Authentic group work, symbolic group work and implication for the social pedagogy at higher education institutions: A qualitative study

Authentic group work, symbolic group work and implication for the social pedagogy at higher education institutions: A qualitative study

Dao Van Vy University of Social Sciences and Humanities - Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Grounded on Engstrom’s interacting activity theory, this qualitative study examines higher education (HE) students’ views about the roles of their groups regarding tasks assigned to them during classroom activities and how their views influence the ways they interact with their peers in the groups. The key findings are twofold. In symbolic group work (GW) interactions, students perceive group leaders as a symbol of group authority who distribute unequal responsibilities among group members. Students, then, positioned themselves as “disciplined members” and passively participate in the group. In authentic GW interactions, students see that the group leaders put forth the authentic conversation and shared responsibilities among group members. Students then positioned themselves reflexively between “collaborative learners” and “active agents,” in order to participate in the group actively. Findings suggest that students view GW dynamics differently when their interactions and participation are either imposed or supported by the group dynamics themselves and whether university teachers take social aspects of GW into account of their facilitation. The study provides insight into the complex interactional group dynamics that influence cooperative learning goals in the university settings and offers opportunities for university teachers to think about adopting social pedagogic approaches in facilitating classroom GW as a constitutive part of pedagogical reform at higher education institutions.
Group work dynamics
classroom interactions
social pedagogy
university teaching

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