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Collective supervision

Subject: History of Ideas. Course: The History of Political and Economic Ideas. Study level: Bachelor. Class size: All.

Motivation for the activity

A large part of supervision deals with general things that are common to most of the students and which can profitably be taken care of in plenum. Collective supervision therefore sharpens the focus in the individual supervision.

Central learning outcomes for the activity

  • to promote the student’s reflection
  • to strengthen the supervision period towards submission
  • to promote a culture of dialogue between the students for writing academic assignments
  • to strengthen the students’ ability to work with academic methods in general
  • to strengthen the students’ ability to give and receive constructive criticism on academic projects.

This approach can be used in all subjects that are concluded with an assignment and is particularly suitable when you have large classes. The approach should be seen as a supplement to individual supervision and as a way of getting the work process and thought process going, after which the individual supervision can take over.

Description of the activity

I convene the assignment seminar approximately two-thirds of the way through the semester, and the seminar itself is placed in one of the final weeks of teaching.

As preparation for the seminar the students are asked to prepare a synopsis. This is based on a text they receive with a description of the purpose and content of a synopsis.

The seminar begins with a general introduction to the day and to the aspect of providing critical-constructive feedback. The students are then asked to form groups of three or four people, where they take turns presenting and receiving comments on their synopses. Each person has approx. 15 minutes for presentation and discussion. The presentation and discussion take place on the basis of a number of set questions: Group discussion of assignment synopsis.

Once we have heard everyone we take a break. After the break, the students are asked to form new groups and repeat the exercise. This time with an emphasis on the problems or weaknesses that they have identified in their project during the previous round. 10 minutes per student may be used here.

Finally we gather in plenum for a general discussion of the problems and challenges that are particularly common. Here you can also discuss the question of formalities. The final part also takes place on the basis of a number of set questions: Questions for the entire work process.

Outcome of the activity

The benefits are that the students become better at articulating their assignment process; they become better at searching for and finding help from one another; and not least, they begin to think about the assignment at an early stage and they can ‘test’ their ideas.

I clearly see them become better at writing assignments and they have a clearer understanding of what it requires in relation to the material, theory and working hours to write a good assignment, and they begin to make use of one another far more - also after the assignment seminar.

It also means that the individual supervision changes from being more material and formalities-oriented towards becoming more analysis-oriented.

Reflections on the activity

The method works best as part of a course with a final written assignment - probably best when there is a self-defined assignment topic. But it can perhaps also be used as a tool for handling a variety of different exams and degree programme levels. It can also be an idea to give a short presentation on how to write a synopsis and how you can use your synopsis as an active document throughout the whole assignment process.

Handouts for collective supervision

Handout 1: The purpose and content of a synopsis (pdf)

Handout 2: Group discussion of synopses (pdf)

Handout 3: Questions for work process (pdf).