Date of Award

Winter 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design & Technology

Committee Director

Ginger S. Watson

Committee Member

Gary R. Morrison

Committee Member

Linda S. Bol


Group work has become increasingly important within adult education as educators strive to present students with problems and processes that they encounter in their professional lives. In many work environments, individuals are expected to function as a part of a team to solve complex problems. Consequently, there has been a shift towards teaching students how to solve problems as part of a group rather than individually. An important question becomes "What size group maximizes students learning?" This study compared student learning, student participation levels, and mental effort for middle-aged, professional students in large (six students) and small groups (three students) while working in a collaborative, ill-structured problem solving environment to determine if group size impacted student performance. This study found that there was no significant difference in learning, participation, and mental effort between large and small groups. It also confirmed earlier research demonstrating that group product scores, even when adjusted for student participation, did not predict individual student learning. A multiple regression was used to determine if group size, participation, mental effort or group scores could be used to predict individual student learning. The study showed that for middle-aged professional students, group size, mental effort, participation, or group quality were not effective predictors of student learning.


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