The benefits of cooperative learning to socio-scientific discussion in secondary school science

Stephen P. Day, Tom G. K. Bryce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this research was to determine the benefits of cooperative learning to opening up socio-scientific discussion in secondary science. Seventy-four classes of 20 13–14-year-old pupils in one secondary school were observed engaging in discussion concerning climate change over three rounds of action research involving 12 teachers associated with the implementation of a Topical Science strand of a new national science curriculum. Pupil views on the cooperative learning approach used to facilitate the lessons and the associated discussion were determined using a pupil questionnaire (n = 171). By the end of the action research, the overall average typical exchange in the observed lessons was between pupil-to-pupil (mean ± SD, 41% ± 5 and pupil-to-teacher (32% ± 4 with teacher-to-pupil interactions accounting for only 27% ± 5% of exchanges. However, the pace of the typical exchanges was predominantly fast with most of the questions being a mixture of low order on task questions from teacher-to-pupil; technical exchanges, inquiring what to do from pupil-to-teacher; and quiz questions from teacher-to-pupil or from pupil-to-pupil. Questionnaire data indicated that overall 50.3% of pupils enjoyed the discussion (on global warming) and 59.7% did not find it boring. Nevertheless, only 45% felt that they were given the chance to express their own opinions during these discussions. Prior to these lessons, 59.6% were not interested in the issue of climate change and global warming. Cooperative learning facilitated a shift in the pattern of typical exchanges away from a teacher-dominated discourse towards a more pupil-centred, open discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1533-1560
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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