The effects of cooperative learning
on content comprehension
and logical reasoning
in a second-semester
university computer science course
Abstract of Doctoral Thesis
Roger Louis Priebe, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin, 1997
Supervisors: Lowell J. Bethel
Attrition rates in the computer science major are quite high. Many students
who struggle through the first few courses ultimately drop out of the major
when the coursework becomes too complex, mostly because of the increased
amount of logic and abstraction that the coursework requires.
This study compared content comprehension, logical reasoning ability,
and attendance in two groups of second-semester university computer science
students. In a quasi-experimental, pretest/posttest, control-group design,
the control group (n=25) received instruction in a traditional lecture/discussion
learning environment three days a week for nine weeks. The treatment group
(n=24) met in a cooperative learning environment for the same number of
hours as the control group. Each group was given the pretest and posttest
for the Burton Comprehension Instrument (BCI) and a pretest and posttest
for the Propositional Logic Test (PLT) to measure levels of content comprehension
and logical reasoning ability. A head-count was taken daily to determine
if the cooperative learning environment might promote better attendance.
The null hypotheses investigated in this study were. (1) There will be
no difference between the cooperative learning and control groups in concept
comprehension. (2) There will be no difference between the cooperative learning
and control groups in the improvement of logical thinking skills. (3)
There will be no difference between the cooperative learning and control
groups in attendance. The collected data were analyzed by the use of Analysis
of Covariance (ANCOVA), Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) with
Repeated Measures, and one-way ANOVA.
The results of the analysis revealed no difference between the cooperative
learning and lecture groups in the areas of content comprehension or logical
reasoning ability. However, the cooperative learning group did have significantly
better attendance (p<.03).
Further research is recommended in the use of cooperative learning in
university-level computer science courses. Of special interest is the use
of cooperative learning tactics in large lecture-based courses and the effect
of cooperative learning on gender equity in computer science.
Copyright (c) 1997 by Roger Louis Priebe. Presentation
of this material by the Department of Computer Sciences at the University
of Texas at Austin was made possible under a limited license grant from
the author, who has retained all copyrights in the works.