Author:Tina Loucks-Jaret, Engineering Communication Program, College of Engineering, UW Seattle
Abstract:ENGR 231 draws students from several CoE departments and students typically do not know their classmates. This challenges instructors to create a sense of community as well as foster collaboration between students when they are placed in project groups. The pandemic exacerbated this challenge when classrooms moved online, leaving many students feeling adrift, isolated, and lonely.
To overcome this challenge, I created Collaborative Learning Teams (CLTs) where students are placed in small groups early and remain together the entire quarter. CLTs meet frequently for breakout discussions and group work that supports skills and elements of specific course assignments, including peer reviews, document analysis, and topic analysis. Students choose areas of interest via a Canvas survey and are grouped based on these topics. CLTs provide students a means to discuss and coordinate their topics for course assignments with an eye to the final team assignment. This coordination allows CLTs to build a topic theme and a library of source material from which they can pull as they develop and write their team-based white paper.
Student feedback on CLTs was overwhelmingly positive, as shown in comments on course evaluations and ET&L focus groups. Students enjoyed the smaller work groups and an opportunity to get to know other students in a way that the larger Zoom classroom doesn’t allow. They liked that CLTs were formed by topic area and appreciated having a common place to begin developing their team relationships. CLTs can be applied to any online and in-person setting where community and collaboration are keys to student success. To build on this positive response to CLTs, future surveys will target students’ satisfaction with the CLT approach, including whether they perceive an increase in motivation and course participation, improved academic performance, and a stronger sense of community and connection to other students.
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