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UBC Theses and Dissertations

High-ability students’ conceptions of the fairness of cooperative learning practices Mallett, Doris


This study was an investigation of high-ability students' conceptions of the fairness of common cooperative learning practices as compared to their average-ability peers. The sample consisted of sixty children in grades four, five, and seven (i.e., twenty-three subjects enrolled in a pull-out gifted/talented enrichment program and the remainder nonparticipants in the pull-out program). It was hypothesized that, overall, high-ability students would endorse as most fair common cooperative learning practices involving heterogeneous groupings over acceleration and enrichment cooperative learning practices. In addition, they would indicate a preference for a cooperative learning practice involving a controversial issue and select as more fair the cooperative learning practice allowing students to choose their own groups over the teacher assigning students to groups. In addition, i t was hypothesized that students' choices and justifications for those choices would reveal cognitive- developmental differences between the grades; however, there would not be significant differences between ability groups. Separate multivariate analyses of variance were conducted with 1) choice of fair practice and 2) issues raised when justifying choices as the dependent variables to determine if there were any main effects relating to grade or ability group, or any interactions of these effects. Main effects for grade were indicated for practices only. No effects were indicated for ability group nor were there any interactions between grade and group. A comparison of the group means revealed that, overall, high-ability students chose the mixed-ability cooperative learning practice involving a controversial issue over acceleration and enrichment cooperative learning practices. However, high-ability students at different grade levels ranked the five practices differently. Although no significant differences existed in choices between the students in both groups, there were differences in the order in which each group rated the fairness of the practices at each grade level. Issues discussed by students in both groups when justifying their choices of fair practices were generally in the equality and equity of work domains, followed by benefits of cooperative learning. Overall, there was evidence that offering high-ability students a controversial topic enhanced their desire to work in mixed-ability groupings within the regular classroom.

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