Many researchers into Higher Education (for example, Bruffee, 1999) argue that effective learning is closely connected with the notion of “acculturation”; that is, the extent to which you become familiar with, and part of, the whole culture of learning and thinking, reading and writing, speaking and listening, that you’ve stepped into when studying in HE.
Some aspects of the Higher Education culture will be familiar to students in most disciplines: for example, essay writing, selecting ‘units of study’, and so on. But much of the ‘culture’ that you need to become part of is made up of the language and ways of thinking of your particular subject discipline(s). Your subject will have its own vocabulary, expressions, parameters of debate contained within published works, and its own tradition of approaches to learning and teaching.
One way arguably the most effective way of becoming familiar with the language and ideas of your subject discipline is to find additional opportunities to work together in pairs or small groups. This is because collaborative learning activities help us all to ‘acknowledge dissent and disagreement and cope with difference’ (Bruffee, 1999:89), and enable us to become assimilated more easily into the academic world we have entered. Lecturers and Professors engaged in research at a high level are themselves part of a wider group, within which there is a spectrum of views and numerous alternative approaches. Working together in groups at all stages of your study should help you, and your peers, to develop the confidence to think more imaginatively and independently about the ideas and materials you are working with and you can even change this world of academic study for the better by bringing new insights!
Your tutors may well ask you to work together in groups, perhaps to brainstorm or discuss ideas, explore written or visual texts, examine data, or work towards the solution of a problem. Getting fully involved in group...