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

Main Article Content

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.

Article Details

How to Cite
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


Bishop, G. F., Oldendick, R. W., Tuchfarber, A. J., & Bennett, S. E. (1980). Pseudo-opinions on public affairs. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 44(2), 198-209.

Burggraf, S. A. (1993). School situations. Unpublished manuscript. Bryn Mawr, PA: Bryn Mawr College.

Corno, L. (2011). Studying self-regulation habits. In H. D. Schunk, & B. Zimmerman (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 361-375). New York: Routledge.

Duckworth, A. L., & Yeager, D. S. (2015). Measurement matters: Assessing personal qualities other than cognitive ability for education purposes. Educational Researcher, 44(4), 237-251. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X15584327

Elias, M. J., & Schwab, Y. (2006). From compliance to responsibility: Social and emotional learning and classroom management. In C. M. Evertson & C. S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 309-341). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Frijda, N. H. (2008). The psychologists’ point of view. In M. Lewis, J. M., Haviland-Jones, & L. F. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions, 3rd ed. (pp. 68-87). New York: Guilford Press.

Fryer, L. K., & Dinsmore, D. L. (2020). The promise and pitfalls of self-report: Development, research

design and analysis issues, and multiple methods. Frontline Learning Research, 8(3), 1–9. http://doi.org/10.14786/flr.v8i3.623

Hadwin, A. F., & Järvelä, S. (2011). Introduction to a special issue on social aspects of self-regulated learning: Where social and self meet in the strategic regulation of learning. Teachers College Record, 113(2), 235-239.

Hadwin, A. F., Järvelä, S., & Miller, M. (2018). Self-regulation, co-regulation, and shared regulation in collaborative learning environments. In D. H. Schunk & J. A. Greene (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 83-06). New York, NY: Routledge.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2009). An educational psychology success story: Social interdependence theory and cooperative learning. Educational Researcher, 38, 365-379. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X09339057

Keltner, D. (2016). The power of paradox: How we gain and lose influence. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Ladd, G. W., Kochenderfer-Ladd, B., Visconti, K. J., Ettekal, I. Sechler, C. M., & Cortes, K. I. (2014). Grade-school children’s social collaborative skills: Links with partner preference and achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 51(1), 152-183. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831213507327

McCaslin, M. (2009). Co-regulation of student motivation and emergent identity. Educational Psychologist, 44(2), 137-146. https:// doi.org/10.1080/00461520902832384

McCaslin, M., & Burross, H. (2008). Student motivational dynamics. Teachers College Record, 110(11), 2319-2340.

McCaslin, M., Tuck, D., Waird, A., Brown, B., LaPage, J., & Pyle, J. (1994). Gender composition and small-group learning in fourth-grade mathematics. Elementary School Journal, 94, 467-482.

McCaslin, M., & Vega, R. I. (2013). Peer co-regulated learning, emotion, and coping in small-group learning. In S. Phillipson, K. Y. L. Ku, S. N. Phillipson (Eds.), Constructing educational achievement: A sociocultural perspective (pp. 118-135). New York, NY: Routledge.

McCaslin, M., & Vriesema, C. C. (2018). Co-regulation: A model for classroom research in a Vygotskian perspective. In D. M. McInerney & G. A. D. Liem (Eds.), Big theories revisited 2: Research on sociocultural influences on motivation and learning. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

McCaslin, M., Vega, R. I., Anderson, E. E., Calderon, C. N., Labistre, A. M. (2011). Tabletalk: Navigating and negotiating in small-group learning. In D. McInerney, R. Walker, G. Liem (Eds.), Sociocultural theories of learning and motivation: Looking back, looking forward (pp. 191-222). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

McCaslin, M., Vriesema, C. C., & Burggraf, S. (2016). Making mistakes: Emotional adaptation and classroom learning. Teachers College Record, 118(2).

Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84(3), 231-259. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.84.3.231

Nunnally, J. C. (1968). Psychometric theory (2nd edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Pekrun, R. (2006). The control-value theory of achievement emotions: Assumptions, corollaries, and implications for educational research and practice. Educational Psychology Review, 18, 315-341. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-006-9029-9

Rogat, T. K., Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., & DiDonato, N. (2013). Motivation in collaborative groups. In C. E. Hmelo-Silver, C. A. Chinn, C. K. K. Chan, & A. M. O’Donnell (Eds.), The International Handbook of Collaborative Learning (pp. 250-267). New York: Taylor & Francis.

Rogiers, A.; Merchie, E., & van Keer, H. (2020). Opening the black box of students’ text-learning processes:

A process mining perspective. Frontline Learning Research, 8(3), 40–62. http://doi.org/10.14786/flr.v8i3.527

Sarason, S. B., Davidson, K. S., Lighthall, F. F., & Waite, R. R. (1958). A test anxiety scale for children. Child Development, 29(1), 105-113.

Tan, I. G. C., Sharan, S., & Lee, C. K. E. (2007). Group investigation effects on achievement, motivation, and perceptions of students in Singapore. The Journal of Educational Research, 100(3), 142-154. https://doi.org/10.3200/JOER.100.3.142-154

Tangney, J. P., Burggraf, S. A., & Wagner, P. A. (1995). Shame-proneness, guilt-proneness, and psychological symptoms. In J. P. Tangney & K. W. Fischer (Eds.) Self-conscious emotions: The psychology of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and pride (pp. 343-367). NY: Guilford Press.

Urdan, T., & Bruchmann, K. (2018). Examining the academic motivation of a diverse student population: A consideration of methodology. Educational Psychologist, 53(2), 114-130. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2018.1440234

van Halem, N., van Klaveren, C. P. B. J., Drachsler, H., Schmitz, M., & Cornelisz, I. (2020). Tracking

patterns in self-regulated learning using students’ self-reports and online trace data. Frontline Learning Research, 8(3), 142-164. http://doi.org/10.14786/flr.v8i3.497

Vega, R. I. (2014). The role of student coping in the socially shared regulation of learning in small groups. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona.

Webb, N. M. (2008). Learning in small groups. In T. L. Good (Ed.), 21st century education: A reference handbook (Vol. 2., pp. 203–211). Thousand Oaks, CA: Macmillan.

Webb, N. M. (2013). Information processing approaches to collaborative learning. In C. E. Hmelo-Silver, C. A. Chinn, C. K. K. Chan, & A. M. O’Donnell. (Eds.), The international handbook of collaborative learning (pp. 19-40). New York: Taylor & Francis.