Encouraging engineering students' participation in face-to-face peer learning

Shvartsman, Rina, Fan, Liyuan, and Trieu, Van-Hau (2018) Encouraging engineering students' participation in face-to-face peer learning. In: Proceedings of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference. pp. 626-632. From: AAEE 2018: 29th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference, 9-12 December 2018, Hamilton, New Zealand.

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CONTEXT: It is widely accepted that graduate engineers should be equipped with a range of interpersonal skills to be effective team-players in the workforce (Nguyen, 1998). Study Group sessions constitute a platform for students to practice cooperation with peers in a unique learning environment. Specifically, students learn by experience how to collaborate within a diverse group, which helps preparing them for a diverse workforce. Additionally, Study Groups provide real-life support networks beyond the internet domain (Kim, LaRose, and Peng, 2009). However, attracting many students with a variety of backgrounds to attend Study Group sessions is challenging.

PURPOSE: This study aims to find effective strategies to attract large numbers of students with a variety of backgrounds and academic performances to participate (in-person) and actively engage in weekly Study Group sessions. The sought strategies do not involve direct academic performance incentives.

APPROACH: The Study Group Project (SGP) is an initiative of setting weekly meeting sessions for a variety of subjects (15 subjects in Semester 1, 2018). These sessions, during which students are given a subject-related learning activity to attempt collaboratively without (or, almost without) staff support, are not assessed (thus, attendance is voluntary). In each SGP-hosting subject, a different implementation strategy is used to recruit students. Data on the number of participants and their profiles is collected. End-of-semester surveys are issued to further improve the SGP.

RESULTS: Many factors affect Study Group attendance rates. These can be very significant, as can be witnessed from the cumulative attendance rates in Study Group sessions (during a semester) ranging from less than 2% (of number of enrolled students in the subject) in some subjects to more than 80% in others. Low attendance rates correlated with inappropriate levels of the learning activities (either too difficult or too easy), timetable clashes, and insufficient promotion on the Learning Management System (LMS). While some initial assistance by a tutor and supplying answers in the following session have contributed to attendance rates, these were not essential. In contrast, consistency of implementing Study Group sessions across semesters proved very beneficial.

CONCLUSIONS: Our project highlights some communication challenges faced by engineering students (resulting in diminished collaboration skills), their reliance on having correct final answers and/or authorised support person available, and their prioritisation of learning outcomes that are formally assessed (thus neglecting important skills for their future career). We hope to disseminate the idea of holding Study Groups, where students work collaboratively in a diverse environment that somewhat imitates a workplace. We provide practical implementation strategies to help found similar initiatives.

Item ID: 60843
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
ISBN: 978-1-925627-36-7
Keywords: xStudy Groups; student attendance; collaboration in a diverse environment
Copyright Information: This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2019 23:42
FoR Codes: 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390199 Curriculum and pedagogy not elsewhere classified @ 50%
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390303 Higher education @ 50%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930201 Pedagogy @ 100%
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