Collaborative learning can be one of the most effective ways of fostering critical thinking, which is the essence of research methodology concepts and skills (Bean, 1996; Johnson and Johnson, 1991; Bruffee, 1993; MacGregor, 1990). The use of group projects in college courses is common; yet many professors remain reluctant to use groups because of concerns about “social loafing” and evaluation challenges (Lejk and Wyvill, 1996). More importantly, many professors who use student teams fail to consciously structure the teamwork of the students. This can lead to negative experiences and diminish the opportunity for students to learn effective team behavior. The project described in this article introduced collaborative learning into two graduate courses in the Master of Public Administration program: Research Methodology and Quantitative Methods. The two courses were deliberately scheduled in sequence, and students were enrolled and instructed as a cohort through the sequence. Both courses were centered on a group research project. Using group process checkpoints suggested by Kahn (1995), students were given regular peer and instructor feedback on their teamwork, ensuring that students were given the opportunity to learn these valuable skills in a low-threat environment. At the conclusion of the research project, the students presented their results to the MPA Core Faculty Committee and the MPA Community Advisory Board for use in a possible revision of the program. In the process, beyond research skills, the students developed valuable skills in working as a team and communicating the results of research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Administration