STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING GROUP WORK IN LARGE CLASSES:  LESSONS FROM ENQUIRY-BASED LEARNING

O'Neill, Geraldine and Moore, Ivan (2008) STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING GROUP WORK IN LARGE CLASSES:  LESSONS FROM ENQUIRY-BASED LEARNING. In: Emerging Issues ii: Changing Roles and Identities. .

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Abstract

The theories of learning that appear to be gaining the most attention in the recent  educational literature emphasise the importance of the social and dialogic aspects of higher  education (for example, Woo and Reeves, 2007; Boekaerts and Minnaert, 2006; Carlile and Jordan, 2005; Lave and Wenger, 1999; Roth, 1999). At the same time, the development of  and support for innovative teaching strategies and programmes are key aspects of higher  education policy. Group work is just such an innovative strategy, which can foster the social  and dialogic aspects of learning. Unfortunately, academic staff's efforts to promote group  work are often hindered by the resources needed to support it (Rangachari, 1996). In many  institutions, it can be difficult to implement group work comprehensively in large classes,  particularly in large first-year and second-year undergraduate programmes. This reduced opportunity for social and peer-supported learning can be a key factor in inhibiting both student retention and social learning.   Enquiry-based Learning (EBL) has also been gaining prominence in undergraduate  programmes internationally (Pastirik, 2006; Roberts et al, 2005; Kahn and O'Rourke, 2005).  EBL can give learners the opportunity to develop professional and personal skills ranging from teamwork and leadership skills to problem-solving and information skills, as well as  personal attributes such as the ability to take responsibility for their own learning and  actions (Barrett et al, 2005; Savin-Baden, 2004). EBL creates an environment in which the learners, often working in groups, are supported in determining their own lines of enquiry.  They identify what is known; what needs to be learned; what information is required; how it  is to be acquired, processed and applied; and how it is to be shared with others (Barrett et al, 2005). This approach is not new to many disciplines, where it may previously have been  described as problem-based learning (PBL) (Savin-Baden, 2004), design exercises,  investigations, case studies or project-based learning. The essential, common ingredient is that an initial trigger (the problem, design specification, area for investigation or case)  stimulates the group to pursue a particular line of enquiry, through which learning is  achieved. The groups are supported by a range of resources including online, paper-based and human resources.   In this chapter, we aim to consolidate and disseminate some ideas on how to organise group  work in large classes in higher education. In particular, we draw on both the literature and some case studies from EBL practices in Ireland and the UK to argue that EBL can activate  social and dialogic learning in group-work situations in innovative ways. It is not our  intention to cover all aspects of EBL, such as assessment, which can be explored in other  publications (Barrett et al, 2005). We believe that the lessons from these EBL cases are transferable to other group-work situations in higher education.   SUPPORTING GRADUATE TEACHING ASSISTANTS AT TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN (TCD)  Jacqueline Potter, Trinity College Dublin and Orla Hanratty,  National University of Ireland, Maynooth    Introduction  Although the main activity of postgraduate students is research, many also have significant  teaching roles and responsibilities. These individuals are known as graduate teaching  assistants (GTAs). Their role is particularly significant in research-intensive institutions  (Travers, 1989). For example, one recent estimate reported that 85 percent of the  undergraduate courses within a school at a research-intensive Canadian university were taught by non-faculty staff, many of whom were postgraduates (Hickson and Fishburne, 2007).   GTAs support undergraduate student learning in various different teaching contexts, and their roles vary in relation to disciplinary contexts, opportunities and constraints. Typical  responsibilities of GTAs include facilitating student learning and helping students prepare for assessments (Morss and Murray, 2005). In some higher education institutions, particularly in the United States, the role of GTAs is officially recognised with employee status, whereas in  others the role is not as formalised (Park, 2004). Even within an institution, support and recognition may vary from department to department.   Postgraduates' motivations for becoming involved in teaching vary considerably, and may  include the need to supplement their incomes as well as a desire to gain experience in  teaching as preparation for developing their career prospects (Park, 2004; National  Postgraduate Committee, 1993). Postgraduates who have taught or are intending to teach  noted the value of the experience in a survey conducted at the University of Oxford, with 87  percent of those considering an academic career indicating that teaching was likely to benefit their research (Trigwell and Dunbar-Goddet, 2005).   The challenge of supporting GTAs has been researched internationally. Reports such as that by the UK Council for Graduate Education (UKGCE) (1999) have attempted to summarise key elements of practice. For example, the UKCGE report (1999, p. 10) identified a postgraduate teaching development programme at University of California at Davis, which contained many  of the features cited as best practice by Sprague and Nyquist (1989). These included faculty/staff member involvement (mentoring/supervision); accommodation of time  constraints (released time); and the development of a recognised teaching culture (continuing professional development).   At a national level in Ireland, the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB) (2005) has  acknowledged and identified the teaching roles of postgraduate tutors and demonstrators.  The Board recommends that basic training to support these roles be provided, as well as  indicating that it might be desirable for those students considering an academic career to acquire a formal teaching qualification during the course of their research studies.   There is currently a range of provisions available, or in development, for GTAs across Irish  higher education institutions. These provisions differ in structure, content and location for  delivery within institutes, reflecting the history of support provision prior to the national guidelines, institutional variations in the roles of GTAs, and funding mechanisms.      Examples from the sector include:   accredited modules or programmes provided by central teaching and learning support  units, varying from 10 to 12 weeks in duration and including the use of peer observation  and micro-teaching  •short clinics  •discipline-specific provisions, ranging from one-day workshops to short courses leading  to certification, for example, a Certificate of Continuing Postgraduate Professional  Development in 'Sociological Teaching and Learning', delivered by the Sociology  Department, NUI Maynooth) discipline-specific provisions, ranging from one-day workshops to short courses leading  to certification, for example, a Certificate of Continuing Postgraduate Professional  Development in 'Sociological Teaching and Learning', delivered by the Sociology  Department, NUI Maynooth)

Item Type: Book Section
Depositing User: National Forum
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2015 08:12
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2015 19:18
URI: http://eprints.teachingandlearning.ie/id/eprint/3269

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