Examination into the use, place and efficacy of group work in university courses

Year: 1994

Author: Ackermann, Antoinette, Plummer, Sandi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Group work is a central part of courses in Health Education/Community Counselling; and group projects are an assessable component of some units. As part of the dynamic ongoing process of unit/course evaluation and self-reflexive praxis, the researchers sought to clarify tensions concerning co-operative learning methods (based on non-competitive rationales) and the competitive academic environment.

Questions addressed were: What is/are the learning needs which unit convenors believe that they are meeting when they include group projects as assessable components of a unit? Are there other teaching or administrative reasons why unit convenors set group projects as assessable components of their units? What student needs have been met by group projects? How have the students experienced the organisation of the group projects? Do students believe that the expected learning outcomes of the group project were presented clearly and effectively? How have the purposes of including the group projects as assessable components of the units been reconciled with the "typical individualistic" environment of the University?

The action research approach used is consistent with the co- operative/consultative nature of "appropriate" group experiences. The researchers were mindful of a number of dilemmas in using this approach, including ensuring every voice is given an equitable hearing; guarding against bias in expression; recognising objective suggestions for change from subjective reports; and recognising and valuing of subjective experiences (convenors and students) and at the same time evaluating these experiences in a way which allows values (notions of appropriate and inappropriate practices) to be placed on specific uses of group projects.