Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
A Mixed-Methods Study of Cooperative Learning in an Occupational Therapy Theory Course
Author Affiliations
  • New York University
  • New York University
Article Information
Evidence-Based Practice / Education of OTs and OTAs / School-Based Practice / Basic Research
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
A Mixed-Methods Study of Cooperative Learning in an Occupational Therapy Theory Course
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505128.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505128.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

This mixed-methods study of cooperative learning was implemented in a professional-level theory course. The results showed significant changes in attitude toward small-group learning regardless of prior group experience. Attitude toward groups influenced how students engaged in group activities.

Primary Author and Speaker: Jim Hinojosa

Contributing Authors: Tsu-Hsin Howe, Ching-Fan Sheu

RESEARCH QUESTION: How effective is cooperative learning in class groups on students’ attitudes toward learning?
RATIONALE: From a constructivist perspective, adult students learn best through active learning via iterative, didactic, and experiential activities (Bruner, 1996). Based on Deutsch’s (1949) theoretical postulates of positive interdependence, we created a theory course that was mostly didactic to provide time for in-class experiences. Following best practices for cooperative learning (Johnson & Johnson, 2009), we structured the cooperative learning experiences for each class activity based on specific learning objectives.
PARTICIPANTS: Participants were occupational therapy students enrolled in a second semester of the 1st yr of a professional-level program.
DESIGN: Mixed methods
METHOD: We explored students’ attitudes toward learning in class groups, and their perceived learning of content using two questionnaires: Students Attitude toward Group Environment (Kouros, 2000), and Perceived learning from In-class Group Experience. Prior to the semester, we emailed both of the questionnaires to all students who registered for the theory class using Qualtrics ( with two follow-up reminders.
ANALYSIS: Descriptive and univariate analyses were conducted for all variables using the R statistical software package. The significant level was set at .05. Pearson correlation coefficient was conducted to test the relation between items of questionnaires and outcome measure (students’ final grade). Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to test if the difference in the outcome among three groups with different levels of group experience was significant, and subsequent post hoc analysis was conducted when the model is significant. A content analysis of class summary sheets was also done.
RESULTS: Twenty-four students responded to the initial survey, and 17 responded to the follow-up. The results of ANOVA showed there were significant changes in attitude toward small-group learning in students regardless of their prior group experience (p = .047). Content analysis supports students’ attitude towards groups influenced how they engaged in-group activities.
DISCUSSION: Students’ engagement in group learning improved their attitude toward small-group learning. This result was supported by previous research. In-class summary sheets captured the students’ engagement in the class activities and support group discussion as an effective method of learning about theory. Small sample size limits generalizability.
IMPACT STATEMENT: Occupational therapy educators use cooperative learning techniques when they engage students in group activities. This study’s findings provide preliminary evidence that groups are an effective method of teaching basic concepts about theory. Students with structured interactions with each other create a socially constructed understanding of abstract and difficult content. This preliminary study contributes to our knowledge of evidence-based education methods.
Bruner, J. S. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Byrnes, J., & Byrnes, M. (n.d.). Dealing with students who hate working in groups. In M. Weimer (Ed.), Effective group work strategies for the college classroom. Retrieved from
Deutsch, M. (1949). A theory of cooperation and competition. Human Relations, 2, 129–152. Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F. (2009). Joining together: Group theory and group skills (10th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Kouros, C. (2000). Student attitudes toward group environments. Montreal: Center for the Study of Learning and Performance, Concordia University.