Achieving collaborative learning is greatly desired in the global education field, for the reason being that collaborative learning is proven to be more effective than traditional learning. Course structure, working environment, teaching methods and practices are a few of the many factors, which result in collaborative learning. This thesis aims to create a methodology to investigate collaborative learning and estimate collaboration efficiency, in hopes of eventually developing strategies to design the most cost-effective and educational support for engineering student groups in University of Queensland.
The origin of collaborative learning is presented with characteristics of collaborative learning spaces and activities from works done by researchers around the world. Some of the most successful state of the art collaborative learning centres will be discussed, denoting the theme of each learning spaces and its effects on students’ collaboration. Guidelines for creating ideal collaborative spaces are examined next in the literature review, followed by a critical discussion on the analytical methodologies used in some case studies.
A methodology was refined into a set of ‘instruments’, possessing all the strengths in other analytical methodologies from the literature. Positioning Theory, analysis of conversation dialogs and questionnaires were the three instruments in the methodology.
Trials of using the methodology were carried out with two groups of third year mechanical engineering students at the University of Queensland. These two groups were from different courses and trials were performed at the Collaborative Learning Centre (Sir James Foot Building 47a). The aim of the trials was to investigate the difficulties of using the methodology.
Sources of error in the data were identified and discussed. Lastly, recommendations for refining the methodology were suggested to provide further research in this area of students’ collaborative learning.