Chinese students' collaborative groupwork

Year: 2012

Author: Li, Dongmei, Remedios, Louisa, Clarke, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Collaborative learning (COLL) encourages knowledge construction through social interaction among learners. As a method believed to promote learner independence and interdependence, COLL has been extensively used as an effective of teaching and learning strategy in Western contexts. In China, however, the discussion of collaborative learning is recent and teachers are only experimenting this practice. Little is known about the how the Chinese students collaborate in groupwork to achieve learning. This present presentation reports on an investigation of the collaborative elements of Chinese tertiary students' out-of-class groupwork in China and in Australia, using the Groupwork Collaboration framework (GCF). The GCF is adapted from existing research of collaborative learning such as Granott (1993), Remedios, Clarke and Hoawthorne (2008), Volet, Summers and Thurman (2009) and Williams (2007) to suit the Chinese students in this study. The GCF describes collaboration in two major dimensions: knowledge construction and social interaction, besides a shared goal within the group. Qualitative data including video-stimulated recall interviews and videotaping of student learning-related groupwork were analysed to address this enquiry. Twenty-one students were interviewed and five small group meetings were videotaped. It was found that the homogeneous groupwork (with members being all Chinese) tended to be more collaborative than heterogeneous groupwork (with members with mixed cultural backgrounds), with the consequence that deeper knowledge construction and higher levels of interaction. This might be because the homogeneous groupwork shared more equality of academic, cultural and language expertise among group members than the heterogeneous groupwork. It is then argued in this study that cultural and language equalities are taken into consideration when assessing student collaborative groupwork in a heterogeneous setting, in order to form or instruct more effective group members. However, due to the small sample of data in both types of groupwork, further research is recommended to determine the relation between the level of collaboration and that of equality of expertise.


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