As a Cooperative Learning Activity, Does the Study Buddy Activity Provide Sufficient Scaffolding to Promote Deep Approaches to Learning?
A key recommendation of this study is that learning activities must be well structured in order for students to benefit fully. The quantitative analysis suggested that the structure, specifically the “bunny” and “bear” characterizations currently in place for the study buddy activity, is unnecessary as only 12% of participants reported that the characterization was helpful and 60% were ambivalent. Furthermore, the three participants who reported having a bad experience in the activity all had a partner with a different profile; however, another four participants had a good experience with a partner with a different profile. It would appear that any significant conclusions based on the quantitative findings alone would be tenuous at best. However, when considered along with the qualitative findings, stronger inferences may be drawn.
Those who chose to not participate in the study buddy activity did so primarily for three reasons, they did not want to end up with an incompatible or lazy partner, they preferred to work alone, or they didn’t feel that they had enough time to invest in the activity. Those who did participate but had a negative experience reported the same concerns, i.e., their partner’s motivations or input were incongruent with their own. It is interesting that they did not frame their concerns or negative experiences in terms of bunnies or bears, simply that their partnership was, or might have been, inequitable. It is possible that graduate students know intuitively and from experience in previous ill-structured group work that the consequences of having an incompatible partner are significant and obvious. As such, the descriptions of bunnies and bears may be just extraneous information that is already understood.