Part of the
Centre for
Engineering Education
TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
Centre for
Engineering Education


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Project introduction and background information

In the past years, the interest in collaborative learning has increased substantially. However, despite the attention for collaborative learning and the existing body of knowledge on that topic, many lecturers experience problems when implementing collaborative learning. Consequently, the theoretical benefits of collaborative learning are not always achieved in practice. To address this gap, this research studied higher education students collaborating on an engineering design-assignment during lectures, as a form of collaborative learning.

Objective and expected outcomes

The goal of this SUTQ research is to design an intervention protocol that teachers can use, to improve collaborative learning outcomes of small groups working on an assignment during lectures.

So the specific research question was: how can lecturers improve learning outcomes of small groups working on an engineering design assignment during lectures? The research is design-based research, aimed at systematically investigating problems, and designing and evaluating solutions to improve lecturers’ actions and education. The solutions had the form of practical interventions that lecturers could apply straight away. The interventions were evaluated by applying them to treatment groups and comparing their learning outcomes with those of control groups, which were not subjected to interventions.

Results and learnings

The results revealed that for most of the groups to which the interventions were applied, learning outcomes were better. However, there were also exceptions. Further analysis was needed to explain these. This research is relevant for lecturers who apply group work in their lectures because it reveals some mechanisms behind collaborative learning, and provides insight in variables that can be adjusted for further improvement.

Practical outcomes

This research has also been presented at the 48th SEFI Annual Conference on Engineering Education, SEFI 2020, Online, Enschede, Netherlands (20 Sep 2020 - 24 Sep 2020) and has been published in the corresponding Book of Abstracts, ISBN: 978-2-87352-020-5, pp. 217-227, Jan van der Veen, Natascha van Hattum-Janssen, Hannu-Matti Järvinen, Tinne de Laet, Ineke ten Dam.  

More could be found in the paper (at the downloads on the right): Improving Learning Outcomes Of Small Groups Working On An Engineering Design-Assignment During Lectures by R.S. de Graaf