Part of the 4TU.Federation
4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

I started the SUTQ with a new MSc structure that required the development of new material, including the use of a new learning management system (LMS) environment (CANVAS). I tried to capitalize the challenges of starting the SUTQ with a cohort of students using Blackboard as LMS and developing the collaborative approach with another cohort of students using CANVAS.

Objective and expected outcomes

The main goal of my SUTQ project was to develop a (computer-supported) collaborative learning approach that promotes positive interdependence in a group assignment.

Results and learnings

In cooperative learning there are three main types of positive interdependence: outcomes, means and boundaries interdependence. Outcomes interdependence relates to the goals and rewards that are defined in the group work. Means interdependence includes for example the roles and tasks assigned within the group. Boundaries interdependence is related to the specific space where the group work takes place and what binds students together.

The quantitative and qualitative analysis show that means interdependence is the most predominant characteristic of positive interdependence present in group work and positively perceived by the students. In the collaborative learning approach that was designed, both the group dynamics workshop (analogue/in class) and the group pages in the learning management system (LMS) seem to help in improving means interdependence.

Outcomes interdependence requires further attention as the objectives of the group work and the instructions uploaded in CANVAS are not always clear.

In terms of boundaries interdependence it seems that working in class in different groups is favoured by the students and even more when there is the possibility of contacting the staff in class (e.g. to receive feedback). I also learned that students favour inter-group collaboration and do not see other groups as “outside enemy”.

Johnson et al., (2007) summarize the core of positive interdependence by asserting that the precondition for any cooperative learning situation is that students “must perceive that they are positively interdependent with other members of their learning group, that is, students must believe that they sink or swim together” (Johnson et al., 2007, p. 23). The way that the LMS and the collaborative learning approach is designed and implemented could help students to “swim together”.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. (2007). The State of Cooperative Learning in Postsecondary and Professional Settings. Educational Psychology Review, 19(1), 15-29.

Recommendations

  1. Add clear learning objective to the group work.
  2. Make more explicit why group work is relevant for the assignment.
  3. Improve instructions and discuss with students face to face if they have difficulties interpreting the assignment.
  4. Reconsider the use of WebPA to peer assess participation, preferably within LMS and in consultation with students before starting the group work.
  5. Keep in LMS group pages as students valued the possibility of storing and sharing data within CANVAS.
  6. Keep group dynamics workshops and evaluate possibility of introducing social skills as part of the core training in the MSc Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (e.g. during academic skills or internationalization).
  7. Keep the classroom as the place where students can work in group, physically interact with group members, across groups and staff.
  8. Invite students to choose a name for the group as it stimulates positive identity interdependence.

 See the attached poster for more recommendations.

Practical outcomes

More could be found in the following paper:

Martinez, J. (2019). A collaborative learning approach to promote positive interdependence in a “Planning Sustainable Cities” course. In Planning for Transition: AESOP 2019 Conference - Book of Papers (pp. 699-713). Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP). https://www.aesop2019.eu/program/#1562081402042-a5ba0b31-2b1a