The Importance of Trust for Satisfaction, Motivation, and Academic Performance in Student Learning Groups

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Educators are continuing to investigate ways to improve student learning through collaboration. This study examined one avenue of increasing student group effectiveness: trust. A model of trust in student workgroups was proposed, where trust mediates the relationships between perceived similarity and individual outcomes (grades and satisfaction). Participants in this study included 252 psychology students at a Midwestern university who participated in semester-long group work in the classroom. The findings indicated that students who perceived themselves as similar to their group members were more likely to trust the group. For the outcome measures, trust was positively related to grades; students who had higher levels of trust towards their group members received higher grades than those with lower levels of trust. In addition, trust was strongly and positively related to satisfaction with one’s group and motivation to work in groups in the future. Additionally, trust emerged as a mediator between perceived similarity and satisfaction, but trust did not mediate links between perceived similarity and academic performance. Finally, an exploratory analysis comparing group environments indicated that face-to-face groups may have higher levels of trust than virtual groups. This study adds to current literature by examining an antecedent of trust (i.e., perceived similarity), by linking trust to a performance-based outcome in student groups (i.e., grades), and by supporting previous lab-based findings linking trust to satisfaction and motivation using actual student learning groups.



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Social Psychology of Education