Whilst pondering the concepts surrounding learning engagement, I realised I had just participated in a real life example.
In Term 1, myself and three others were required to work collaboratively on a task for our assessment in Principles of University Learning. The purpose of this task was to develop communication, presentation and teamwork skills. We were required to formulate a critical question of our own choosing and research the topic so that the information included in the presentation broadened the learning of the whole class. The question we decided upon was “What are the impacts of cultural diversity on working in groups at university?”
According to Kearsley & Shneiderman (1999), Engagement Theory emphasises collaboration among peers and a community of learners, and this is exactly how our group worked, with strong collaboration. As we were all adult learners, the focus of our learning was largely experiential and self directed. We created a question, brainstormed and problem solved, made decisions and re made them, used reasoning and evaluated the process; all aspects of engaged learning.
We were able to apply the Relate-Create-Donate principle as follows:-
Relate- The team communicated regularly and clearly, we planned well ahead of time and ensured that each member understood their task. Research tasks were allocated according to individual skill and area of interest. We encountered problems along the way, different personality traits which affected the efficiency of the group, but worked through them to facilitate a solution. We were also very motivated and aware of our obligations to each other.
Create- The team were focused on the task and interested in the subject. We were keen to learn about the topic and what the impacts of cultural diversity on group work at university might be. We had a purpose and we each knew what that purpose was.
Donate-This was the most exciting part of the collaboration as the team was keen to share their insights about the topic with the rest of the class. We ‘donated’ some knowledge around cultural group work to our own peer group.
The most useful and important collaborative tool for the team was email, as it was our only form of communication. We also used the internet for most of our information sourcing.
As adult learners we probably already had the skills required to participate effectively in collaborative learning, simply through life experience. Students don’t have these skills so approach the tasks very differently.
Kearsley, G & Shneiderman, B 1999, Learning Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning.