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Integrating Social-Emotional Learning Into Instruction Via Technology-Mediated Student Collaboration

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Listen and learn : Research paper
Roundtable presentation

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Dr. Mark Van Ryzin  

Small-group instruction is an evidence-based pedagogy that promotes positive behavioral, social-emotional and academic outcomes for students. Implementing this form of instruction requires certain design ingredients, which are rarely supported by existing technology. Learn about an alternative technology explicitly created to implement and support these design ingredients.

Audience: Principals/head teachers, Teachers, Curriculum/district specialists
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Social emotional learning
Grade level: 6-12
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
Leader
  • Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.
Designer
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
Learner
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.

Proposal summary

Framework

In contrast to traditional instruction where the teacher is the central focal point and students work individually, small-group instruction (i.e., cooperative learning) is centered on the student. This approach requires the careful and purposeful implementation of several key features in order to ensure that the lesson is successful. First, cooperative learning must create conditions of positive interdependence, in which individual goal attainment also promotes the goal attainment of others (in contrast to more common educational situations, in which individual goal attention either has no impact, or has a negative impact, on the goal attainment of others). In a cooperative learning lesson, many different types of positive interdependence may exist (Johnson et al., 2013). For example, teachers may require a single finished product from a group (goal interdependence), or may offer a reward to the group if everyone achieves above a certain threshold on an end-of-unit assessment (reward interdependence). The lesson plan may require that each member of the group be issued different materials that they must share with others in their group to complete the lesson (resource interdependence), or that each member of the group must do something for a lesson to be completed successfully, such as fulfill a different role (role interdependence, e.g., tracking the group status, or taking notes on group discussions) or complete a unique task (task interdependence, e.g., each student has a different component of a project or presentation). In these examples, positive interdependence can be strengthened when groups have their own name or symbol (identity interdependence). Different forms of positive interdependence can be layered upon one another in a single lesson, increasing the incentive for students to collaborate and increasing the effectiveness of the cooperative learning lesson.
Second, in addition to positive interdependence, cooperative learning activities must also provide individual accountability to ensure that students have a strong incentive to contribute to the success of the group (Johnson et al., 2013). Individual accountability can include an end-of-unit assessment to be taken individually (with the potential for group rewards as discussed above), or something as simple as a random oral quiz by the teacher as he or she supervises the group work during class time. When students know that they are going to be held accountable, they are more likely to engage and fulfil their role in their learning group.
Third, high-quality cooperative learning lessons must also include the explicit coaching of students in collaborative social skills (e.g., encouraging participation, checking for understanding, sharing ideas, asking for clarification), which includes setting expectations for group behavior and monitoring by the teacher to identify and reward examples of such behavior.
The final key ingredient is guided processing of group performance after the lesson is completed. This involves students within groups discussing what they did well, setting targets for improvement in the future, and providing positive reinforcement to one another for behavior during the lesson that contributed to group success (Johnson et al., 2013).
When all of these design ingredients are present in a well-designed cooperative learning lesson, students are incentivized to promote the success of others through mutual assistance and sharing of resources; this promotive social interaction, and the successful attainment of group goals, creates a positive shared emotional experience among group members (Deutsch, 1949, 1962), which promotes more positive peer relations, reduces outgroup prejudices and biases, and reduces various forms of antisocial behavior (Choi, Johnson, & Johnson, 2011; Johnson & Johnson, 1989, 2005; Johnson et al., 1983; Roseth et al., 2008; Van Ryzin & Roseth, 2018a, b). Cooperative learning has also been found to have significant positive effects on social-emotional skill development and mental health, including higher levels of prosocial behavior (Van Ryzin & Roseth, 2019a,b; Van Ryzin et al., 2020). Finally, cooperative learning promotes greater academic motivation and achievement (see meta-analyses by Johnson et al., 2014; Roseth et al., 2008), including greater effort to achieve, greater time on task, deeper processing of material, and enhanced retention (Hänze & Berger, 2007; Johnson & Johnson, 1989; King, 2008; Laney et al., 1996). Thus, PeerLearning.net, which implements the concepts of cooperative learning, can be seen as a way to reduce behavioral problems and enhance academic and social-emotional outcomes simultaneously, making it highly attractive to schools and thus promoting widespread interest and uptake.

Methods

We conducted pilot testing of PeerLearning.net using approximately 20 different lessons taught by 8 teachers across 6 middle and 2 high schools in Oregon. These pilot sessions were conducted both in-person and remotely while students were learning at home. We surveyed teachers regarding their perceptions of acceptability (“Overall I had a positive reaction to this software program”), satisfaction (“How would you rate the quality of your experience?”), sustainability (“The software program is well integrated into the school”), the engagement of the students (“PeerLearning.net increased on-task behavior”), and their sense of competence when using the software (“I felt adequately prepared to execute this lesson with PeerLearning.net”). We also surveyed students regarding their engagement (“Did you like working together in small groups using PeerLearning.net during class?”), enjoyment ("I enjoyed working with PeerLearning.net"), and learning ("I learned a lot in class today").

Results

In pilot testing of PeerLearning.net, teachers reported a high degree of acceptability (> 80% of teachers indicating a response of ‘agree’ [4] or ‘strongly agree’ [5]), satisfaction (> 80% of teachers indicating a response of ‘good’ [3] or ‘excellent’ [4]), and sustainability (> 80% of teachers indicating a response above the median on a scale from ‘To little or no extent’ [1] to “To a very great extent’ [7]), along with high levels of perceived competence (> 80% of teachers indicating a response of ‘moderately agree’ [4] or ‘strongly agree’ [5]) and student engagement (> 80% of teacher indicating a response of ‘sort of true’ [3] or ‘very true’ [4]) when using the software. Similarly, students reported a high level of engagement (> 80% of students indicating a response of ‘sometimes’ [2] or ‘always’ [3]), enjoyment (> 80% of students indicating a response of ‘sort of true’ [3] or ‘very true’ [4]), and learning (> 80% of students indicating a response of ‘sort of true’ [3] or ‘very true’ [4]). Finally, every teacher involved in the pilot, without prompting, requested that they be allowed to conduct additional lessons using PeerLearning.net as soon as possible. These data suggest that PeerLearning.net is fully capable of delivering on the promise of technology-mediated small-group instruction.

Importance

Small-group instruction, as implemented through PeerLearning.net, offers many advantages, including: (1) optimal design fidelity and consistent, low-stress delivery of an evidence-based pedagogy; (2) rapid scalability across schools and districts; (3) easy accessibility for rural schools; (4) a focus on the classroom, with the potential for high dosage and, in turn, powerful effects; (5) straightforward implementation, unlike more complex or multi-faceted interventions with multiple components and/or extensive training requirements; and (6) proven effects on student achievement that should drive interest, uptake, and sustainability. Given the proven effects of small-group instruction on student engagement and achievement, as well as behavioral and social-emotional outcomes, we anticipate great interest among school administrators and teachers, as well as rapid uptake and sustainability at the school level, which has the potential to create a large-scale impact on public health among students.

References

Choi, J., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (2011). Relationships among cooperative learning experiences, social interdependence, children's aggression, victimization, and prosocial behaviors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41, 976-1003.

Deutsch, M. (1949). A theory of cooperation and competition. Human Relations, 2, 129–151.

Deutsch, M. (1962). Cooperation and trust: Some theoretical notes. In M. Jones (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation (pp. 275–319). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Hänze, M., & Berger, R. (2007). Cooperative learning, motivational effects, and student characteristics: An experimental study comparing cooperative learning and direct instruction in 12th grade physics classes. Learning and Instruction, 17, 29-41.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. (1989). Cooperation and competition: Theory and research. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2005). New developments in social interdependence theory. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 131, 285-358.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R., & Holubec, E. (2013). Cooperation in the classroom (9th ed.) Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Maruyama, G. (1983). Interdependence and interpersonal attraction among heterogeneous and homogeneous individuals: A theoretical formulation and a meta-analysis of the research. Review of Educational Research, 53, 5-54.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., Roseth, C. J., & Shin, T-S. (2014). The relationship between motivation and achievement in interdependent situations. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 44, 622-633.

King, A. (2008). Structuring peer interaction to promote higher-order thinking and complex learning in cooperating groups. In Gillies R.M., Ashman A.F., Terwel J. (Eds), The teacher’s role in implementing cooperative learning in the classroom. Computer-supported collaborative learning, vol 8 (pp. 73-91). Boston, MA: Springer.

Laney, J. D., Frerichs, D. K., Frerichs, L. P., & Pat, L. K. (1996). The effect of cooperative and mastery learning methods on primary grade students' learning and retention of economic concepts. Early Education and Development, 7, 253-276.

Roseth, C. J., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2008). Promoting early adolescents' achievement and peer relationships: The effects of cooperative, competitive, and individualistic goal structures. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 223.

Van Ryzin, M. J. & Roseth, C. J. (2018a). Cooperative learning in middle school: A means to improve peer relations and reduce victimization, bullying, and related outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110, 1192-1201.

Van Ryzin, M. J. & Roseth, C. J. (2018b). Enlisting peer cooperation in the service of alcohol use prevention in middle school. Child Development, 89, e459-e467.

Van Ryzin, M. J. & Roseth, C. J. (2019a). Effects of cooperative learning on peer relations, empathy, and bullying in middle school. Aggressive Behavior, 45, 643-651.

Van Ryzin, M. J. & Roseth, C. J. (2019b). Cooperative learning effects on peer relations and alcohol use in middle school. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

Van Ryzin, M. J., Roseth, C. J., & Biglan, A. (2020). Mediators of effects of cooperative learning on prosocial behavior in middle school. International Journal of Positive Psychology.

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Presenters

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Dr. Mark Van Ryzin, University of Oregon

As the son of an educator, I have long desired to have a positive impact on the field of education. My time in the classroom and my work as an educational researcher have convinced me that small-group instruction can enhance students' social-emotional skills, academic performance, behavior, and mental health. However, small-group instruction requires the incorporation of key design principles in order to be consistently successful. My career is dedicated to sharing these principles with educators and school leaders in hopes of bringing about far-reaching change in educational practice and widespread improvement in students' social-emotional health.

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