Small Group Learning is Associated with Reduced Salivary Cortisol and Testosterone in Undergraduate Students

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Kristin Snopkowski
Kathryn Demps
Shane Scaggs
Ross Griffiths
Karen S Fulk
Scott May
Kimberly Neagle
Kayla Downs
Michaela Eugster
Tessa Amend

Abstract

Small group learning activities have been shown to improve student academic performance and educational outcomes. Yet, we have an imperfect understanding of the mechanisms by which this occurs. Group learning may mediate student stress by placing learning in a context where students have both social support and greater control over their learning. We hypothesize that one of the methods by which small group activities improve learning is by mitigating student stress. To test this, we collected physiological measures of stress and self-reported perceived stress from 26 students in two undergraduate classes. Salivary cortisol and testosterone were measured within students across five contexts: a) pre-instructional baseline, b) following a traditional lecture, c) after participating in a structured small group learning activity, d) following completion of multiple choice, and e) essay sections of an exam. Results indicate students have lower salivary cortisol after small group learning activities, as compared to traditional lectures. Further, there is no evidence of a relationship between physiological measures of stress and self-reported perceived stress levels. We discuss how structured small group activities may be beneficial for reducing stress and improving student learning outcomes.

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How to Cite
Snopkowski, K., Demps, K., Scaggs, S., Griffiths, R., Fulk, K., May, S., Neagle, K., Downs, K., Eugster, M., & Amend, T. (2019). Small Group Learning is Associated with Reduced Salivary Cortisol and Testosterone in Undergraduate Students. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 19(5). https://doi.org/10.14434/josotl.v19i5.24230
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Articles
Author Biographies

Kristin Snopkowski, Boise State University

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology

Kathryn Demps, Boise State University

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology

Shane Scaggs, Oregon State University

Department of Anthropology

Ross Griffiths, Boise State University

Department of Anthropology

Karen S Fulk, Boise State University

Department of Anthropology

Scott May, Boise State University

Department of Anthropology

Kimberly Neagle, Boise State University

Department of Anthropology

Kayla Downs, Boise State University

Department of Anthropology

Michaela Eugster, Boise State University

Department of Anthropology

Tessa Amend, Boise State University

Department of Anthropology