Scholarship, or just social media? Creating an online community to support academics in the use of student group work

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Group work, especially where it is assessed, can be of great benefit for student engagement, in terms of the valuable interpersonal and organisational skills it develops, and the quality of collaborative work which it enables them to produce (Boud, Cohen, & Sampson, 1999); but it can also be a cause of dissatisfaction and disengagement for students (Davies, 2009), especially if the specific skills required to negotiate groupwork successfully are not taught, enabled and supported within the module or programme (McAllister, 1995; Vik, 2001). Drawing on both the educational literature, and the presenter’s experience in teaching collaborative film-making, this paper briefly examines groupwork as a key factor in success (or otherwise) in nurturing student engagement, especially with their peers (Analoui, Sambrook, & Doloriert, 2014; Weaver & Esposto, 2012).In 2014 the presenter created an online community at as an interactive hub to enable colleagues to share guidelines for good practice, and their personal experiences of group work, as well as to enter into discussion about those experiences through a forum and blog. The site also includes a resource and repository of academic literature on the subject, to enable visitors to browse journal articles that could inform their own individual practice. The paper introduces this community, describes its creation, and examines the potential role of such an online community as a modern means of contributing to the scholarship of teaching and learning. Boyer, in coining the term ‘scholarship of teaching’, looked towards a ‘community of scholars’ and identified that “A campus-wide, collaborative effort around teaching would be mutually enriching” (1990). Trigwell et al commented that the aim of scholarly teaching was “to make transparent how we have made learning possible. For this to happen, university teachers must be informed of the theoretical perspectives and literature of teaching and learning in their discipline, and be able to collect and present rigorous evidence of their effectiveness, from these perspectives, as teachers.” (Trigwell, Martin, Benjamin, & Prosser, 2000). While an online community does all this, Witman & Richlin (2007) remind us that scholarly teaching is not the same as the scholarship of teaching, suggesting that the ‘teaching tips’ of an online community may lack the investigative rigour required to meet that definition. The paper concludes by arguing that such an online community challenges existing conventions of dissemination and peer review, but can indeed contribute to such a scholarship, enhance staff practice, and thereby improve student engagement through group work.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2015
EventThree Rivers Conference - Sunderland
Duration: 27 Mar 2015 → …


ConferenceThree Rivers Conference
Period27/03/15 → …


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