusions and discussion…………………………………… 134 Answering the general questions………………………………………… 134 General implications for theory and practice……………………………. 140 Limitations of the study…………………………………………………. 143 Summary………………………………………………………………… 147 Samenvatting (Dutch summary)………………………………………. 151 Curriculum Vitae (in Dutch)…………………………………………… 156
  7. 7. 7 Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION Nowadays, having a diploma is almost a necessary condition for having access to any job. Therefore, good education is essential for the future of each and every adolescent. Society has a major interest in well educated adolescents, to enhance the prosperity of a country. Unemployed people cost society a lot because of unemployment benefits, but also because unemployment leads to an increased risk for delinquency and health problems, which in addition lead to major expenses for society. In the Netherlands full-time education is compulsory for adolescents up to the age of 16. Partial education is compulsory up to the age of 18. Recently, the National Council of Education advised to extend compulsory education up to the age of 23 (National Council of Education, October 2005), for youth who did not achieve a so-called starter-qualification, which is the presupposed minimum level of competency development required for entering the job market. Some local initiatives to implement this advice already have been initiated. In the city of Rotterdam adolescents are forced to follow an educational program up to 23 years. In Amsterdam, adolescents under the age of 23 do not receive unemployment benefits, unless they go back to school, or are prepared to enroll in an on-the-job-training program. The project is so successful that a discussion was started to consider applying the project to adolescents up to the age of 27. These examples illustrate the importance that the government and local authorities assign to a qualified population. Schools hope to contribute to the development of competencies which adolescents need to be successful in modern society. Secondary vocational education is one of the places where students should be prepared for the challenges entailed in the modern knowledge society. This knowledge society requires schools to adapt their traditional knowledge transmission goals to goals as learning to cooperate, teaching students to learn to use the knowledge they are taught and prepare them for life-long learning. These new educational aims coincide with the introduction of many new educational methods. Cooperative learning methods are part of these. One of the building blocks of many of these methods is the development of communication skills and practicing all sorts of social skills such as the skills for communicating and networking. While working in cooperative learning settings, students learn to use the knowledge they are taught, and at the same time practice social skills that are required for working in teams. This thesis aims to uncover leads for future interventions directed at improving students preparation for the new society through
  8. 8. 8 cooperative learning (henceforth CL) methods in accordance with changing educational goals. Secondary vocational education: Aim, problems and challenges The aim of secondary vocational schools is to bridge the gap between formal learning in school and practice, between working and learning, in order to realize an optimal form of knowledge circulation (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, 2005). Legislation for this type of schools was established in 1996 [Education and Vocational Training Act] (WEB, 1996). This act emphasized the value of the implementation of a nationwide qualification structure aimed at the development of curricula that are mainly vocationally oriented (Rozendaal, 2002). The value of having an important practical component in the curriculum is emphasized in this act (Slaats, 1999). This act highlighted the development of a new educational and instructional approach that prepares students for the wide range of requirements being set by employers. In that sense, the function of education has shifted from knowledge transmission to teaching students how to use knowledge as a tool and how to self- regulate their learning process. Apart from emphasizing the practical component of learning in secondary vocational schools, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2005) has recently recognized the importance of social skills and coping with emotions as important for personal development. In the labor market such skills are highly valued. The labor market is asking for employees who are emotionally stable, who are able to manage their own careers, are able to cooperate, communicate in teams, and cope with changes and conflicts. Problems in secondary vocational schools Secondary vocational education has to cope with severe problems; high drop-out rates (Batenburg, 1998), motivation problems and maladaptive social behavior (Neuvel, 2004). Approximately 40 % of students starting a study program is secondary vocational education do not finish their study program (School Inspectorate, 2002). Several of these students start a new study program at the same school or at another school. The number of students that actually leave school without a diploma is not exactly known, but estimations vary between 12 and 25 %. Research has shown that a lack of motivation is often the reason for students to quit school. Voncken, Van der Kuip, Moerkamp, and Felix (2000) assessed ‘push and pull
  9. 9. 9 factors’ for students to quit their study program in secondary vocational education. The three reasons that were mentioned most frequently by students all referred to a lack of motivation, namely ‘the study program is not interesting’, ‘I do not like to go to school any more’, and ‘the study program lacks the connection with the job’. A part of the explanation for these problems in secondary vocational education can possibly be found in socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural background factors. The background of the students in secondary vocational education often is not very favorable for completing a successful educational and professional career. Many students have an immigrant background, an educational history with little successes, and parents with a low education level (Angenent, 1997; van den Dool & Janssen, 1994). Several researchers have shown the relationship between economic deprivation and problem behavior (Bradley & Corwyn, 2002). Especially immigrant families have - on average - a lower social economic background than national families. Moreover, due to a relatively high rate of unemployment, immigrant families in the Netherlands have to cope more with poverty. Another explanation for the occurrence of maladaptive social behavior is related to the developmental phase of the students in secondary vocational education. Most students are in their late adolescence and several researchers have shown that maladaptive social behavior peaks in this phase (e.g., Compas, Hinden & Gerhardt, 1995; Maughan & Rutter, 1998; Moffitt, 1993). Moreover, as will be explained in the following section, the problem is reciprocal. The reason why more immigrant students are enrolled in this type of schools is also a consequence of culturally dependent career courses. Some immigrant students already enter the Dutch educational system with a lower educational level – mainly due to language difficulties - and the selective Dutch educational system determines that they only have access to the lower sections of vocational education.
  10. 10. 10 The Dutch educational system Figure 1 represents a broad image of the Dutch educational system. Figure 1: The Dutch Educational System The Dutch educational system is divided into three sections: primary, secondary and tertiary education. School starts with primary education, which lasts eight years and starts for children at the age of four (voluntarily) or five (compulsory) and ends at the age of 12. At the end of Primary Education Pre-university education Senior general secondary education Pre-vocational education University Higher professional education Secondary vocational education
  11. 11. 11 primary school children are advised as to which type of secondary education they should pursue. Based on this advice they continue with pre-vocational education, senior general secondary education or pre-university education. Pre-vocational education, which is the lowest level, lasts four years and leads on to secondary vocational education. Senior general education is a five-year program and leads on to higher professional education. The duration of a pre-university study program is six years and leads on to university. Interestingly, only a pre-university diploma gives direct access to university. However, there are alternative routes to get there. Pre-vocational education has four levels and only the highest level gives access to senior general secondary education, from which students can enter pre-university education. Students in the two highest levels of secondary vocational education may continue studies in higher professional education and from there they move on to university. However these are very long and difficult routes and not many students take these. Most students choose the direct route. The complexity of diversity is due to the selective nature of the Dutch educational system. In other words, students’ study program is determined, basically, at the age of eleven or twelve, when they receive the recommendation about their future education. As a result of language problems, students with an immigrant background often have had a learning delay in primary school. This implies that at the time they were tested, their ethnocultural background resulted in a low advice. This selectivity seems particularly detrimental for immigrant children. As compared to national students, they start their school careers with limited national language proficiency and limited competencies in other skill domains relevant for success in primary school. In recent years they started catching up, however due to the selectivity of the school system they continue their school career at secondary levels; levels that may reflect their actual levels of performance but not necessarily their potential or competency. It will cost these students a lot of willpower to undo the negative effects of the selectivity of the system. Structure of secondary vocational schools in the Netherlands Most of the students in secondary vocational schools are between 16 and 21 years old. Secondary vocational school begins for most students, after they completed a pre-vocational school. Senior vocational school is divided into four levels. At the first level students are trained to become assistants (6 to 12 months). At the second level they follow two to three year courses for basic vocational training. At the third level students are enrolled in professional training and at the fourth level they participate in middle-management training (3
  12. 12. 12 to 4 years) or in a specialized training course (1 to 2 years). Apart from the distinction of levels, also a distinction in study type is important. In vocational schools a distinction is made between theoretical vocational training and theoretical apprenticeship training. In the former type students spend between 20 to 60 percent of their time at the working place while in the latter type they spend at least 60 percent of their time at the workplace. In the present study we mainly focused on students enrolled in the second type of program. Most students finishing secondary vocational school prefer to enter the labor market and do not proceed with further studies (for further information on secondary vocational education in the Netherlands, see Euridice database on education, 2004 website). Approximately 435.000 youngsters in the Netherlands choose a vocational education program (website Ministry of Education, Culture and Science), which is the highest percentage of all students. The second largest proportion consists of students in higher professional education. Cooperative learning settings in secondary vocational education Because of changing educational goals and changing student and teacher roles that accompany these developments, students need to become self-regulated learners. Nowadays students are expected to be able to work autonomously, provide social support to their peers, take responsibility for their own learning processes, and share resources. CL instruction methods are designed to promote these capacities. Cooperative learning refers to a set of instruction principles that together describe how students might learn from and with each other and, through working together, accomplish academic tasks. The term usually refers to alternative ways of organizing classrooms that contrast with individualistic and competitive classroom organizations (Webb & Palinscar, 1996). We use this broad definition of CL, because it captures the broad range of settings of CL in secondary vocational schools. CL settings may promote students’ involvement with and motivation for school and learning as well as facilitate integration and prevent discrimination, by functioning as an activity setting where students are able to connect with each other and learn from each other's abilities and skills. This seems particularly important for immigrant students in vocational schools. An earlier study in the Netherlands showed that lack of a sense of belonging characterized by a poor relationship with teachers and fellow students is an important reason for immigrant students to quit their study program (Hofman & Vonkeman, 1995; Voncken, Van der Kuip, Moerkamp, & Felix, 2000).
  13. 13. 13 In this thesis we will distinguish between four important components that a successful cooperative learning situation requires. In the first place, students need a number of cooperation skills, such as the skills to be able to express their own opinion, stimulate each other, provide and receive help, listen to each other, and clarify their understanding of the task (Cohen, 1994; Ros, 1994; Webb & Palincsar, 1996). A second important component of successful cooperative learning is that students perceive some sense of group cohesion. They need to feel part of their CL teams and feel at ease with each other. Chin, Salisbury, Pearson, and Stollak, (1999) and Cohen (1994) pointed out that the activity level in the group is at its best when students feel at home in the group. Thirdly, there has to be a sense of interdependence within the group (Johnson & Johnson, 1994; Ros, 1994). Team members have to feel responsible for each other's learning process and in some way have to depend on each other. Students in a team should rely on each other and provide each other with academic and emotional support. Fourthly, students’ attitudes towards CL instruction methods should be positive. Students need to be motivated in order to be successful cooperators. Motivation and the quality of cooperative learning In the preceding section we defined the quality of CL. In this section we focus on variables that affect the quality of CL. The focal point of this dissertation is formed by two foci in exploring CL processes in secondary vocational schools, namely goal preferences and contextual factors. Students need to be motivated in order to be successful cooperative learners. Without the appropriate motivation, failing cooperative learning processes may be the result instead. For instance, students might continue to work individually instead of in teams (Vedder, 1985; Veenman, Kenter, & Post, 1999), or some students might reduce effort by letting other team members do all the work (Gagné & Zuckerman, 1999), or simply disturb each others’ learning (Salomon & Perkins, 1998: Shanahan, 1998). Forms of failing CL processes are explained by ineffective motivational self-regulation strategies. We view motivational processes as an intricate part of students’ self-regulation, namely that part that is steered by students’ values and goal preferences. It is generally assumed that students’ steer their behavior in the direction of valued goals and away from non-valued goals (Boekaerts, Pintrich, & Zeidner, 2000). Therefore, we expect that students’ motivation depends on the connection between students’ personal goal preferences and the school goals, a person incorporation or acceptance of school goals will have a positive impact on the quality of CL in schools, whereas an aversive relationship between personal and school goals will likely result in problematic
  14. 14. 14 school adjustment. When we relate this to the aforementioned four components of successful CL, it is expected that only with a positive connection between personal and school goals, students will invest in building a sense of group cohesion, in being supportive to create interdependence and they will invest in learning the appropriate CL skills. Generally, their attitudes towards CL will be positive. Hence, we expect that to a certain extent, students’ goal preferences predict the quality of cooperative learning processes. Contextual factors and the quality of CL We expect that contextual factors will also predict the quality of learning processes to an important extent. The way CL is organized, the way the teacher guides the CL process and the availability of social support from teachers and peers will affect the quality of CL. Also, characteristics that are related to students’ ethnocultural background are expected to influence the quality of CL processes. Even though the school achievements of immigrant students who were born in the Netherlands (second generation immigrants) has considerably improved over the last 15 years, they are nevertheless not leveling Dutch students’ performance and are characterized by higher levels of grade repetition and drop-out (Glenn & De Jong, 1996). Many studies report a relationship between school performance and students’ ethnocultural background, but only few studies analyzed the underlying processes that explain immigrant students’ educational position in the Netherlands (e.g., Boekaerts, 1998; Teunissen & Mathijssen, 1996). The present study addresses this latter question by exploring to what extent and through what processes students’ ethnocultural background influences the quality of students’ learning in settings inviting them to get involved in cooperative problem solving. The focal point of this dissertation is therefore the exploration of cooperative learning processes in secondary vocational schools from the point of view of students’ goal preferences and contextual factors. Here, we want to emphasize that the study is not an intervention study, but a descriptive one. In our view, it is a prerequisite of an intervention to have a thorough understanding of the complexity of factors that determine students’ engagement in cooperative learning. Aim and design of the study The main aim of this thesis is to define the role of goal preferences in the quality of CL processes and to identify factors in the classroom context that teachers can manipulate in
  15. 15. 15 order to promote effective CL processes and to prevent forms of misregulation. Special attention will be paid to differences between students that are related to their gender, program type, and ethnocultural backgrounds. By gaining more insight into these relationships we hope to be able to provide some leads for future interventions that aim at improving students’ motivation for CL and the quality of their learning processes as well to help in preventing drop-out in the long run. The first wave of data-collection took place from January till May of 2002. The second wave took place from October 2002 till January 2003, and the third wave started in April and ended in June 2003. During each wave of data collection students completed several questionnaires. During the first data-wave teachers also filled in a short questionnaire. Eighteen CL teams were video-taped and interviewed during the second and third data-wave. During the first data-wave students were halfway their first year. The second data-wave took place halfway their second year, and the third at the end of their second year. Research questions Four broad questions are central to this study, namely: 1. What is the relationship between the quality of CL and students’ goal preferences and contextual factors in the classroom? Do goal preferences add to the prediction of the quality of cooperative learning, or are other variables, such as the way CL is organized (e.g., the way the teacher instructs the CL process and the availability of social support) more important variables in predicting the quality of Cooperative Learning? What is the effect of gender and program type on these relationships? We predict that belongingness, social support and mastery goals are positively and superiority goal preferences negatively related to the quality of CL. Furthermore, we hypothesize that the students’ perception of the quality of CL will be poor when they score low on the context and social climate variables. 2. How can effective CL teams be distinguished from ineffective ones, and what distinguishes them in terms of the students’ goal preferences and perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom?
  16. 16. 16 We expect that in effective CL teams, students’ social and mastery goals will be dominant. We expect that effective CL teams perceive contextual factors as promoting mastery and social goals as these are challenging, hands-on, and promoting interdependency. These teams are preferably not too big so that effects of social loafing are minimal and team members get along and support each other in a beneficial way. Team members of effective teams are also expected to evaluate their teachers as specialists who are guiding the learning process sufficiently, and they evaluate the school climate as transparent and supporting. In ineffective teams we expect that team members’ social, superiority and affective goals are more important than their mastery goals. These students are expected to be preoccupied with their well-being and therefore less involved with the learning process. Furthermore, we expect these team members to be less involved in goal planning, and less conscious of their goals than effective team members. We anticipate that members of ineffective teams evaluate the group task as boring and too theoretical. They might experience difficulties in getting along and perceive teachers as controlling or lacking compassion. 3. Which teacher related conditions are related to the quality of CL processes, and are these relationships stable in the course of a year? We expect that the extent that students were taught skills, knowledge and rules for CL best predicts the quality at all three data-waves best. Also, we expect to find differences between effective and ineffective cooperators with respect to whether the stability of particular teacher related conditions for CL is beneficial or not to their CL. 4. Can we distinguish between separate profiles of person variables (Dutch language proficiency and goal preferences) and context variables (social resources and school belonging) that account for variations in the quality of CL and does ethnic background play a role in explaining differences in these profiles and the quality of CL? We expect students that have profiles characterized by high values on social support, belongingness, and mastery goals, negative or low scores on superiority goals, high values on Dutch language proficiency, high scores on perceived availability of teacher and peer support, high scores on school and peer identification and negative scores on school and peer
  17. 17. 17 alienation, to report high quality of CL and vice versa for students who report low quality of CL. Structure of the thesis The rest of this thesis consists of four studies that read as articles. In the final chapter we will formulate general conclusions, based on the findings of the four studies. The chapters were intended as independent articles. Therefore each chapter starts with an abstract and a short introduction about the relevant theories. Each chapter also has its own conclusions and discussion section and list of references. Some of the texts overlap because of this reason. The first Chapter deals with the first research question, namely the relationship between students’ goal preferences, their perceptions of contextual factors and the quality of CL. In this Chapter we will also present the investigation of the role of students’ gender and their program type in predicting the quality of CL. This Chapter functions as a broad context for the other three Chapters, because it deals with all the variables (except for the role of students’ ethnocultural background) that were expected to be related to the quality of CL, and are explored into more detail in the rest of the thesis. In Chapter 3, an in-depth study on profiles of effective and ineffective CL teams is presented. Students were interviewed and took part in a stimulated recall setting where they were interviewed about their CL processes. This study serves as a qualitative clarification of the quantitative findings of the first study. Those findings are contextualized into more detail, by focusing on real-life observations and stimulated recall sessions. In Chapter four, the third research question is answered. The study has a longitudinal design and deals with conditions for effective CL, in the course of a year. We attempt to identify conditions that predict effective CL processes and conditions that predict failing CL processes, in the course of a year. In Chapter 5, the role of students’ ethnocultural background in the relation between goal preferences and the quality of CL is investigated. Chapter 6 deals with general conclusions and implications that are based on the conclusions from the four articles.
  18. 18. 18 References Angenent, H. (1997). Criminaliteit van allochtone jongeren [Criminal behavior of immigrant youngsters]. Baarn: Intro. Batenburg, TH. (1998). De loopbaan na het MBO van voortijdig schoolverlaters [Drop outs’ careers after secondary vocational school]. Groningen:GION. Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F., (2002). Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 371-399 Boekaerts, M. (1998). Do culturally rooted self-construals affect students'conceptualization of control over learning? Educational Psychologist, 33, 87-108. Boekaerts, M., Pintrich, P., & Zeidner, M. (2000). Handbook of Self-Regulation. San Diego: Academic Press. Chin, W., Salisbury, D., Pearson, A., & Stollak, M. (1999). Perceived cohesion in small groups. Small Group Research, 30, 751-766. Cohen, E. G. (1994). Restructuring the classroom: Conditions for productive small groups. Review of Educational Research, 64, 1-35. Compas, B. E., Hinden, B., & Gerhardt, C. (1995). Adolescent development: Pathways and processes of risk and resilience. Annual Review of Psychology, 46, 265-293. Eurydice database on education (n.d.). Retrieved November, 5, 2004, from http://www.eurydice.org. Gagné, M., & Zuckermann, M. (1999). Performance and learning goal orientations as moderators of social loafing and social facilitation. Small Group Research, 30, 524-541. Glenn, Ch., & De Jong, E. (1996). Educating immigrant children: Schools and language minorities in twelve nations. New York: Garland. Hofman, R., & Vonkeman E. (1995). Condities voor adaptief onderwijs: De Onderwijsmethode [Conditions for adaptive education: the instructional method]. Groningen: GION/RUG. Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1994). Learning together and alone: Cooperative, competitive, and individualistic learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Maughan, B., & Rutter, M. (1998). Continuities and discontinuities in antisocial behavior from childhood to adult life. In Advances in Clinical Child Psychology (eds T. H. Ollendick & R. J. Prinz), pp. 1-47. New York: Plenum.
  19. 19. 19 Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2005). Retrieved November, 5, 2005, from http://www.minocw.nl/bve/informatiebo.html#organisatie Moffitt, T. E. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674-701. National Council of Education (2005). Retrieved November, 5, 2005, from http://www.onderwijsraad.nl/pdfdocs/persbericht_werk_en_ervarings onderwijs_voor_jongeren_tot_23_jaar.pdf Neuvel, J. (2004). Veiligheidsmonitor 2004 ROC veilig [Safety monitor 2004 ROC safe]. Den Bosch: Centrum voor Innovatie van Opleidingen (CINOP). Ros, A. A. (1994). Samenwerking tussen leerlingen en effectief onderwijs [Cooperation between students and effective education]. Dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Rozendaal, J. S. (2002). Motivation and information processing in innovative secondary vocational education. Leiden University: Doctoral dissertation. Salomon, G., & Perkins, D. N. (1998). Individual and social aspects of learning. In: P.D. Pearson & A. Iran- Nejad (Eds.), Review of Research in Education (pp.1-24). Washington: American Educational Research Association. School Inspectorate (2002). Vroegtijdig schoolverlaten in het middelbaar beroepsonderwijs [Drop-out in secondary vocational schools]. Utrecht: Inspectie van het Onderwijs. Shanahan, T. (1998). On the effectiveness and limitations of tutoring in reading. In : P.D. Pearson & A. Iran-Nejad (Eds.). Review of research in education, vol. 23 (1-24). Washington AERA. Slaats, A. (1999). Learning styles in secondary vocational education: disciplinary differences. Learning and Instruction, 9, 475-492. Teunissen, J., & Matthijssen, M. (1996). Stagnatie in onderwijsonderzoek naar de etnische factor bij allochtone leerlingen [Stagnation in educational research on the ethnic factor amongst immigrant students] Sociologische Gids, 43, 87- 99. Van den Dool, P., & Janssen, A. (1994). Schoolloopbaanmanagement en – begeleiding in het secundair beroepsonderwijs [School career management and – guidance in secondary vocational schools]. In P. Stijnen, H. Münstermann, N. Deen & J. van Kuijk (Red.), Management en begeleiding van schoolloopbanen. Alphen a/d Rijn: Samsom, Tjeen Willink. Vedder, P. (1985). Cooperative learning: A study on processes and effects of cooperation between primary school children. Dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.
  20. 20. 20 Veenman, S., Kenter, B., & Post, K. (2000). Cooperative learning in Dutch primary classrooms. Educational Studies, 26, 281-302. Voncken, E., Van der Kuip, I., Moerkamp, T., & Felix, C. (2000). Je bent jong en je weet niet wat je wilt: Een inventarisatie van push- en pullfactoren die leiden tot voortijdig schoolverlaten in de BVE-sector [You are young and you do not know what you want: an inventory of push- and pull factors that lead to drop-out in secondary vocational education]. Amsterdam: SCO-Kohnstamm. Webb, N. M., & Palincsar, A. S. (1996). Group processes in the classroom. In: D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds), Handbook of Educational Psychology (pp. 841 - 873). New York: Simon & Schuster MacMillan.
  21. 21. 21 Chapter 2 THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE QUALITY OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING, STUDENTS’ GOAL PREFERENCES AND PERCEPTIONS OF CONTEXTUAL FACTORS IN THE CLASSROOM 1 Abstract This study examined relationships between the quality of cooperative learning (CL) and students’ goal preferences and perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom. Subjects were 1,920 students in secondary vocational schools. The study focused on four different types of goals: social support, belongingness, mastery, and superiority goals. It was found that social support goals had the strongest relation with the quality of CL. Further we found that the quality of CL was best predicted by a combination of social support goals, evaluations of the extent that students were taught cooperation skills, perception of teacher monitoring behavior, and the availability of academic and emotional peer support. Female students’ preferences for mastery and social goals were stronger than those of male students, whereas male students had a stronger preference for superiority goals. Program type functioned as a moderator variable within the relation of students’ superiority/ individuality goals and the quality of CL. Key words: motivation, cooperative learning, contextual factors, vocational education. 1 This chapter is based on: Hijzen, Boekaerts and Vedder (2006). The relationship between the quality of cooperative learning, students’ goal preferences and perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom. Manuscript published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 47, 9 - 21.
  22. 22. 22 INTRODUCTION This paper reports a study into the relationship between motivational processes, contextual factors and the quality of cooperative learning (CL) processes of adolescent students in secondary vocational education in the Netherlands. We view motivational processes as an intricate part of the students’ self-regulation process, namely that part that is steered by their values and goal preferences. It is generally assumed that students steer their behavior in the direction of valued goals and away from non-valued goals (Boekaerts, Pintrich & Zeidner, 2000). This is not to say that students are working with a clear goal dichotomy in mind; personally valued and non-valued goals. Rather, our position is that many goals are located in between these two extremes. Indeed, students are presented with multiple goals in the school context. Some students might classify these goals in terms of desirable and undesirable ones but for the majority of students the classification process might be more complex. Several researchers, such as Deci and Ryan (1985) and Ryan and Deci (2000) argued that most students will determine to what extent school goals are similar to – or might be combined with – personally liked goals; they try to bridge the span between imposed and personal goals, by “personalizing” the former type of goals (e.g., Lemos, 2002). We assume that students’ motivation levels at school largely depend on their perceptions of the connection between their personal goals and the school goals. We expect that the students’ perception of the quality of CL depends to a large extent on the goal preferences that they bring into the classroom. On the other hand we expect that their perception of the classroom context itself, and more specifically the way they perceive teacher behavior and the support they get from teacher and peers, determines the quality of CL as well. For example, we expect that the students’ perceptions of the extent to which they were taught cooperation skills (How information) and the social reasons they consider important for CL (Why information) will affect how they appraise the quality of CL. For future intervention purposes, attention to how students perceive the CL setting is of prime importance. Our position is that, although students’ goal preferences have a large impact on their perception of the quality of CL, it is difficult to influence their goal preferences in a short period of time. By contrast, information about the contextual factors that influence students’ perception of CL may provide researchers with useful information to hand down to teachers and trainers. We realize that adaptations to classroom settings are much easier to generate than changes in students’ goal preferences.
  23. 23. 23 In this paper, we attempt to expand the focus of goal preferences from the achievement domain to the social domain, acknowledging the large role played by students’ perception of the social context. The article is organized into three main sections. First, we describe the quality of CL as the general beliefs students have about the reasons for learning with and from each other and their awareness of how they have to go about learning in the CL setting. Second, we describe the relation between goal preferences and CL. In the third section we describe how goal preferences and perception of contextual factors is conceptualized in the present study and report on the results. --------------------------------------- Insert Figure 1 about here --------------------------------------- The quality of cooperative learning CL is not just a learning theory or a teaching method, it refers to a set of instructional principles that together describe how students might learn from and with each other and, through working together, accomplish academic tasks. Successful CL situations require in the first place that students have positive beliefs about CL. In order to feel responsible for group learning students also need to be aware of the skills that should be used and have easy access to these skills. For example, students should make use of a number of cooperation skills, including the skill to express their own opinion, stimulate each other, provide and receive help, listen to each other and clarify their current understanding of the task (Cohen, 1994; Ros, 1994; Webb & Palincsar, 1996). Furthermore, students need to feel responsible for each other’s learning process and experience a sense of group cohesion and interdependence (Johnson & Johnson, 1994; Ros, 1994; Webb & Palincsar, 1996). Chin, Salisbury, Pearson and Stollak (1999) and Cohen (1994) pointed out that the activity level in the group is at its best when students feel at home in the group. Based on a literature review we defined the students’ perception of the quality of CL in terms of their perception of the group cohesion and their own skills to participate successfully in CL. It is easy to imagine that the shift of responsibilities from teacher to students that is implied by CL may come with a variety of problems when students lack a positive attitude towards CL or the skills to work together. For example, students may take the opportunity to work alone instead of together (Vedder, 1985; Veenman, Kenter & Post, 2000), they may
  24. 24. 24 disturb each other’s learning processes (Salomon & Perkins, 1998; Shanahan, 1998) or reduce effort, resulting in lowered levels of engagement (Gagné & Zuckerman, 1999). We assume that these and similar problems come about because the students perceive the quality of CL as suboptimal. Goal preferences and cooperative learning We divided the studies that examined the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of the learning process into two categories. The first category examined the relationship between one type of goal, namely achievement goals, and the quality of the learning process. The second category focused on the relationship between multiple goals and the quality of the learning process. Several researchers took the mastery vs. performance dichotomy as their frame of reference (e.g., Ames & Archer, 1988; Dweck, 1986; Urdan, 1999). These studies documented that students who are mastery-oriented engage in tasks because they want to acquire new knowledge and skills; their purpose is to develop competence. Performance oriented students on the other hand, want to demonstrate competence relative to others. Boggiano, Main, Flink, Barrett, Silvern and Katz (1989) and Dweck (1986) suggested that students who have a strong preference for performance goals might easily run into problems when they have to cooperate. These students might interpret unsolicited help and support as a threat to their ego, leading to avoidance of CL situations. Functioning as a group member may contrast with their wish to perform well at a more individual level (see also Schwartz & Bardi, 2001). By contrast, mastery goals are associated with high levels of performance on personally challenging tasks in general. Students who pursue mastery goals are not focused on out-besting their peers, they are academically oriented and want to learn something new, even when it implies a lot of effort. Although many studies have been conducted on the relationship between these two goal orientations and learning (for review, see Pintrich, 2000), it is still unclear how these goal preferences are interrelated in CL contexts. In part this is due to the fact that most of the reported studies dealt with learning in general rather than with learning in CL settings. A more complex perspective on goals preferences was adopted in the second category of studies. Several researchers (Boekaerts, 1998, Dowson & McInerney, 2001; Ford, 1992; Ford & Nicholls, 1991; Lemos, 1996; Wentzel, 1996) argued that students bring different types of goals to the learning situation. In addition to achievement goals, students pursue
  25. 25. 25 entertainment goals (e.g., I want to have fun at school), self determination goals (e.g., I want to determine myself how I do things), working goals (e.g. I want to finish that task) belongingness goals (e.g., I want to make many friends) and social support goals (e.g., I want to provide help to peers). Urdan and Maehr (1995) argued that social goals concern the social reasons for trying to achieve in academic situations and consequently these goals play a crucial role in a CL setting. Social goals are important to children of all ages (Ford, 1992), particularly to adolescents who often consider these goals to be more important than academic learning goals (Covington, 2000). In this respect, McInerney, Hinkley, Dowson and Van Etten (1998) suggested that a combination of mastery (academic) and social goal orientations might be more productive than mastery goals alone because feelings of belongingness and social responsibility engendered by social goals provide added impetus for academic achievement. Wentzel’s (1991) studies clarified the effect of social goals on learning. She showed that pro- social behavior is positively associated with academic success (Ford, 1992; Wentzel, 1993; 1994) and that CL facilitates goal realization for those students who like to work in CL settings and value group cohesion. Likewise, Connell, and Wellborn (1991) and Wentzel (1994) suggested that a sense of belongingness facilitates the adoption of the goals that are valued by the social group to which one belongs. The desire of individuals to achieve for the sake of the group is a well-known phenomenon, and it forms the basis for much of the success of CL (Hertz-Lazarowitz & Miller, 1992). Goal preferences and perception of contextual factors in the present study We adjusted Ford’s taxonomy (Ford, 1992; Ford & Nicholls, 1991) to measure a broad range of intra- and interpersonal goals. In the present study, we limited the focus to four types of goal preferences that are central to CL settings, namely mastery goals (e.g., I want to learn about my future profession), superiority/individuality goals (e.g., I want to impress my peers), social support goals (e.g., I want to help classmates with their tasks), and belongingness goals (e.g., I want to make many friends). In line with Hickey and Granade (2004) and Urdan (1997) we assume that the environment exerts a major influence on the salience of a particular goal and its adoption. Boekaerts, De Koning, and Vedder (in press) reviewed studies that examined the relationship between contextual variables and goal preferences. They listed the context factors that play an important role in the classroom. We based our selection of contextual factors on this review as well as on reviews of studies on CL (e.g. Cohen, 1994;
  26. 26. 26 Webb & Palincsar, 1996). More specifically, in this study we concentrate on instructional characteristics, such as the type of task, the type of evaluation/rewards, teacher instruction behavior, teachers’ clarity on rules for CL, and students’ evaluations of the extent that they were taught CL skills. We also measured the students’ perception of school climate, including their perceptions of the availability of teacher’s academic and emotional support, and the availability of peer academic and emotional support. Research on instructional characteristics revealed that it is essential for effective cooperation that the task elicits positive interdependence (see Cohen, 1994). This implies that students should perceive the task as challenging, but not too complex, and that group assignments are structured in such a way that each group member’s actions relate to and are required for task completion. The role of reward in CL is not altogether clear yet. For example, Slavin (1995; 1996) concluded in a meta-analysis that the effects of CL on students’ achievement are maximal and the risk at social loafing are minimal, when a group reward is combined with individual accountability for learning and learning outcomes. Other researchers (e.g., Cohen, 1994; Deci & Ryan, 1985) suggested that a combination of a group reward and an individual reward will undermine the group process. Teacher (instruction) behavior has proved to be an important factor in several studies. Teachers should facilitate students to complete the group assignments increasingly by themselves. They also need to monitor their students’ learning process and intervene when necessary to provide assistance or to model students’ social skills (see Johnson & Johnson, 1994), especially when students are not yet used to cooperating. Students prone to off-task behavior should be monitored in particular. Drawing attention to the teacher’s role in CL settings, Webb and Palincsar (1996) illustrated that in order to promote CL, teachers should not only define the group assignment adequately; they should also be clear about the rules for CL; i.e., teach the required concepts and strategies and give the criteria for success (see also Johnson & Johnson, 2002). Webb and Palincsar described comprehensive programs of team building and prosocial skill development that improve peer-to-peer interaction and through it students’ social goals. Many other scholars (e.g., Gillies & Ashman, 1996; Hoek, Van den Eeden, & Terwel, 1999; Webb & Farivar, 1994) have shown that explicit teaching of CL skills coincides with an improvement of the quality of CL. The quality of CL is also promoted by a social climate that is characterized by optimal academic and emotional support from teacher and peers. Wentzel (1994) and Wentzel and Wigfield (1998) showed that a supportive social climate promotes group cohesion, the use of cooperation skills, and students’ attitude towards CL. In such a climate students feel respected
  27. 27. 27 and supported when asking for help. It has also become increasingly clear that a sense of relatedness with the teacher promotes pro-social behavior, particularly adaptive help-seeking behavior (Brenner & Salovey, 1997; Newman & Schwager, 1993) and the pursuit of social support goals. Students experiencing autonomy support and optimal structure were more likely to be effortful and persistent while completing learning tasks. Our prediction is that students’ perception of the availability of academic and emotional support from peers crucially affects their perception of the quality of CL. A learning environment characterized by social resources will give students confidence that they can rely on each other for support with their school work. In this study we are dealing with adolescents in vocational education. Adolescents must adjust to peer pressure and norms not only with respect to academic performance but also in relation to interpersonal rules for help seeking, helping others, turn taking, and sharing resources. Accordingly, we anticipate that peers will play a larger role than teachers when it comes to turning for assistance. Gender differences Early studies (e.g., Gardner, 1993; Gardner, Mason & Matyas, 1989) suggested that girls benefit more from cooperative classroom settings than boys. Several studies, among others those of Anderman (1999), Charlesworth & Dzur (1987) and Cosden, Pearl, and Bryan (1985) revealed that girls are more inclined to engage in behavior associated with successful CL, such as helping others, verbal organization, and turn taking. A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2003) also indicates that girls are – in general – more interested in CL than boys. Eccles (1987) and Wentzel (1991) showed that female students, as compared to their male contemporaries, prefer to learn in settings in which they can combine mastery (understanding tasks) and social goals (being with friends, supporting others, creating a sense of belonging and security). Voncken, van der Kuip, Moerkamp, and Felix (2000) showed that the way female students experience school is related to feelings of group cohesion. All these studies imply that female students rate the quality of CL processes higher than male students. In contrast, school is perceived by male students as a competitive arena, which makes social comparisons and peer pressure dominant in their mental representation of the learning situation. Severiens and Ten Dam (1998) conducted a meta analysis and reported that male students scored higher on a non-academic orientation than female students and that male students scored higher than females on superiority/ individuality goals and lower on both types of social goals. Based on the
  28. 28. 28 literature, we expect female students to show higher scores on belongingness and social support goals than male students. We also expect differences in the extent to which male and female students pursue mastery goals. More specifically, we predict that male students will have a lower rating of the quality of CL. In short, we expect gender to function as a moderator variable in the relationship between students’ goal preferences and their perception of the quality of CL. Program type differences As far as we know, no specific research has been done using different program types. Four program types are represented in our sample, namely information and communications technology (ICT) and engineering, retail and administration, health and welfare, and food and tourism programs. It is important to note that male and female students are not equally distributed over these program types and that this uneven distribution might lead to a program type effect that masks an underlying gender effect. Therefore, we will explore program type effects for male and female students separately. Learning how to take care of others is an important aspect of the health and welfare program and students who enroll in this program consider “care” as an important aspect of their future job image. It comes as no surprise that girls are over-represented in this program. We expect that students enrolled in the health and welfare program show a preference for both types of social goals. By contrast, ICT and engineering students look forward to a professional career in a company where they are paid well. They imagine their future in terms of an adventure in the world of bonuses and free company cars. Boys are over-represented in these program types. We expect these students to be oriented more towards superiority/ individuality goals than to social goals. We did not have clear expectations in relation to the two other program types, albeit that we expected food and tourism students to report a higher preference for social goals than the ICT/engineering students due to the alleged lower social orientation of the latter type of students. Health and welfare students are expected to report higher perceptions of the quality of CL, because these professional groups are seen as more socially oriented. We anticipate that ICT and engineering students score lower on the quality of CL. In line with the expected differences in the scores on the quality of CL and goal preferences, we expect the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL to differ between the program types, particularly between the health and welfare and ICT/engineering programs.
  29. 29. 29 In summary, we will explore the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL. We predict that belongingness, social support and mastery goals are positively related and superiority/individuality goal preferences negatively related to the quality of CL. Our second research question pertains to the relationship between the quality of CL and perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom, including social climate. We predict that the students’ perception of the quality of CL will be perceived as poor when students score low on the context and social climate variables. We will also explore gender and program type effects on the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL. We predict that female students score higher than male students on the quality of CL and that female students report higher preferences for social support and mastery goals whereas male students report higher preferences for superiority goals. As far as program type effects are concerned, we hypothesized that health and welfare students and food and tourism students score higher on the quality of CL and on social goals, particularly in comparison with ICT and engineering students. We will examine whether gender and program type moderate the relationship between goal preferences and perceptions of the quality of CL. METHOD Subjects The present study is part of a larger project on motivational self-regulation in secondary vocational high schools. Participants in the study were 1920 first-year students from 11 different secondary vocational schools in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has 42 regional educational centers for secondary vocational education. They all received a letter in which we explained the purpose and relevance of the study and invited them to participate. Eleven schools responded positively. The other schools had a variety of reasons for not participating. The most frequent reasons concerned the time investment of students and teachers and the extra organizational burden of participation in a large research project. The eleven schools that participated were spread evenly across the Netherlands. The students’ age ranged from 15 to 55 years and 5 months with an average of 18 years and 1 month (SD = 3.56 years). About 18% of the participating students had an immigrant background (defined in terms of either the students’ own country of origin or the country of origin of at least one of the parents). Table 1 shows the distribution of participating students by gender and program type. Most students were enrolled in health and welfare programs. More than three quarters of the health and welfare students were female. Relatively few students were enrolled in engineering and ICT and these students were predominantly male.
  30. 30. 30 ----------------------------- Insert Table 1 and 2 about here ------------------------------ Instruments Students were invited to complete several self-report questionnaires. Here, we focus on students’ goal preferences, students’ perception of contextual factors in the classroom and the quality of CL. Data collection took place in the second semester of the students’ first year. Table 2 presents an overview of scales, sample items and Cronbach’s alphas of the different scales used in this study. Students’ personal goals were assessed with the goal preference list based on the Ford (1992) and Ford and Nichols (1991) taxonomy of broad goals. Students had to report on the importance they attach to each of the goals by giving an indication of the extent to which they want to achieve them. They were asked to choose from five response categories ranging from “not at all” to “very much so”. Four goal domains were highly relevant for the quality of CL: superiority and individuality goals, mastery goals, belongingness goals and social support goals. The students’ perception of the quality of CL was measured with the questionnaire for the Quality of Cooperative Learning (QCL). Originally the list comprised four subscales, namely students’ perception of the quality of group cohesion, which was made up of seven items, Cronbach’s alpha was 0.86. The second subscale measured interdependence within the group, and had 7 items, Cronbach’s alpha was 0.83. The third subscale measured students’ perception of the quality of their cooperation skills, this subscale was made up of 10 items and Cronbach’s alpha was 0.83. The fourth subscale aimed to measure students’ attitude towards CL, it contained 8 items and Cronbach’s alpha was 0.75. These subscales were highly correlated and were all part of the quality of CL. A Principal Component Analysis on these four subscales resulted in one-factor solution. This factor had an Eigenvalue of 1.8 and it explained 58% of the total variance. Sample items were “I perceive myself as part of this group”, “When we work on a group task, we make sure that all the team members understand the answers”, “I know when another person needs help” and “Together you learn better than alone”. Students had to indicate on a four-point Likert scale to what extent they agreed with each statement. Response categories ranged from “I disagree very strongly” to “I agree very strongly”. Students’ perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom were measured with a questionnaire registering the Conditions for CL (CCL). This questionnaire measures students’
  31. 31. 31 perception of the extent that teachers create or maintain conditions for the quality of CL. Items are mainly based on reviews of studies on CL (e.g., Cohen, 1994; Webb & Palincsar, 1996). Four single items (response categories: 1= yes, 2 = no) concerned students’ perceptions of the type of task; these were about task difficulty, task challenge, the time for the task and the need to consult group members in order to finish the task. One single item concerned the type of reward students received after finishing the group task. The CCL further measured the students’ evaluation of the extent that they were taught skills and knowledge for CL at their present schools, rules for CL, and teacher behavior in relation to CL. This latter scale consists of three subscales focusing on teachers’ monitoring behavior, interventions and evaluations. Students had to report on a four-point Likert scale to what extent they agreed with each item (1 = I completely disagree, 4 = I completely agree). Four scales derived from the Questionnaire for Social Support (Boekaerts, 1987; Vedder, Boekaerts & Seegers, 2005) measured students’ perceptions of the availability of academic and emotional support from their teachers, and perceptions of the availability of academic and emotional support from their peers. Students had to indicate how often their teachers or peers provided them with emotional and academic support. Response categories (4) ranged from “almost never” to “very often”. Procedure The questionnaires were administered during regularly scheduled lessons and the students were instructed and supervised by the researchers. Each student received a personal code, meaning that answers remained confidential. It took students two sessions of 45 minutes to complete all the questionnaires. These sessions were spread over two different days, which explains the different sample sizes. Many students failed to attend classes at both sessions. Some students simply refused to cooperate with us the second time or to fill in the entire questionnaires. The drop-out was therefore unsystematic. RESULTS Students’ goal preferences and the quality of cooperative learning ------------------------------------------------------------ Insert Table 3 about here ---------------------------------------------------------
  32. 32. 32 Table 3 presents mean scores, standard deviations and correlation coefficients for the four scales of the goal questionnaire, the scales for students’ perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom and the scales for students’ perceptions of the social climate for the whole sample. The table shows that students were quite optimistic about the quality of the CL processes and that mastery was the most important goal domain among all students. Belongingness and social support goals were also rated as important goal domains. Superiority/individuality, however, was the least important goal domain. We expected that students who value social and mastery goals perceive the quality of CL as high and that students who value superiority/individuality goals perceive it as low. Results presented in Table 3 indeed show that attaching importance to both mastery and social goals relates positively to the quality of CL. Social support goals showed the highest correlation coefficient (r 1339) = 0.33, p = .000). The correlation with belongingness goals (r (1281) = 0.23, p = .000) and mastery goals (1262) = 0.23, p = .000) was slightly lower. Superiority/individuality goals were not significantly related to the quality of CL, although in contrast with our prediction, the correlation coefficient was not a negative one. Students’ perceptions of contextual factors and the quality of CL Apart from a positive relationship between students’ social and mastery goal preferences and the quality of CL, we also predicted that the quality of CL would be related to students’ perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom, as defined by the type of task, reward systems, students’ evaluations of the extent to which they were taught CL skills, teachers’ clarity on rules for CL, teachers instruction behavior, and aspects of social climate. Inspection of significant correlation coefficients (above 0.20) between students’ perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom revealed that students’ evaluation of the extent that they were taught CL skills at their present schools was positively related to the quality of CL (r (1465) = 0.35, p = .000) and so was the students’ perception of the teachers’ clarity on rules for CL (r (1416) = 0.24, p = .000) and monitoring behavior (r (1453) = 0.20, p = .000). A closer look at the social climate scales showed that our expectations were confirmed. Both perceived availability of peer academic (r (1343) = 0.28, p = .000) and emotional support (r (1336) = 0.30, p = .000) were related to the quality of CL. The scales for perception of the availability of teacher support were also related to the quality of CL (r (1327) = 0.21, p = .000).
  33. 33. 33 Gender differences --------------------------------- Insert Table 4 about here ---------------------------------- We expected gender and program type differences for students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL. However, as explained in the Method section male and female students were not evenly distributed over the different program types. For the following analyses we excluded ICT/engineering students, because only 6% of these students were females. Table 4 shows means, standard deviations and F -values for the four goal preference subscales and the quality of CL, for male and female students separately. Univariate analyses showed that the main gender effects concern social support (F [1,1340] = 35.61, p = .000, 2 = .03), superiority (F [1,1274] = 29.74, p = .000, 2 = .02) and mastery goals (F [1,1249] = 9.53, p = .002, 2 = .01). As predicted, male students’ scores are significantly higher in the superiority goal domain, whereas female students show higher scores for social support goals and mastery goals. No significant differences were found for belongingness goals. The difference for male and female students on the quality of CL subscale is small but statistically significant (F [1, 1207] = 12.66, p = 0.000, 2 = .01). Girls’ scores are slightly higher than boys’ scores. We examined the correlation coefficients that were significant at the p < 0.01 level using Fisher’s z transformations of r’s. No significant differences were found between the two samples. We conclude that gender does not moderate the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL. Next, we will investigate program type differences. Program type differences The influence of program type differences were analyzed for male and female students separately, because males and females were not evenly distributed across program types. For female students we excluded comparisons that include ICT/engineering students since female students were hardly represented in this program type. Univariate analyses showed significant effects of program type for male students in three goal domains: social support (F[3, 619] 11.47, p = .000, 2 = .05), mastery (F[3, 570] = 4.09, p = .007, 2 = .02) and superiority goals (F[3, 588] = 4.47, p = .004, 2 = .02). The significant program type effect for female students concerned social support (F[3, 1007] = 2.71, p = .040, 2 = .00). Table 5
  34. 34. 34 presents means and standard deviations for the goal domains, the quality of CL subscales as well as the results of post hoc multiple comparison tests (Scheffé; p < 0.05). As can be seen in Table 5, health and welfare male students scored significantly higher on social support goals than retail and administration and ICT/engineering male students did. This confirmed our expectation that health and welfare students, including the male students, show a preference for social support goals. Interestingly, the male health and welfare students were more mastery-oriented than their male food and tourism peers. In line with our expectations, male ICT/engineering students scored higher on superiority goals. Overall, the ICT group seemed to be a special group compared to the other groups; they had the lowest scores on social support and mastery goals. As expected, their scores differed most from the health and welfare group, who had the highest scores on most goal domains and also on the perceived quality of CL. We calculated the correlation coefficients between the quality of CL and the four goal domains within each of the four program types separately using Fisher’s z- transformations of r’s in order to test the significance of these differences. Significant differences were only found for the relationship between superiority goals and the students’ quality of CL. In the ICT/engineering (male) subgroup this correlation coefficient was positive (r (186) = 0.28, p = .000); in the health and welfare male subgroup no relation was found (r (136) = -0.03, ns; Z = 2.71, p = .003), and in the food male subgroup the correlation was negative (r (31) = -0.33, p = .063) (Z = 3.09, p = .001). The other correlation coefficients did not differ significantly between the program types. Since the predicted moderator effect of program type was limited to male students’ superiority goal preferences and the quality of CL, we may conclude that we can hardly speak of a moderator effect of program type. ------------------------------ Table 5 about here ------------------------------ Unique contribution of goal preferences and perceptions of contextual factors to the quality of CL ----------------- Insert Table 6 ------------------
  35. 35. 35 In order to examine the unique contribution of each of the related goal preferences and contextual variables to the quality of CL, hierarchical regression analyses were conducted with the students’ perception of the quality of CL as a dependent variable. In the first step we entered gender and program type, in the second step we entered the students’ perception of contextual factors, including their evaluations of the extent that they were taught CL skills at their present schools, their perceptions of teachers’ clarity on rules for CL, monitoring behavior, perceived availability of peer academic support and peer and teacher emotional support. In the third step we entered students’ goal preferences, including social support goals, belongingness goals, and mastery goals. In the fourth step, two-way “gender × goals” and “gender × context” interactions were entered and in the fifth step “program type × goals” and “program type × context” interactions were entered into the equation. The analyses did not yield significant interaction effects on step 4 and 5. Table 6 presents the results of the first three steps. Gender significantly contributed to the explained variance in the quality of CL. However, inclusion of contextual variables in the regression equation led to the disappearance of the unique contribution of gender. Further inspection of step 2 shows that 21% of the total variance was accounted for and that all contextual factors had a unique contribution to the explained variance in the quality of CL, except for teachers’ clarity on rules for CL and availability of teacher emotional support (see Table 6). When goal preferences were added in step three, 25% of the variance was explained. Hence, having information about students’ goal preferences explained 4% unique variance in the quality of CL and this was mainly due to the students’ score on the social support goals. DISCUSSION First of all we explored the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL. At the outset of the study, we predicted that belongingness, social support and mastery goals would be positively relatively and superiority/ individuality goal preferences negatively related to the quality of CL. The students in our sample gave most preference to mastery goals, followed by social support goals and belongingness goals. Social support goals had the strongest relationship with the quality of CL, again followed by mastery and belongingness goals. Students who value helping and supporting each other, rated the quality of CL higher, independent of their mastery and belongingness goals. We expected an overall negative relationship between students’ superiority/individuality goals and the quality of CL. However,
  36. 36. 36 superiority/individuality goals were not significantly related to the quality of CL, meaning that whether students are high or low on preference for this type of goal is unrelated to their perception of the quality of CL. This unexpected finding will be discussed later in relation to the program type differences that we found. Our second research question involved the relationship between the quality of CL and perceptions of contextual factors in the classroom, including social climate. We assumed that in order for students to cooperate well it is very important that they know how to cooperate in the first place. In other words, we assumed that the quality of CL will be poor when students indicate that they were not taught the necessary skills. Multiple regression analyses showed that all contextual variables made a significant contribution to the variance explained in CL, except the students’ perception of available emotional teacher support and the teacher’s clarity of rules for CL. Important predictors were the students’ awareness that they had been taught the necessary CL skills and that their teachers were monitoring their effective use of these skills. Interesting for future research is to explore whether this relationship changes over time. As predicted, perception of social climate was related to the quality of CL. Recall, that the simple correlations showed all four social climate variables to be related to the perceived quality of CL. In the regression analyses we noted that only perceived availability of emotional and academic peer support were related to the quality of CL. It seems plausible, therefore, that the higher students rate the availability of peer support the better they will cooperate. Thirdly, we explored gender and program type effects on the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL. Examination of gender differences in the relationship between students’ goal preferences and the quality of CL revealed that, as predicted, female students showed higher scores than male students on the quality of CL. Also in line with our expectations, female students reported higher preferences for social support and mastery goals whereas male students reported higher preferences for superiority goals. The findings suggest that female students, more than their male peers, feel confident in CL settings. These findings confirm previous findings (Eccles, 1987; Townsend & Hicks, 1997; Voncken et al., 2000; Wentzel, 1991). We did not find a gender moderator effect but the study revealed interesting program type effects. Because of their social orientation, we predicted that health and welfare students and food and tourism students score higher on the quality of CL, and on social goals, particularly in comparison with ICT and engineering students. This prediction was partially confirmed. Health and welfare students scored significantly higher on the perceived quality of CL and on
  37. 37. 37 social support goals than ICT/engineering students, but also higher than retail and administration students. These conclusions only pertain to male students. We explained previously that health and welfare students are preparing for a career that requires them to gain a favorable attitude toward and proficiency in social skills. We also found that health and welfare students scored significantly higher in relation to this goal domain than food and tourism students did. Another prediction was that ICT and engineering students report a higher preference for superiority goals in anticipation of their future job in the world of business. We found that these students scored higher on superiority goals than both the health and the food sub-samples and that they had the lowest scores on social support goals and mastery goals. The program type moderator effect was limited to the relationship between superiority/individuality goal preferences and the quality of CL. In the total sample the correlation between CL and superiority goals was non-significant. A stronger correlation was noted in the male samples of the ICT/engineering subgroup as compared to the correlations in the health and welfare and food and tourism subgroups. Interestingly, the direction of the relationship differed between program types as well. In the health and welfare sample no relation was found, meaning that whether or not these students give preference to superiority goals is independent of their perception of the quality of CL. In the food and tourism sample a negative correlation was found, implying that food and tourism students, who want to impress others and outperform their peers, report that the quality of CL is lower than peers who do not have this tendency. In the ICT/ engineering group, superiority goals were positively related to the quality of CL and this contradicted our predictions. However, in line with our discussion on program type dependent goal orientations it is conceivable that this dominantly male group, who scored significantly higher than the other groups on superiority goals, prefers group assignments that invite them to compete with their peers and with other groups. In this study we did not collect information on the nature of the curriculum or the group assignments set to the students in the different program types. It might be that the group assignments set in the socially oriented program types differ from those in program types that encourage students to be more superiority minded. Several researchers (e.g., Boggiano et al., 1989; Dweck, 1986) have argued that superiority goals are prevalent in traditional educational settings where competition and achievement goals are a crucial part of the learning process. More research is needed to study the underlying mechanisms of the program type effect. Recommendations
  38. 38. 38 Our main aim was to study the effect of goal preferences on CL and to identify factors that teachers can manipulate to promote successful CL and to prevent forms of misregulation (e.g. chatting, social loafing). Our findings to date are that the context plays a significant role in predicting the quality of CL. This is very promising. Indeed, adjustments in the context are much easier to bring about than changes in students’ goal preferences. Based on our findings we are able to provide some guidelines for future interventions. In the first place, it is important that teachers make students aware of what is required for working in a CL setting and teach the necessary and sufficient skills explicitly. More specifically, it is crucial that teachers teach their students how to listen to each other, to evaluate the group process, to discuss, to support group members, to give an opinion, or to solve group conflicts. Secondly it is important that teachers monitor the CL process, which means that they need to walk around in the classroom, frequently check with the groups and ask them how they are doing. Thirdly, teachers need to be aware that availability of peer support is essential for effective CL, emotional as well as instrumental support. This implies that teachers should not only encourage students to provide this type of support but also encourage them to role-play this type of behavior. The role of the teacher in providing support was less important than peer support. However, this could be an artifact of the type of analyses that we conducted; several other variables in the analyses referred to teacher behavior and these variables explained a large portion of the variance in CL. Finally, we want to remark that the relatively weak link between student goal preferences and the quality of CL may be due to the fact that not all students are aware of the multiple goals they pursue in the classroom and of the relationships between their multiple goals and aspects of CL. Currently we are conducting a follow-up stimulated-recall study where we assess the significance that students attach to different types of goals while working on specific tasks in a CL setting. After their group working sessions, groups of students are invited to provide information about their goal preferences and their actual perception of the quality of CL. Preliminary findings indicate that students do not spontaneously reflect on the link between their goal preferences and the quality of CL. Discussing personal goals in order to make students aware of the role these goals play in the learning process might be an important step towards more successful CL. Teachers need to invite their students to think about their own goals and about the links between personal goals and the goals presented to them by teachers,
  39. 39. 39 course books, and other students. Such reflection might help them to adopt teacher-set learning goals and self-regulate their learning more efficiently (see Boekaerts & Corno, 2005). Also, teachers need to create a classroom environment where peer support is promoted and valued. At the same time, this type of environment will stimulate students to pursue their social support goals, which are also crucial for successful CL.
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  45. 45. 45 Figure 1 Model of research Goal Preferences Perception of contextual factors in the Classroom Quality of Cooperative Learning Gender/ program type
  46. 46. 46 Table 1 Sample Characteristics Program Type N % Female ICT/ Engineering 347 6.05 Retail & Administration 355 52.1 Food & Tourism 96 55.2 Health & Welfare 1122 83.2 Total 1920 62.4
  47. 47. 47 Table 2 Categories, Sample Items, Number of Items and Cronbachs’ Alpha Coefficients Category Sample item # items Alpha Students’ Goal Preferences Superiority/ individuality I want to impress others 9 .93 Mastery I want to learn more about my profession 6 .92 Belongingness I want to get along with my peers 6 .86 Social Support I want to help others in case they need help 7 .91 Perceived Quality of CL Quality of CL I perceive myself as part of this group 29 .90 Conditions for CL
  48. 48. 48 Task difficulty Most group members think the task is too difficult 1 - Task challenge Most group members think the task is challenging 1 - Task time We have sufficient time for finishing the task 1 - Task consulting Students need to consult each other in order to finish the group task 1 - Type of reward After finishing the task, we receive an 1) individual reward, 2) group reward 3) both 1 - Cooperation skills and knowledge At this school we learned how to have a good quality group discussion 8 .86 Rules for CL Before we start to work on the group task, teachers explain us how to plan 9 .87 Teachers Monitoring Behavior Teachers walk around the classroom when we cooperate 5 .83 Teacher Interventions If we are too noisy while we cooperate, teachers intervene 5 .77
  49. 49. 49 Teacher Evaluations After finishing the group task, teachers explain what went well during CL and what needs improvement 4 .80 Social Climate Academic support teacher When I do not understand the lesson, I get support from my teacher 7 .80 Academic support peers When I do not understand the lesson the I get support from my peers 7 .82 Social support teachers When I am sad my teacher supports me 6 .82 Social support peers When I am sad my peers support me 6 .89
  50. 50. 50 Table 3 N, Mean Scores, Standard Deviations and Correlation Coefficients of the quality of CL, Goals, Contextual factors, and Social Climate N M SD Sup Mas Bel. Soc Task chall. Task diff Task consult Task time Rew Skill Rules Mon Int Eva T ac T em P ac P em Quality of CL (QCL) 1526 2.8 .28 .02 .23** .23** .33** - .16** .10** -.10** -.06* .03 .35** .24** .20** .19** .19** .17** .21** .28** .30** Superiority (Sup) 1816 3.11 1.01 .14** .26** .09** -.03 - .08** .05 .05 .03 -.01 .01 .05 .09** .04 -.01 .05 - .02** - .01** Mastery (Mas) 1784 4.27 .64 .46** .66** -.07* .03 -.10** - .08** -.04 .09** .01 .05* .02 -.03 .16** .12** .13** .17** Belongingness (Bel.) 1821 4.15 .68 .49** -.03 .04 -.08 .01 - .07* .13** .05 .05 .09** .04 .17** .17** .16** .22** Social Support (Soc) 1915 4.18 .72 -.04 .04 -.07** -.06* -.02 .12** .01 .04 .04 -.02 .15** .15** .19** .33** Task challenge 1704 1.57 .49 .05 .03 -.04 .01 - - - - - - - -.03 .01

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