Group Dynamics and Peer-Tutoring a Pedagogical Tool for Learning in Higher Education

By Qureshi, Muhammad Azeem | International Education Studies, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Group Dynamics and Peer-Tutoring a Pedagogical Tool for Learning in Higher Education


Qureshi, Muhammad Azeem, International Education Studies


Abstract

The increasing diversity in students' enrolment in higher education in Norway offers an opportunity to use collaborative learning and teamwork as a learning vehicle to exploit the synergy in the community to have formal and informal agoras. Theoretical and empirical observation of the value of team processes provides the framework to personify our understanding of learning and present a model for teaching in higher education in Norway. We consider learning as a holistic process and one must appreciate its dynamics and be flexible and responsive to it. Moreover, such a view of the entire process necessitates an active communication with all stakeholders of the system and to make an integrative and coordinated effort to ensure availability of the required institutional resources, equitable distribution of the students' resources, and a smooth transition from the traditional lecturing to this form of collaborative learning to make higher educational institution a learning organization. We report a positive feedback from the students attending two courses at School of Business at HiOA, indicating that students consider this teaching method adding more value compared to traditional lecturing.

Keywords: Group dynamics, Peer-tutoring, Higher education, Collaborative learning, Inclusive learning environment, Social interaction

1. Introduction

Over the last two decades we observe a proliferation of development of alternative teaching methods and their integration with traditional programs (Colvin, 2007). Collaborative learning is one such method applied in different settings and during the last decade researchers have been analyzing learning as a social practice. The socio-cultural perspective considers the learning as a collaborative process and research demonstrates that students working in small groups develop not only a deeper understanding of the subject matter but also develop some of the key professional competencies such as critical thinking, communication skills, interpersonal relations, and self-assessment (Chaves, Baker, Chaves, & Fisher, 2006). Contrary to the orthodox conduit of 'teacher is the only authority', collaborative learning bases itself on accepting and granting authority among students (Fougner, Tønnesson, & Utne, 2008; Michaelsen, Knight, & Fink, 2004). This construct weaves teacher, tutor and tutee into a learning community (Fougner, 2011), where dynamics of social interaction help facilitate an inclusive learning environment because we consider teaching and learning as highly social activities from a social-cognitive theoretical perspective (Bandura, 1986; Vygotsky, Cole, John-Steiner, Scribner, & Souberman, 1978). We use these theories and theories of group dynamics to ground our teaching model which we propose to be used in Norwegian higher education system.

The students' enrolment in higher education in Norway is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of ethno-cultural, socio-economic and even linguistic backgrounds. Considering varying level of interest and preparedness of the students adds further complexity to the observed diversity among students and makes the job of teaching community in higher education in Norway further challenging. We observe that such a diversity offers an opportunity to use collaborative learning and teamwork as a learning vehicle because research demonstrates that such methods not only help learning in diverse and challenging environment but may also facilitate harmony in society (Underhill & McDonald, 2010). Moreover, collaborative learning confers upon teachers three types of responsibilities: teaching, supervision, and learning facilitation. While the traditional teaching method draws away the teacher from supervision and learning facilitation to make teaching as the main responsibility. We consider the need for sharpening the supervisory and mentoring skills of teachers as a developmental opportunity to practice collaborative learning and teamwork as a teaching method. …

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