In her chapter, ‘Life after academia: Preparing students for successful-collaboration’, Kovačević demonstrates the importance of group work and presentations. Kovačević’s idea of improving learning via group work was implemented through a series of three seminar classes, in which the learners were required to make a poster and do two presentations. This chapter is particularly useful to seminar leaders when designing the seminar outline as they should take into consideration the level of interactivity of their classes.
Data were collected through a survey that used Likert scale and open-ended questions. Kovačević found that students showed stronger interest and better communication skills after the group work and presentations. Moreover, there was also a positive influence on their participation, confidence and learning levels.
Kovačević is commendable for focusing on non-native English speakers to empower them by increasing their English proficiency and self-esteem. Although the sample from Kovačević’s study were Master’s students, I would recommend delivering this group-work centred seminar also at undergraduate level. As an undergraduate student, I had to present numerous times during my degree, and subsequently when I had the opportunity to present at the SEDA 2018 conference in Birmingham, I did not feel that I was outside my comfort zone.
In my experience, as a student who has done their fair share of group work, I can attest that group work and presentation skills are of vital importance. Although Kovačević mentioned that collaboration and communication skills are essential to enter the labour market, these skills are also imperative for progressing in academia because academics need to engage in highly verbal environments such as that of seminars and conferences. According to employability websites such as Bright Network, employers currently rate interest-for-the-job, communication and collaboration skills as more important than the grades obtained. This highlights the importance of fostering soft-skills prior to entering the job market.
A positive aspect of this study is that the author had put some thought into the study design. Although Kovačević was responsible for two seminar groups, she did not create an experimental group vs. a control group scenario because she had believed that it was ethically unjustifiable to conduct the intervention on one group, but not the other.
However, the chapter does not mention whether each student contributed equally to group work or if the work was largely done by a sub-group. Further research should examine how to make group work enjoyable as well as fair because from my experience, the work and responsibility can fall on one person or a sub-group of people who drive the project.
All in all, I think Kovačević’s study has real-world value, and that the findings are of use to seminar leaders as they guide the development of the abilities of their learners and prepare students for their lives after academia.
MSc Education student
University of Oxford
Early Career Academics’ Reflection on Learning to Teach in Central Europe
SEDA is publishing an open access book online, with a chapter released on its website every fortnight. Each time a chapter is released it will be accompanied by a blog post published on SEDA WordPress. The book is called Early Career Academics’ Reflections on Learning to Teach in Central Europe, edited by Gabriela Pleschová and Agnes Simon. This book contains case studies by participants of a new educational development programme who redesigned their course sessions to apply student-centred approaches, using innovative teaching methods and stimulate good learning.