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Theme: Support Systems and Programs

Encouraging Collaborative Learning in Higher Education: Challenging the Traditional Discourse

Dawn Darlaston-Jones, Lisbeth Pike, Lynne Cohen, Alison Young & Sue Haunold
School of Psychology
Edith Cowan University

The traditional discourse in higher education promotes the notion that competition among students' results in higher achievement. To this end students are actively discouraged from forming study groups and providing other forms of support to each other. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this competitive climate results in journals and other resources being hidden or destroyed in libraries to prevent other students from accessing them. As an alternative, the School of Psychology, has implemented a network of Learning Communities (Tinto, 1993), which encourage student collaboration and foster a climate of mutual support and encouragement. In conjunction with the School's Peer Mentoring Programme the Learning Communities have resulted in lower attrition rates for students while still achieving a high standard of scholarship. In addition the negative psychological effects of stress and anxiety that are usually associated with studying are also shown to have been reduced.

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