Learning pathway on group work

Short Description

This project focusses on increasing the quality of our BSc program by introducing new elements and by improving the consistency of approaches within the program via a learning pathway, with the main focus on learning our students how to work in groups.

We will start at the very beginning of the program by providing basic teaching material for students on how to work in working groups. This material will consist of lecture type of materials (e.g. knowledge clips), exercises and other reference materials (e.g. working group contract). Subsequent courses in which group work plays a role will build on the same starting material. Moreover, depending on the importance of group work in each particular course, more advanced topics regarding group work will be dealt with in terms of lecture type of materials, exercises, and reference materials. At the end of the first year all students should have a thorough and a shared understanding and experience of the way to work in a group with other students and of the added value of group work. This will be an excellent basis for group work in later years. In a meeting where this approach was discussed, coordinators of courses involved have shown their commitment to this learning pathway regarding group work competences. At the same time commitment was shown to a mutual evaluation of group work elements within the respective courses with support of ESD, and to the consequential improvement of the group work elements. This evaluation is a second track in this project, next to the development of the learning pathway.

Objective

  • Developing students' competency of working in (international) groups; 
  • Stimulate students to become more active participants in their own education;
  • Increasing the quality of our BSc program.

Strong Points

Working in groups is a competence that is increasingly important for students, in their study as well as in their working career after the study. By learning students what the benefits are of group work, how to properly start and organize group work, how to plan, how to control quality, how to give feedback, and how to deal with conflicts, students are much better equipped to participate in group work, and if necessary to call failing students to their responsibilities. This will stimulate students to become more active participants in their own education. The increasing number of students has led to more group work as a way to deal with the higher numbers of students in courses. Working in groups has the advantage that students can learn from each other. This mutual learning effect is higher if students know how to properly work together. Moreover, the mutual learning effect means that the lecturer can save time on answering individual questions. This saved time can then be spent on specific challenges in the course (e.g. deepening the course, supervision of group work). In this way the quality of education can be maintained or even increased with increasing numbers of students.  

Recommendations

Clear guidelines about how to work in groups can help to overcome cultural differences which can be an obstacle for working effectively in internationally composed groups. As such it eases the process of internationalisation of the BSc-phase.  For more information or recommendations, please contact paul.berentsen@wur.nl.

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