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Strijbos, Jan-Willem; Martens, Ro L.; Jochems, Wim M. G. and Broers, Nick J. (2004): The effect of functional roles on group efficiency. Using multilevel modeling and content analysis to investigate computer-supported collaboration in small groups. In: Small Group Research, Vol. 35, No. 2: pp. 195-229 [PDF, 189kB]

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The usefulness of ‘roles’ as a pedagogical approach to support small group performance can be often read, however, their effect is rarely empirically assessed. Roles promote cohesion and responsibility and decrease so-called ‘process losses’ caused by coordination demands. In addition, roles can increase awareness of intra-group interaction. In this article, the effect of functional roles on group performance, efficiency and collaboration during computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) was investigated with questionnaires and quantitative content analysis of e-mail communication. A comparison of thirty-three questionnaire observations, distributed over ten groups in two research conditions: role (n = 5, N = 14) and non-role (n = 5, N = 19), revealed no main effect for performance (grade). A latent variable was interpreted as ‘perceived group efficiency’ (PGE). Multilevel modelling (MLM) yielded a positive marginal effect of PGE. Groups in the role condition appear to be more aware of their efficiency, compared to groups in the ‘non-role’ condition, regardless whether the group performs well or poor. Content analysis reveals that students in the role condition contribute more ‘task content’ focussed statements. This is, however, not as hypothesised due to the premise that roles decrease coordination and thus increase content focused statements; in fact, roles appear to stimulate coordination and simultaneously the amount of ‘task content’ focussed statements increases.

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