Group supervision on individual projects

Motivation for the activity

The specific motivation is that the students can learn from one another. In many cases I can best explain a point by cross-referencing to a fellow student’s work. Or the students often understand the point better when you can explain it by placing their question or problem in the context of other’s work. In addition, as a lecturer/supervisor I can use my 'face-to-face time' more rationally, when I do not need to repeat the same points but can say one thing to a number of students at once.

The difference between peer feedback and supervision

I formulate the difference between peer feedback and supervision as follows:

"As previously mentioned, there are different aims with group feedback and supervision:

  • Group feedback is very well-suited to finding readers and sparring on your own text from among your peers. It is really about communication of your topic. And it is about producing some text. This is also called peer-review, peer-instruction or simply peer feedback.
  • Supervision is well suited for taking up the academic content and any questions you might have on your academic work. And you do that with an academic specialist (me). In some cases, your academic peers (fellow students) will be able to act as academic sparring partners."

Description of the activity

This activity takes place in the same course as described under "Peer feedback with the Feedback Game". This means that the students have a peer feedback course during the same teaching programme, where they use each other as readers of their exam assignment text during the semester.

During the Bachelor's project process I meet once a week with the students from the year group. I have interspersed two-three actual supervision lessons and approx. every second week there is, as stated, peer feedback in groups. Some of these lessons act as 'preparation' for supervision with me, in that I try to 'train' them in being conscious of what they can use the others ('peers') for, and what they can use me ('the expert') for. The week before they submit to me, they submit to their feedback group, and they receive and give feedback there on the material that they subsequently rewrite and send to me.

In the example below, the students have just submitted synopses for their Bachelor's project. I have then grouped them in relation to the challenges which I think they have ahead of them - in other words, not necessarily in relation to the topic, but rather in relation to how I think they can best learn from one another’s situation.

If the lesson is on Friday morning they will have e.g. submit on Wednesday morning, I will read their synopses and send this email on Wednesday afternoon.

In my email, where I indicate who they are in groups with, I write:

“Homework:

  1. Prepare an answer to the following questions: What is my biggest challenge right now (can range from the specific to the abstract).
  2. Carefully read the synopses from those who are in the same session as you. Note at least one thing, which the writer can learn from your synopsis/approach, and one thing that you can learn from the writer’s synopsis/approach. You will discuss this with one another after you have been to supervision with us. We expect you to make use of one another to understand what it actually was that I said during the supervision.
  3. Skim the rest of the synopses (as you will learn a lot from doing this)."

A month later there is supervision again and I will follow the same format here (they submit, I read and divide into groups). Then follows the instruction:

"Just as with the supervision last time, I expect that everyone in the group has read one another’s submissions. Following the supervision I also expect that you remain together for an hour and make use of one another for debriefing on what happened during the supervision. This part is in fact almost as important as the supervision itself, as you will not get much out of supervision if you do not put it into action, and here it is good to make use of others."

Outcome of the activity

  • The students have 'co-listeners' to the discussion with me: what I say, how I do it, in which order, what could they also have asked etc. This means that the students can subsequently make better use of what I say (because they can remember it).
  • The students derive perspective from receiving supervision, an exercise that also functions in principle: what does it mean to receive supervision, and when does it work well etc. And it acts as an example, because they are present at one another's supervision: what do I say to the others, how do they ask about what I say, what works well, what does not work so well etc.
  • I do not have to say the same to multiple students, since I can cross-reference during the course of each individual session. We can thus use our time more sensibly.
  • There is often time to take general discussions, both in respect to the topics, on writing assignments and on the course as such.
  • Personally I remain alert for longer because there is not so much turnover in my office. The longer sessions give me more equanimity and I can remember what I have said to whom.
  • One of the most significant effects is that students are better to seek supervision. They can usually answer quite accurately as to what it is they have difficulty understanding/doing/studying, which makes it infinitely easier to supervise.

Lone Koefoed Hansen

Associate professor

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