Session 3: Making Group Work Work

Day 2, Thursday 29 June 2023

4:30pm-6pm BST//11.30am-1pm EDT

Session Chair: Kevin Owens, Western Kentucky University

Active Learning with Lego Serious Play in a Cross-Disciplinary Capstone Unit

Prashan Karunaratne, Macquarie University


Experiential Learning Theory is a holistic methodology in higher education that focuses on how individuals learn (Kolb, Baker, & Jensen, 2002). In recent years, educators are beginning to recognise experiential leaning as the methodology that will revitalise curricula in higher education – Peabody & Noyes (2017).

The Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) Capstone Unit in Macquarie Business School – Agility and Excellence in Business – is a new unit that brings students across 12 distinct disciplines (including Economics) in the BCom together in cross-disciplinary teams – so that students develop an empathy for other disciplines that they will have to work with upon graduation, as well as understand where a student’s own discipline-expertise fits in the context of a team.

The teams work towards addressing one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). They bring their skills and experience from their prior studies together to achieve this goal – collaboratively, sustainably, ethically, and profitably.

The teaching methodology is based on a synthesis of active learning, problem-based learning, and team-based learning. Teamwork is embedded in the unit’s curriculum with the initial weeks devoted to teamwork. We work through activities which are ultimately a scaffolding for the capstone projects.

This is where Lego Serious Play (LSP) comes in. LSP is geared towards business education as it is designed for teamwork, management, and organisational activities. LSP can also be used to embed active learning of economics with lessons on: Demand and Supply, Production and Costs, Market Structures, and Comparative Advantage – amongst lessons in other business disciplines such as Supply Chain Management, The 5 Ps of Marketing, and more.

Student survey responses to the use of LSP in the Capstone Unit indicate that the teaching design has helped enhance co-operative learning, effectively form teams, efficiently synthesis cross-disciplinary ideas, and engage students to collaboratively apply business principles to achieve the UNSDGs.

Active Learning in Economics Higher Education

Priscilla Tavares, FGV EESP


This paper studies peer effects in higher education by observing students in an active learning environment, where peer interaction is meaningful for performance. We study an undergraduate course in Economics case in Brazil, which has been using Problem Based Learning since 2013. The aim is to assess how the composition of tutorial groups, in terms of the students’ skills heterogeneity, influences learning. This assessment is especially important in the context of active learning, where the environment provides intense interaction between students. We allocated students to the tutorial groups of the different disciplines taught in the second, third and fourth semesters, based on measures of their ability and affinity. The identification of peer effects relies on the random assignment of students to groups and explores variation both in terms of the share of low and high-ability students in each group as well as the frequency that peers meet for group work. The main result is that the share of low and high-ability peers in a group is not able to explain by itself the existence of positive peer effects on performance, which arises only when we consider the fraction of a student’s high-ability peers in the group that are also peers in a second group. We show that when pairs of students meet in more than one group, they are more likely to establish a link, measured by students’ self-reported naming of their relevant peers. Thus, increased interaction with high-ability peers impacts positively performance. However, we also show that this effect depends on whether the student himself is classified as low or high-ability. These results bring relevant evidence to the context of PBL, as they provide subsidies for allocation choices of tutorial groups, in order to enhance learning opportunities through interactions between students with different profiles.

Class Presentations are an Input into Sociality, Learning, and Academic Integrity in Capstone Projects (…also here’s how do them in a large course with meaningful assessment)

Courtney Ward, University of Toronto


Class presentations are an effective assessment tool, and as part of a phased capstone project, they are an important input into sociality in the classroom, a source of formative feedback, and can spur authenticity in project output. Unfortunately, they are not often used in large courses because of limits on class time. This paper describes an approach that solves this issue while still allowing for meaningful evaluation. It does this by setting a two-stage process: Stage 1 is an in-person presentation workshop with formative assessment done in a class of any size; and Stage 2 is a submitted video, which is graded by course staff. The key innovation is the workshop, which saves time by having students take turns delivering a 3-minute presentation in groups. With multiple groups presenting at once, the activities are highly structured so that they can be moderated by one instructor in real-time. The process, itself, is an exercise in active listening and works like the “telephone game.” First, students are given guidelines on what to present, where the guidelines match the overall goals of the assignment. Then peers are asked to listen for those points and report them in a structured peer assessment. Finally, both presenters and peers assess the presentation using a qualitative rubric meant to guide revisions. After the workshop, presenters receive multiple reports based on what their peers heard, and they can assess how well they did at delivering their message down the “telephone-line.” Using this information and the rubric feedback, they revise and submit a 3-minute video of their work for graded assessment. When asked to reflect on their learning through this process, students consistently report that it forced them to think about the big picture in their analysis, which was instrumental in helping them refocus a primary narrative in investigating and reporting on their final analysis.