While not wanting to overstate the homogeneity of the university student body of the past it is evident that Danish universities like many others have become more diversely populated within the last two-three decades (Voetmann Christiansen, Harboe, Horst, Krogh and Sarauw, 2015). This diversity, and its implications, can be conceptualized and explored in many ways. In this paper, we focus on what we term ‘academic diversity’, which zooms in on students’ different academic backgrounds, and how it plays out in collaborative learning contexts. Specifically we explore collaborative learning in several Master’s programs at one Danish university. The university’s own bachelor degree students, as well as students with bachelor degrees from other universities, including non-Danish ones, populate these programs. Additionally, the program enrol students with bachelor degrees from university colleges, which in Denmark educate nurses, teachers, social workers, etc. in 4 year professional degrees. At our case university collaborative project-work constitutes a significant learning activity (50% ECTS) (Andersen and Heilesen, 2015). In the project-groups, we therefore see students who have significant experience with this learning activity (the university’s own graduates) and some who are new to it. This increases the complexity. By drawing on five focus group interviews with Master’s students, we undertake a thematic qualitative analysis of their experiences with group-work with peers of different academic backgrounds. We ask how they make sense of these differences and what implications they have for the ways in which the students work and learn in the group. We investigate when the differences are considered fruitful and valuable, and when they are considered detrimental and deleterious to the collaborative learning process. We also examine which strategies students use to deal with these differences, for example, how some students against the stated policy of the programme surreptitiously exclude professional degree peers from joining their project groups. Our preliminary analysis shows that academic diversity is challenging, at times frustrating for students, but also that it under certain circumstances can be productive and enrichen the collaborative learning process. The study is of interest to those who teach or administer programmes with academically diverse students in collaborative learning settings.
|Publication status||Published - 2018|
|Event||Consortium for Higher Education Research 31st Annual Conference - Moscow – Higher School of Economics – National Research University, Moskva, Russian Federation|
Duration: 30 Aug 2018 → 1 Sep 2018
Conference number: 31
|Conference||Consortium for Higher Education Research 31st Annual Conference|
|Location||Moscow – Higher School of Economics – National Research University|
|Period||30/08/2018 → 01/09/2018|
|Other||Topic: “Differentiation and Integration in Higher Education: Patterns and Dynamics”|
Petersen, E. B., & Runciman, C. N. (2018). Collaborative learning in the diverse university: Masters students’ experiences and strategies. Paper presented at Consortium for Higher Education Research 31st Annual Conference, Moskva, Russian Federation.