Psychology, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology (Social Psychology), Under the Supervision of Professors Elizabeth Crockett and Marc Kiviniemi. Lincoln, Nebraska: August, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Bethany C. Johnson


Large-enrollment lecture-based classes are increasingly common in higher education. As an alternative approach, active learning methods are meant to develop academic skills and improve understanding of course content. Group work is an effective form of active learning, but students typically despise it. Social psychological small group theory can inform teachers about the characteristics of small groups that influence their capability to improve learning, so that teachers can design more effectual group work for their classes. This study examined what effect introducing permanent teams into a large enrollment class had on students’ sense of classroom community and their learning outcomes, using both exam performance and writing scores as objective measurements. This study employed a non-equivalent control group quasi-experimental design, and used the first of four sequential semesters of the same course as a baseline comparison group. I hypothesized that students would report a stronger sense of community in the semesters including teams, and that learning outcomes, as reflected in exam scores and grades on the writing assignment, would improve as well. The teaching innovation did not produce the desired and predicted outcomes, but the results still constitute progress toward developing a successful intervention. Limitations to the present study are described in terms of recommendations for future research on the strategic integration of the scholarship of teaching and learning and social psychology. With this approach in place, teachers can begin to establish best practices for group work in large-enrollment classes.