Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Fall 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Brian P. An

Abstract

This study examines the effect of first-year college student participation in cooperative learning activities on the development of need for cognition, using pre-test and post-test data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education (WNSLAE). I used Pascarella's (1985) General Causal Model for Assessing the Effects of Differential Environments on Student Learning and Cognitive Development as the theoretical foundation for my study. I examined whether cooperative learning (students teaching each other, faculty encouraging students to work together outside of class, participation in study groups, and students working together outside of class) influenced the development of need for cognition among first-year college students while controlling for student background characteristics, institutional characteristics, academic experiences, and other college student experiences. The results of my study indicate that participation in cooperative learning activities positively influenced the development of need for cognition among first-year college students. This study adds to the literature because it is the first to demonstrate the relationship between cooperative learning and need for cognition. The results are relevant to higher education policy because the study provides evidence that cooperative learning helps students develop a propensity to engage in the thinking process, which will likely impact them throughout their lives. Cooperative learning is considered a good practice in liberal education, so the result of this study provides evidence that liberal education supports positive outcomes related to cognitive processing, which is critical to higher education.

Public Abstract

This study examines whether cooperative learning strategies influence the development of need for cognition among first-year college students. A growing concern exists on college campuses that critical thinking skills, such as the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of ideas, are in decline. The results of this study indicate that participation in cooperative learning, which is considered a good practice in liberal education, positively influences the development of need for cognition among first-year college students. As students learn to enjoy engaging in cognitive activities, they develop lifelong needs for cognitive processing that lead to more critical, productive, and engaged citizenship. Therefore, educators may help improve the value of higher education to society by helping students develop need for cognition. If faculty can help students enjoy the thinking process through cooperative learning, students are more likely to enjoy cognitive activities throughout their lives, which may contribute to a stronger society. An individual who enjoys thinking will likely be a more informed voter and active participant in public discourse.

Keywords

publicabstract, Cognition, Collaborative, Cooperative, Interdependence

Pages

viii, 77 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 69-77).

Copyright

Copyright 2014 Thomas Dee Castle

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