Forming groups to foster collaborative learning in large enrolment courses

Gwendolyn A. Lawrie, Kelly E. Matthews, Lawrence R. Gahan

Abstract


Assessed group tasks are becoming more prevalent in large undergraduate courses as a means of creating active, collaborative learning environments that foster student engagement and build team-work and communication skills. However, introducing group work presents challenges around task design, implementation, management and marking that differ
significantly from individual-based assessment tasks. This paper focuses specifically on the role of team formation in collaborative learning tasks, which is situated in a broader, on-going study of interdisciplinary scenario-inquiry tasks in large enrolment science courses. A mixed-method design, based on grounded literature, examined student perceptions of assessed group tasks from two student cohorts completing a task under similar conditions with separate group formation criteria. Initial findings indicate that deliberately formed students groups are preferable to randomly formed groups, influencing student perceptions of group work and their subsequent learning outcomes. Results are interpreted within the context of current literature on group formation and collaborative learning. Implications for forming groups within collaborative learning tasks are presented, along with recommendations for further research.

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