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This issue of CDTL Brief features articles on Collaborative Learning and Other Methods of Meaningful Student Engagement, including discussions on combining experiential learning with community service to enable service learning, giving students the chance to exercise their critical thinking skills by letting them build their own mental frameworks for a module, and a reflection on the merits as well as challenges of assessing class participation.

September 2010, Vol. 13 No. 1 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
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The Collaborative Learning Model
 
Dr Caroline Brassard
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
 

Since the early 1990s, educators have combined experiential learning in higher education with community service to form service learning. For example, in the context of undergraduate learning, Astin et al. (2000) find that service learning leads to the following four major outcomes:

  • Better connections between service experience and academic course materials

  • Increased interactions and relationships with others (classmates, faculty, service recipients)

  • Achieve outcomes related to service learning, such as a sense of personal effectiveness, increased awareness of the world and of personal values, and increased personal engagement

  • Raising the importance of structured reflections, that can be in oral and written forms.

In higher education, service learning involving partnerships with community agencies, civil society and industries and have been increasingly used as a teaching tool, as evidenced by Bringle and Hatcher (1996, 2000). However, partnerships for collaborative learning have not been as extensively explored as potential teaching tools. Recent attempts have also focused on collaborative learning using information technology, as developed in O’Donnell et al. (2006). Professional degrees in the fields of public policy, public administration and public management are particularly suited for this type of partnership, a variant on academic service learning. Institutional partners work with the lecturer to identify a key policy question to analyse, which is directly relevant to their own work and the assignments (essays, memos) produced by their students are shared with the partners, who can also choose to provide input on the students’ work.

Although these partnerships take place in public policy and public administration, they are usually done in an integrative context. While some modules do give “real-life” assignments, they are often one-way exercises. For example, they can take the form of an end-of-semester capstone exercise or a policy analysis exercise equivalent to a Master’s thesis. Students can choose or are assigned a policy question and work in collaboration with a counterpart or ‘client’ within the civil service, in view of integrating their learning from various courses. However, at the courseCDTL Brief / September 2010, Page 2 specific level, service learning by Master’s or PhD students of public policy or public administration is still uncommon.

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Inside this issue
The Collaborative Learning Model
   
Merging Service, Teaching and Problem-Based Learning in a Hands-on Design for Sustainability Course in Industrial Design
   
Grading Class Participation
   
Reframing Mental Models: A Different Approach to Summarising A Module