Tag Archives: problem-based learning

Establishing effective communities of practice (2014)

Jill Dickinson & Vicky Thirlaway

Against a backdrop of increased student fees and decreased employment opportunities, simulation has established itself as a key ingredient in the success of many H.E. courses.

In simulation modules students are encouraged to work together and with their tutor to develop not only substantive knowledge but also their transferable skills. Having experienced “work” within a comparatively safe simulation environment, students can then feel more confident in applying that knowledge within the workplace; both during work placement opportunities and upon gaining graduate employment .

In a simulation module students take responsibility for their learning; this helps to develop their confidence in problem solving. Placing the students at the centre of their learning not only inspires them but also helps to develop their confidence to take on higher-level modules involving problem-based learning opportunities within an actual work-place environment .  However, whilst the focus of any simulation must necessarily be on the students, the role of the supervisor remains paramount in ensuring a successful experience.

Creation of communities of practice  where students are encouraged to work together to solve practical problems encourages them to take ownership of their work, as they collaboratively explore the application of different ideas and, in doing so, create a new shared knowledge base .

Using the recently-validated, 40 credit Clinical Legal Education module as a case-study, tutors have found that there is generally a direct correlation between the standards that they set for the group and the group’s engagement with the module. Expectations are made clear from the very beginning of the module as to attendance, participation, the quantity of work involved and the quality of work expected. In return, students are supervised by experienced tutors who provide inspiration,  guidance and support, whilst at the same time taking care not to overly direct the students’ learning.

Tutors on simulation modules need to ensure they foster a teaching and learning environment which creates optimal levels of engagement, and results in optimal levels of performance.[1] There is a delicate balance to be drawn;[2] whilst the students may not have experienced a simulation module before, such modules also need to act as key stepping stones towards higher-level, work-based learning opportunities, work placements and graduate employment. Students’ anxieties at the start of the module focus upon concerns about group work, and a tendency to seek direction from the tutor. Tutors find that students develop confidence throughout the year to take the initiative in working out what needs to happen next, and proactively progress their “client’s case”.

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

References:

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.