Cooperative learning and elaborative interrogation: effects on children's learning
Kahl, Barbara L.
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This experimental study examined the effects of cooperative learning and a question-answering strategy called elaborative interrogation ("Why is this fact true?") on the learning of factual information about familiar animals. Retention gains were compared across four study conditions: elaborative-interrogation-plus-cooperative learning, cooperative-learning, elaborative-interrogation, and reading-control. Sixth-grade students (n=68) were randomly assigned to the four conditions. All participants were given initial training and practice in cooperative learning procedures via three 45-minute sessions. After studying 36 facts about six animals, students' retention gains were measured via immediate free recall, immediate matched association, 30-day, and GO-day matched association tests. A priori comparisons were made to analyze the data. For immediate free recall and immediate matched association, significant differences were found between students in the three experimental conditions versus those in the control condition. Elaborative-interrogation and elaborativeinterrogation- plus-cooperative-learning also promoted longterm retention (measured via 30-day matched association) of the material relative to repetitive reading with elaborative-interrogation promoting the most durable gains (measured via GO-day matched association). The relationship between the types of elaborative responses and probability of subsequent retention was also examined. Even when students were unable to provide adequate answers to the why questions, learning was facilitated more so than repetitive reading. In general, generation of adequate elaborations was associated with greater probability of recall than was provision of inadequate answers. The findings of the study demonstrate that cooperative learning and the use of elaborative interrogation, both individually and collaboratively, are effective classroom procedures for facilitating children's learning of new information.