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Student Conceptions of group work: Drawing the group

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Student Conceptions of group work: Drawing the group

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Presentation delivered at the University of Sheffield Learning and Teaching conference 7th January 2016. Preliminary results from a research project using the "Draw and write technique" to understand student opinions of and conceptions of group work carried out in a University context.

Presentation delivered at the University of Sheffield Learning and Teaching conference 7th January 2016. Preliminary results from a research project using the "Draw and write technique" to understand student opinions of and conceptions of group work carried out in a University context.

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Student Conceptions of group work: Drawing the group

  1. 1. Pamela McKinney p.mckinney@sheffield.ac.uk @ischoolpam Chloe Cook: Undergraduate student in the Economics department
  2. 2. Introduction  Motivations for the study  An Arts Informed visual research methodology using the Draw-and-Write technique  Selected results  Questions
  3. 3. Motivations
  4. 4. Motivations Group work does not always go smoothly:  Variable levels of commitment  Freeloading  Personality clashes  Enhanced admin & teaching work if groups encounter problems  Often we assess the product of group work while knowing very little about the process of group work
  5. 5. What conceptions do students have about working in groups? How can we better support students in their group work? Research questions:
  6. 6. Arts Informed Visual Research Methodology: the draw and write technique Dr Jenna Hartel, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
  7. 7. The isquare corpus: conceptions of information http://www.isquares.info
  8. 8. Data Collection  Data collected in 2014-15 from students in the Information School  1 x Undergraduate module and 3 x Postgraduate modules: 164 isquares collected (12 x UG; 152 x PG)  Students had all experienced group work as part of their Information School course, and may have had prior experiences in other courses/institutions  Large number of international students
  9. 9. SURE: Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience • SURE scheme funds a 2nd year undergraduate student to work on a research project with an academic for 6 weeks in the summer vacation • I recruited 2nd year BSc Economic student Chloe Cook • Chloe made exact replicas of each isquare, undertook compositional, content and thematic analysis. Interviewed students, transcribed & analysed the interviews
  10. 10. Data Analysis  Compositional interpretation using categories defined by Engelhardt (2002)  Content Analysis  Thematic analysis  Theoretical analysis
  11. 11. Motif/Graphic representation Number Stick figure 82 Arrows 59 Circles 53 Table/Desk 26 Thought/Speech Bubbles 26 Paper/Writing 18 Technology 16 Reading/Books 13 Hands 10 Building/Structure 8 Parts/Puzzles 7 Question Mark 5 Lightbulb 4 Whiteboard 4 Trees 4
  12. 12. Figures around Table/Desk
  13. 13. Use of Laptops/Technology
  14. 14. Multiple information inputs / outputs
  15. 15. Paper/Writing
  16. 16. Hands/holding hands
  17. 17. Question mark
  18. 18. Lightbulb
  19. 19. Buildings/structures
  20. 20. Parts/Puzzles
  21. 21. Circles
  22. 22. Leader role/Hierarchy
  23. 23. The ‘process’/stages of group work
  24. 24. Negativity
  25. 25. Different Cultures/Languages
  26. 26. ‘Freeloading’
  27. 27. Positivity
  28. 28. Summary  Face-to-face working is an important part group work  Students work creatively with various technology and non-technology based tools and information inputs and outputs  Free-loading and communication problems are significant barriers to effective group working, although students may not be sympathetic to outside commitments  The drawings reveal interesting conceptions of group work i.e. “solving a puzzle” and “building”  Students can view group work as a process, and a set of defined stages  Some students see a need to have a hierarchical group structure with a named leader and specific group roles  Although negative views about groups are expressed, many of the drawings present a reasonably positive view of group work.
  29. 29. Reflections  An interesting and quick way to collect data  Prompts students to reflect on their experiences with group work  A way to identify sources of problems in groups (e.g. language & communication)  A way to stimulate discussions about group work with students
  30. 30. Questions?
  31. 31. References  Engelhardt, Y. (2002). The language of graphics: A framework for the analysis of syntax and meaning in maps, charts and diagrams. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  Hartel (2014) An arts-informed study of information using the draw-and-write technique. Journal of the Association for Information Science & technology 65 (7)  Weber, S., & Mitchell, C.A. (1995). That’s Funny You Don’t Look Like a Teacher: Interrogating Images and Identity in Popular Culture. Routledge: London.

Editor's Notes


  • Association of graduate recruiters put group work at number 4 in their list of graduate skills

    Other stated benefits of group work are:
    The ability to share ideas and experiences with other students and work with students from different cultural & social backgrounds
    Lecturers can offer more complex assignments
    Research has shown that groups can increase the quality of output
    Group work can help build problem solving capabilities and time management skills
    Students can learn how to deal with challenge & conflict
    provide a supportive environment for challenging work and gain different perspectives on a subject
    Make friends & develop communication skills


  • Arts informed methodology incorporates novel modes of inquiry into the research process – the outcomes can be accessible to more people. In visual research we use images to learn about the social world, we can use images as data, images cane be a “springboard to theorising, images can be used to elicit or provoke other data.

    This technique first developed in 1980s in field of child health. – historically been employed in an education context e.g. Weber & Mitchell asked teachers to draw teachers and has also been used in health care, engineering, environment science, geography, industrial design and psychology

    Enjoyable for participants and generates a rich and unique visual data set. Although critics have claimed issues with the mthodology in that people simply draw what is easy to draw, may be affected by the others around them or may desire to please the researcher (these claims could also be made about more traditional spoken or written data)

    Protocol designed by Hartel, the tools used can help the researcher to control the outcomes of the drawing
    10cm x 10 cm card, 10 minute time frame ensure images aren’t overly complex or sprawling
    Participants given the card and a black ball point pen and asked to create a drawing of the concept under investigation on one side and write a short description of their drawing on the other side

    “Draw group work”

    “Please write a short description of your drawing” In this presnetation we are just going to look at the drawn data.
  • Ethical approval and permission sought to share and reproduce the images in diverse contexts. No demographic or identifying information sought from participants.
  • A small identifying number was written on the back of each drawing and the data regarding the module code used to create an excel spreadsheet. Other data was added suring the course of the analysis
  • Compositional interpretation has its roots in Art and art history, and part of the approach is to assign categories of graphical representations to the drawings. Interesting but ultimately it was felt that the content & thematic analysis would be more interesting for this particular audience.

    The content analysis is a quantitative approach where particular items in the drawings are counted

    Thematic analysis similar as for textual data where emerging themes from the drawn data are identified and refelected upon

    Theoretical analysis – looking at the drawings in the light of relevant theories of groups or teams – e.g. Belbin’s team roles. This has only been done at a cursory level
  • Half of drawings contained some form of stick figure (unsurprising!) and other popular graphics used were circles and arrows.

    Some overlap between the content and thematic analysis so the two will be handled simultaneously in the presentation going forward.

  • Importance of face-to-face communication, working in what many would see as a traditonal fashion – importance of group meeting spaces in building such as the IC and the Diamond
    Lots of ci
  • Laptops are shown the most but what about phones – only one iSquare includes a phone, why haven’t they been included more?

    Need for electricity, connectivity and online virtual meeting spaces e.g. google Docs

    Face to face meetings supported with technology

    The isquare on the left probably reflects most the technical mindset of some ischool students – technolohy is pictured but no people!

    Middle isquare shows how f2f meetings are supported with laptops
  • Students here are pictured using books as well as online sources of information, working creatively with whiteboards and producing varied outputs both tectual and in PPt format for presentations.

    Bottom left – so much energy and enthusiasm in the group.
  • The production of artefacts is seen to be an important part of the group work process

    Arrows show the contribution of individuals towards the group output
  • The connections between individuals
    Sense of strength from the group
  • Showing confusion and uncertainty experienced as part of group work
    Sense of frustration
  • 114 [1]
    141 [2]
    36 [3]
    4 [4]
    83 [5]
    46 [6]
  • 14 [1]
    149 [2]
    100 [3]
    155 [4]
    93 [5]
    142 [6]
  • Circles indicating the bounded group, the individuals within the group

    Represents connectivity/communication?



  • Belbin role – ‘Coordinator’
  • The presence of arrows classifies these graphical reperesentations as link diagrams

  • Itop left – students expressing varying negative emotions, and the professor underneath saying “This is so valuable!”

    Focus group – overall is group work seen as a positive or negative experience?
  • 30 [1]
    76 [2]
    129 [3]
    161 [4]
  • Group members no contributing are often depicted as being asleep or even In bed while the other members are having their group meeting (bottom right)

    Using “sleep” as a way to signify on engagament, Other reasons for not attneding group meetins are not explored – other commitments, which may disporpotionatly affect mature studenst or those who have to workl while they study. Very negative.

    Six Sigma: common team problems – reluctant participants
  • 2 [1]
    5 [2]
    6 [3]
    10 [4]
    7 [5]
    13 [6]
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