“What Motivates Me?”: A Qualitative Perspective on Student Collaboration in Small Groups


Priyadharshini Ahrumugam, Sunway University, Malaysia
Yesuselvi Manickam, Sunway University, Malaysia
Email: priyaa@sunway.edu.my
Published: December 4, 2022

Citation: Ahrumugam, P., & Manickam, Y. (2022). “What Motivates Me?”: A Qualitative Perspective on Student Collaboration in Small Groups. IAFOR Journal of Education10(3). https://doi.org/10.22492/ije.10.3.04


Collaborative learning, social interdependence and computer mediated communication (CMC) have been broadly studied in higher education research. Collaborative learning has often been associated with a social interdependence understanding. However, this study explores the relationship from an exclusively student motivation perspective in order to gain insight over the factors that encourage students’ positive interdependence in small peer groups. Moreover, due to the COVID-19 pandemic which, has shifted student learning to online platforms learners have found themselves engaging in computer mediated communication more than ever. Therefore, the study aims to explore CMC’s influence over student motivations towards achieving mutual-interest in their small groups. Besides that, past studies concerning these areas have been mostly quantitative in nature, thus, this study used a qualitative approach by conducting semi-structured interviews with 9 participants from the Communications programme of a private higher educational institution in Klang Valley, Malaysia. The interview findings identified few factors that transformed their self-interest motivation to mutual-interest motivation. These being: accountability, quality of work outcome, type of coursework & group size. Additionally, CMC was not directly influential in encouraging students to grow mutual-interest in their small group. Besides that, there were no significant difference between the roles of synchronous or asynchronous communication in specifically motivating students towards achieving positive social interdependence. The findings prove beneficial for educators and educational administrators when designing collaborative tasks and relevant policies or guidelines.


collaborative learning, computer mediated communication, higher learning, small group, social interdependence, student motivation