Dr. Andrea Bertucci is a Psychologist and Professor of Education Psychology at the University of Cagliari in Italy. He is a frequent collaborator with Roger and David Johnson. SIZE MATTERS: WHENEVER GROUP DIMENSION EFFECTS GROUP PERFORMANCE
One of the fundamental aspects in structuring cooperative learning activities is the size of the groups.
Social interdependence theory posited that group size is not an important variable in determine group performance. It also posited that students in larger groups need more highly developed social skills in order to work together effectively as a group. Thus, it may be expected that the less the students are experienced in cooperative learning activities, the smaller the group has to be.
Very often, teachers (at least in Italy) are very concerned with the complexity of their cooperative learning groups. When they speak about their experience with cooperative learning in class, they tend to be proud of their large groups!
Research to the contrary states that smaller groups are often more controllable and effective.
Bertucci, Johnson, Johnson & Conte (2010), for example, have investigated the impact of group size with inexperienced cooperative learning groups. The research measured the effect on achievement, self-esteem and social support. Middle School-aged students were enrolled in the study. The results clearly showed that students working in pairs outperformed students working in groups of four and individually.
So remember: size matters! Especially when we are talking about cooperative learning. And especially when your students are not sufficiently experienced with cooperative learning activities!
Bertucci, A., Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., e Conte, S. (2010). The Impact Of Size Of Cooperative Learning Groups On Achievement, Self-Esteem And Social Support. Journal of General Psychology, 137 (3), 256 - 272.