Tag Archives: group work

“From the I to the we: collaborative learning as a teaching pedagogy” (2014)

Caroline Molloy, Coventry University

Although it is not an original pedagogy for students to work in small groups, and is often done across media disciplines (GWAMP working groups, http://www.cemp.ac.uk/themes/groupwork.php) it is not usual within a photographic discipline, which is traditionally a more individual pursuit. This paper is based on online collaborative work between small groups of photography students, in which they undertook tasks, which would give them the skills to undertake their own independent assignments later on in the term.

The aim of working in small research groups was to encourage students to work collaboratively, be more independent in their learning and realise between them they could problem solve and learn from each other. In essence, enhance their life long learning skills, as well as improve with their subject specialism.

Whilst it is commonly recognised that the learning economy is active outside of the learning academy, I note with a predominately young cohort of undergraduate students, the student emphasis seems to look at the lecturer, as a parent, who is accountable for their learning. Whilst my intention is not to avoid that role, part of my responsibility is to enable the students to understand they can be in charge of their own learning.

With careful consideration to skill sets personalities and group dynamics, the groups were set for the term. Each group was made up of 4 to 5 students, deliberately small so there was mutual obligation to participate in the tasks.

Whilst there was initially slight opposition to the group the work, students fearing their own work would not be rewarded, once the students got used to the set up, they recognised the benefit of pooling their resources.

We regularly met as a larger cohort to discuss, working progress on particular tasks, informal feedback was given and comments made without any student feeling like they were being singled out. I noted an improvement in the confidence of the students within their small groups.

The paper will look at an example of the online group google docs, discuss the tasks undertaken and how the students interacted. Based on student evaluation, it will look at what they learned from each other and how they evaluated their experience.

292 – Using independent research to enhance employability in first year History students – Chris Corker, Sarah Holland

Strand: Course identity

Abstract: This paper will explore the redevelopment and initial delivery of the redesigned module Making History 2, a core module for first year History students. The module was redesigned with three objectives in mind: emphasise the skills development involved through doing a history degree to students in their first year; enable students to engage with libraries and sources outside of the University, including those at local archives for a piece of independent research; and guide the students in understanding the relationship between academic and public history. To achieve this, students would be expected to work in small groups to undertake a small research project on any aspect of Sheffield history they were interested in between 1750 and 1950. Emphasis was placed on originality and areas of Sheffield’s history which were under-researched. From their research the students would have to produce an essay-style write up of their project individually, and an un-assessed poster for a history exhibition as a group. The poster exhibition would be open to the public, with posters being judged as part of a competition by a local historian. Their assessment also included a reflective element in which the students were encouraged to evaluate their performance as part of a group, and to explore their skills development through doing the project. The skills primarily developed from undertaking their projects include, but is not limited to: team work; autonomy; research skills; writing skills; and planning and organisation. Students would also write a short essay critically evaluating different approaches to public history. The paper will highlight the approach taken to delivering the module, and be supplemented by data gathered during the course of its delivery.

While the approach outlined is tailored for delivery with History students, it is anticipated that attendees will be able to take away ideas on how to emphasize the skills developed through doing a degree with first year students. The paper will highlight one possible approach to introducing employability to students, and offers a means of helping students develop their skills and to seek resources outside of the University while undertaking their studies.


Fazey, D. M. A., and Fazey, J. A., The Potential for Autonomy in Learning: Perceptions of competence, motivation and locus of control in first-year undergraduate students, Studies in Higher Education, 2001, 26:3, 345-361

Pegg, A., Waldock, J., Hendy-Isaac, S., and Lawton, R., Pedagogy For Employability, Higher Education Academy, 2012.

‘Principles and Practice of Learner Autonomy’ in Moore, I., Elving-Hwang, J., Garnett, K., and Corker, C., CPLA Case Studies Volume 1, Centre For Promoting Learner Autonomy, 2010.

surveyed at the start of the module and will be surveyed at the close of the module, assessing their skills development and perspectives on employability.

292 SHU L&T Conference June 2013

278 – Collaborative Learning – Mark Boylan, Jackie Cawkwell

Jackie and Mark aimed to facilitate:

  • a developed understanding of the nature of collaboration
  • a map of the experience of collaborative learning
  • an identification of student support needs
  • a cross-course understanding of differences and similarities in practice
  • a possible SEEJ paper
  • an experience of a model of collaborative enquiry to inform practice

Using (literally) brown paper as a way of visualising the experience of collaborative learning, small groups mapped a real-life scenario, identifying strengths and weaknesses of the approach and discussing what student support activities might enhance the student experience. Whilst this methodology offers an effective way of unpicking different elements of a process, or in this case an experience, we did find that it takes more time than you’d think! Consequently we did well on charting the experience and on understanding the nature and different aspects of the experience  but barely began to explore differences and similarities between courses. Nevertheless, the enquiry group on collaborative learning will take this discussion forward into 2013/14, with a possible SEEJ paper and Student as Researchers project. And we also now have 7 or 8 charted and mapped course experiences of students working together!

Everyone who contributed to the Co-Lab will now have their names added to the Enquiry Group email list. Many thanks to all who joined in.

Session outline as in Conference Programme:

Collaborative learning is an important aspect of the student learning experience, taking many different forms, including peer supported learning of various types and assessed group work. Developing and practicing the capacity to collaborate is itself an important life skill as well as a pedagogical approach widely recognised as supporting different and greater learning than individual activity might alone. It is central to problem based and enquiry based learning. It is also often challenging for students and this can be accentuated by socio-economic, disability and other student characteristics. Often the experience of collaborative learning across the course or programme is not sufficiently considered either.

The focus of this Co-lab is on the student experience of collaboration across a range of courses, the experience of progression and on the support needs of students (generally and specifically). There will be a brief introduction to the work of the SHU Collaborative Learning Enquiry Group; we will share the methodology and outcomes from an earlier activity by the Group, adapting a method called ‘Brown Paper mapping’, a technique that allows processes and experiences to be visualised and adapted from industrial and business contexts. We will undertake our own Brown paper mapping exercise, charting the journey of the students and identifying:

  • what is experienced positively by staff and students
  • what challenges staff and students
  • further opportunities for the development of effective approaches to collaborative learning
  • what support students receive and what further support could be offered
  • an agreed number of action points to inform the future work of the Enquiry Group


Boylan, M. & Smith, P.  (2012). Tutor roles in collaborative group work. Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 1(1). Available at: http://research.shu.ac.uk/SEEJ/index.php/seej/article/view/34/Boylan

Falchikov, N. (2001) Peer Tutoring in Higher Education New York, Routledge Falmer.

Lizzio, A. & Wilson, K. (2006). Enhancing the effectiveness of self-managed learning groups: understanding students’ choices and concerns, Studies in Higher Education, 31(6), 689-703

Nortcliffe, A. (2012) Can students assess themselves and their peers? A five year study. Student Engagement and Experience Journal, 1,(2) Available at: http://research.shu.ac.uk/SEEJ/index.php/seej/article/view/29/Nortcliffe

Thorley, L. & Gregory, R. (eds.) (1994) Using group based learning in higher education. Kogan Page.


235 – Empowering students to develop their employability by applying their course learning in a module – Anne Nortcliffe, Jacky Stallard, Matthew Love, Students

Bad experiences of assessment in the form of tests and exams can turn them away from learning (Berry, 2008). Engagement and attainment increases when students know that assessment will promote their learning (Black et al., 2003; Pat-El et al., 2013). Assessment for learning engages and empowers students because they can see their learning develop (Stiggins, 2002). Project-based learning results in assessment which is learner-centered due to its experiential approach and its capacity to scaffold students as they develop their professional skills (McLoughlin and Luca, 2002); an example of this being project management skills . Applied as group assessment to solve authentic challenging problems, Project-Based Learning requires students to adopt processes for identifying and analysing important activities, and then planning and pursuing these activities (Solomon, 2002). Complex problems encourage collaborative learning techniques amongst students as they identify, analyse and organise their solutions (Barkley et al., 2005). This workshop will provide a hands-on opportunity for module and course leaders, and students to correlate course/module learning outcomes with graduate employability skills and will involve the design of an authentic Project-Based Learning assessment framework used to assist students in collaboratively developing their professional skills. The workshop also provides an opportunity to hear from module tutors, a course leader and students on how such approach has empowered students to draw together course learning by providing realistic solutions for the project management of a development of sustainable technology for attendance monitoring.

235 workshop LTA PMCD v2

228 – Controlling the Critique – James, Corazzo, Joanna Rucklidge, Melanie Levick-Parkin, Katerina Zavros

In art and design pedagogy the ‘Crit’ is a central part of the learning and feedback process. The crit is:

‘ An established and important part of a studio-based culture, where teachers and students can discuss, experiment with and develop ideas and concepts within a ‘supportive environment’ (Blair 2007: 11).

Despite its prominence in practice it is a largely under researched activity and the work of Blair (2006) has revealed that its value as a learning and feedback process deserves further attention. One of the main criticisms of crits is that they are difficult to manage with large cohorts, which can leave students with little opportunity to receive feedback. Traditionally they have been a very tutor centred experience and one that can induce such levels of anxiety amongst students that feedback is either not heard or is interpreted in different (unintended) ways. Group sizes are often cited as limiting by students and although dialogic in its intentions, crits are often largely monologic.

The aim of this study is to improve the ‘crit’ experience for a cohort of graphic design students. Two crits were designed that decentred the role of the tutor and emphasised structured active engagement from students.

Using questionnaires, interviews and observation analyses we will report our initial findings on how students perceived these changes and the value that placed on structured peer feedback as opposed to tutor feedback. We will also report on the extent to which a different approach to the crit may help develop critical evaluation capabilities within students.


Blair, B. (2006). At the end of a huge crit in the summer, it was “crap” – I’d worked really hard but all she said was “fine” and I was gutted. Art and Design and Communication in Higher Education 5 (2) 83-95.

Blair, B. (2007) Perception/Interpretation/Impact, Networks, 1 10–13.

228 Crit_pres_final