Experience and Meaning in Small-Group Contexts Fusing Observational and Self-Report Data to Capture Self and Other Dynamics

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Christine Calderon Vriesema
Mary McCaslin


Self-report data have contributed to a rich understanding of learning and motivation; yet, self-report measures present challenges to researchers studying students’ experiences in small-group contexts. Rather than using self-report data alone, we argue that fusing self-report and observational data can yield a broader understanding of students’ small-group dynamics. We provide evidence for this assertion by presenting mixed-methods findings in three sections: (a) self-report data alone, (b) observational data alone, and (c) the fusion of both data sources. We rely on 101 students’ self-reported experiences as well as observational (i.e., audio) data of students working in their group (N = 24 groups). In section order, we found that (1) students’ self-reported small-group behavior predicted their end-of-study reported anxiety and emotion; (2) coded observational data captured five types of group dynamics that students can engage in; and (3) students’ initial group-level characteristics predicted their real-time group dynamics, and observed group regulation activity predicted students’ self-reported anxiety, emotion, and regulation moving forward. Thus, while self-report and observational data alone can each increase our understanding of student motivation and learning processes, pursuing both in tandem more effectively captures the give-and-take among students, how these experiences evolve over time, and the personal meanings they can afford.

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Vriesema, C. C., & McCaslin, M. (2020). Experience and Meaning in Small-Group Contexts: Fusing Observational and Self-Report Data to Capture Self and Other Dynamics. Frontline Learning Research, 8(3), 126–139. https://doi.org/10.14786/flr.v8i3.493


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