A Case Study of Student Engagement in Collaborative Group Learning in a Blended Community Based (Service) Learning Module

John McGarrigle, Dublin Institute of Technology

Successfully submitted to the Dublin Institute of Technology in part fulfilment of the requrements of the Masters in Third Level Learning and Teaching 2009.


A participatory action research case study employed mixed methods to examine student collaboration and engagement in a Community Based (Service) learning module. A quasi experimental testing of Coates (2007) typology of student engagement found little agreement between students and lecturers in assigning the terms, passive, intense, independent or collaborative to student postings to discussion fora. Qualitative analysis of discussion threads using conversation analysis provided evidence for collaboration in deeper knowledge construction when supported by lecturers’ contributions. Discourse analysis examined interviews with students and focused on their constructions of community revealing the beneficial role of developing multiple perspectives to integrate their learning experiences. A possible role for examining facilitative communication in small group learning and the Zone of Proximal Development is suggested and an argument for the role of student centred approaches in Pedagogies for Civic Engagement in teaching and learning is made.