Developing targeted scaffolding to support student collaborative learningThis miniproject is now complete
University College Winchester's Psychology department currently runs a voluntary, out of class schme of student support units (SSUs).These are aimed at 1) improving individual learning outcomes through collaborative work; 2) exploring and developing skills for working in groups which are underpinned by psychological theory in the curriculum. Staff support SSUs generally with suggested exercises. Students who have taken part in the scheme have evaluated it very positively and the scheme was also highly commended in the last QAA (1999). However, at present a minority of students participate. This mini-project will evaluate a change to the scheme whereby, in consultation with groups individually, learning needs are ascertained and supported by a more tailor-made approach aimed at increasing participation in and efficacy of the scheme.
Update February 2003
We already had a number of issues that we were keen to see facilitated by the scheme – in particular, student confidence and perceived self-efficacy; motivation and learning to learn – so the grant is giving us the opportunity to monitor related group outcomes in more depth. For additional structure, we have developed a number of exercises encouraging the practice and discussion of learning skills and self-reflection, all adapted for group use. Each group gets a pack with exercises and a group diary in which to record thoughts and activities. We have also introduced a staff 'mentor' (one of the investigators) to meet regularly with each group.
So far we have twenty two voluntary groups in the first year compared with the usual 10-12 groups. The exercises have been received until now with rather muted enthusiasm, and we are already discussing making them more directly relevant to the modules next year. They seem generally to have been used as ice-breakers. However, the mentor plan is proving interesting. Our mentor role ranges from being used as a sounding board for solving personality issues to direct intervention in dysfunctional group dynamics; from advising how the exercises might be made directly relevant to the students' particular learning experiences to more generally assisting self-reflection and group evaluation. All groups think it's helpful and like the fact that it gives them more access to academic staff.
Over-arching emerging issues are the mentor role (where does the mentor 'sit' with the group?); functional architecture of the group; group and individual achievement and evaluation; social cohesion. We are concentrating on our first year students. Our strategy is to frontload skills development in Year One, and we think that the SSUs could be a very important means of extending our reach beyond the classroom.Funding:
April 2002Contact: Alison Barton
School of Social Science ,
University College Winchester,
Sparkford Road ,