Content-Related Interactions in Self-initiated Study Groups

Karen Christian, Vicente Talanquer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The central goal of the present exploratory study was to investigate the nature of the content-related interactions in study groups independently organized by college organic chemistry students. We were particularly interested in the identification of the different factors that affected the emergence of opportunities for students to co-construct understanding and engage in higher levels of cognitive processing. Our results are based on the analysis of in situ observations of 34 self-initiated study sessions involving over a 100 students in three academic semesters. The investigation revealed three major types of social regulation processes, teaching, tutoring, and co-construction in the observed study sessions. However, the extent to which students engaged in each of them varied widely from one session to another. This variability was mostly determined by the specific composition of the study groups and the nature of the study tasks in which they were engaged. Decisions about how to organize the study session, the relative content knowledge and conceptual understanding expressed by the participants, as well as the cognitive level of the problems that guided group work had a strong impact on the nature of student interactions. Nevertheless, group talk in the observed study groups was mostly focused on low-level cognitive processes. The results of our work provide insights on how to better support students' productive engagement in study groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2231-2255
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number14
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Chemistry education
  • Cooperative learning
  • Learning environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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