Interdisciplinary group work in higher education: A student perspective

Kelly, R., McLoughlin, E. and Finlayson, O. E. (2020) Interdisciplinary group work in higher education: A student perspective. Issues in Educational Research, 30 (3). pp. 1005-1024.


This research intends to provide understanding of the impact that a module consisting entirely of collaborative interdisciplinary science tasks had on students’ group work behaviour, attitude and motivation. It was hypothesised that implementing a module based entirely of group tasks would develop positive attitudes and increase student accountability. Previous research indicates that large introductory modules in higher education fail to nurture student motivation to engage with course work. In this study 303 students completed surveys and focus groups that examined the level and nature of group work, student feelings towards group work, and student motivation to complete tasks and attend timetabled class sessions. The findings suggest that in order to complete the science tasks, students typically completed sections individually and consolidated their individual parts to form a complete solution. Collaboration occurred when students completed numerical aspects of the task as students felt these sections demanded group members to share ideas. Collaborative work can promote positive student attitudes, increase students efforts to work on tasks and attend timetabled class sessions. These findings imply that collaborative work may act as a means of promoting attendance and facilitating student engagement in module activities throughout the semester. This study highlights the need for educators to assess learning outcomes achieved in higher education and to distinguish between tasks that promote working collaboratively and collaborative learning. © 2020, Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Inc.. All rights reserved.

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