Effect of task-based group experience on collaborative learning: Exploring the transaction activities

Jimmy Zambrano R.*, Femke Kirschner, John Sweller, Paul A. Kirschner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Collaborative learning is a widely used approach where students gather in small groups to solve problems and develop skills. However, grouping students is not always effective, and it may be necessary to provide task-specific collaborative experiences to optimize their interactions for subsequent learning tasks. Aims: To test this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment with 90 Ecuadorian students in their mathematics class. Sample: Participants were 90 Ecuadorian students (average age = 13.80 years, SD =.70; 48.89% female) from a private school in Sangolquí, who participated as part of their mathematics class. Method: The experiment consisted of four phases: preparation, learning, retention one-day testing, and delayed seven-day testing. In the preparation phase, 15 triads received guidance on working collaboratively with quadratic equations (i.e., experienced groups), while 45 other individual learners worked independently. In the learning phase, 15 experienced triads and 45 individual learners (who were later divided into 15 non-experienced triads) received a new learning task in the domain of economics, precisely the break-even point. Results: The experienced group outperformed the non-experienced group in the retention one-day test, investing less mental effort and demonstrating greater efficiency. However, there was no significant difference in the delayed one-week test. We analysed the interactions of the groups and found that experienced groups exhibited more cognitive, fewer regulatory, an equal number of emotional interactions, and fewer task-unrelated interactions than the non-experienced groups. Conclusions: Providing task-specific collaborative experiences can reduce the cognitive load associated with transactional activities and increase learning in new tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12603
Pages (from-to)879-902
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date1 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • cognitive load theory
  • collaborative learning
  • prior collaborative experience
  • transactional activities


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