School Kids Who Perform Group Tasks Are Better Decision-Makers

Posted: Jan 21 2016, 9:03am CST | by , Updated: Jan 22 2016, 3:16pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


School kids in India
Photo credit: Getty Images

A new study published in the American Educational Research Journal reveals that school kids who take part in constant group tasks are better at decision-making than those that are only instructed by teachers from the lesson board at the front of the class, the Illinois News Bureau explains.

This, according to the researchers from University of Illinois, means that teacher-led class discussions are not as beneficial as collaborative group work where decision-making is involved, most especially in applying cognitive skills to new tasks.

Over 760 fifth-grade pupils were recruited for the research, and they were subjected to group work as well as teacher-instruction and then asked to apply the lessons learned to unknown tasks.

A group of the participants were asked to give their opinion on what should best be done at a community bedeviled by wolves, where some leaders suggested that hunters be hired to deal with the wolf pack. The young students were asked to consider what should best be done, analyzing the impacts of their decisions on the community’s ecosystem, the local economy, and the public policy.

The researchers were not after the students that would offer the best answers, but they were more interested in awakening their sensibility to independent thoughts and reasoning within a given situation, and to be able to apply this problem-solving skill to other unrelated but novel tasks.

When the groups of students were done writing an essay on what should best be done about the menacing wolf pack, Xin Zhang, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of Illinois and lead author of the paper asked the students to tackle another problem with moral dilemma at its core.

The problem was presented in a story titled “The Pinewood Derby” where a boy named Thomas wins a pinewood derby competition. Thomas later revealed to his friend Jack that he had cheated in the game to win by asking his brother to help out secretly. Students were asked to determine whether it was proper for Jack to inform the authorities that Thomas had cheated in the competition.

The researchers ultimately found that the group that perfectly solved the wolf pack problem were better able to solve this dilemma with Jack, having developed a keener decision-making skill to recognize dilemmas and weigh them against differing viewpoints and other extraneous background to a situation.

"If children are to become thoughtful decision-makers, they need more time in the school day for collaborative group work that involves active reasoning about significant issues," Zhang said. "Promoting active reasoning is one key to cultivating disadvantaged students' development of intellective competence and academic ability."

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/52" rel="author">Charles I. Omedo</a>
Charles is covering the latest discoveries in science and health as well as new developments in technology. He is the Chief Editor or Intel-News.




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