IIER logo 4
Issues in Educational Research, 2020, Vol 30(3), 1005-1024.
[ Contents Vol 30 ] [ IIER Home ]

Interdisciplinary group work in higher education: A student perspective

Regina Kelly
University of Limerick, Ireland

Eilish McLoughlin and Odilla E. Finlayson
Dublin City University, Ireland

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.
[ PDF full text for this article ]

Authors: Dr Regina Kelly is a Science Education Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Limerick. She completed a PhD in the area of physics education. Her research interests are in science education with a special focus on physics teacher education, inclusive STEM education, and teaching and learning in higher education.
Email: regina.kelly@ul.ie

Eilish McLoughlin is an Associate Professor in the School of Physical Sciences and Director of the Research Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning (CASTeL) at Dublin City University. She obtained her PhD in experimental surface physics. Her interests focus on physics and science education research. She has led and collaborated in over 40 research projects at EU, national, and local levels that examine the development of curriculum, instruction and assessment models that target integrated STEM and inquiry approaches, at all levels of education, from primary school to PhD level.
Email: eilish.mcloughlin@dcu.ie

Odilla E. Finlayson is Associate Professor of Science Education in the School of Chemical Sciences, Dublin City University. She is one of the founding members of CASTeL (Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning) at Dublin City University and plays an active part in its management and development. She is involved in teaching chemistry to undergraduate students and to pre-service teachers. Her current research interests are in sustaining science across transitions and in particular in development of appropriate science (chemistry) curricula and assessment, and she is actively involved in EU projects such as ESTABLISH and coordinator of SAILS.
Email: odilla.finlayson@dcu.ie

Please cite as: Kelly, R., McLoughlin, E. & Finlayson, O. E. (2020). Interdisciplinary group work in higher education: A student perspective. Issues in Educational Research, 30(3), 1005-1024. http://www.iier.org.au/iier30/kelly.pdf

[ PDF full text for this article ] [ Contents Vol 30 ] [ IIER Home ]
This URL: http://www.iier.org.au/iier30/kelly-abs.html
Created 24 Sep 2020. Last correction: 24 Sep 2020.
Website: Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]