Collaborative Learning (2014)

Jackie Cawkwell, Mark Boylan & Adam Talbot

The presentation shares how a small project investigated the staff and student experience of a piece of group work (summatively assessed as a group presentation). The core modules (Level 4 Business Analysis and Financial Analysis for Business) were identified as being of interest due to size (600+) and that they attract mixed evaluations, indicating some dissatisfaction.

Data collection was undertaken by a mixed team of academics and a student researcher, with surveys, analysis of module evaluations and a technique known as process value mapping (PVM) as a focus group task. This technique is drawn from the world of business, but applied, we believe, uniquely within HE as an exploration of a learning experience. PVM leads to mapping, categorising and evaluating a process.

Whilst collaborative learning is seen as important for the development of both learning gains and employability skills, it is often reported as causing concern for both staff and students. It was our conjecture that these issues need to be addressed early in the student journey. Consequently, the project rationale was to:

  • describe activities and associated supporting interventions;
  • identify and evaluate strengths and opportunities for further enhancement;
  • evaluate the usefulness of PVM as an enquiry tool;
  • contribute to the knowledge base on collaborative learning in HE and ways to research this.

We will share our initial findings and also explain the techniques adopted for the investigation and reflect on this as one approach to exploring the student experience.

The project was a collaborative process itself, with a student researcher, two principal investigators and a Programme Leader ‘client’. We will reflect upon the implications of this approach in terms of student engagement in the research enquiry and the learning gains of the student researcher.