shared thinking …. Glasgow

The following is an extract from a JISC email discussion. I’m very interested in following up on the methodology to create a meaningful graphical representation.


You may be interested in the Shared Thinking approach developed at Glasgow. It is a way of investigating and representing the *collective* student experience from student-generated concerns. We’ve used it for induction and transition in different universities to explore the experiences of different year-groups – those entering university and at the start of the 2nd year. We’ve also used it to explore the student experience of placements. The process brings together individual issues and sets them in relation to each other. It provides quantitative and qualitative data on the student experience at the whole-group level usually with 100% participation (socially authentic).

It is a process of collaborative reflection that combines a snowball discussion technique with the use of voting technology or interactive whiteboards. The process generates a visual representation of the student experience drawn from reflective conversations. Tutors, mentors and/or support staff are then able to respond to a collective communication in a ‘situationally contingent’ way. Equally it can form the basis of further dialogue amongst participants or with other cohorts.

We’ve also used the same approach for staff development investigating *staff* experience. This related to the experience of providing institutional support to students. In another case it was used to explore staff experience of implementing assessment in departments.

It is a participative and interactive approach to help everyone understand and visualize the social context and the salient issues at the whole-group level. Typical sessions take about 2 hours with minimal training and setup required. The data display enables you to look across different cohorts. It raises the possibility to understand the nature of experience across different years on the same course, before and after placements etc etc. Interestingly you can also do comparative studies at the collective level (e.g. all 2nd years on a number of different courses/faculties. compare one university cohort with another, compare different generations of 1st years passing through the same course etc. A bit different to issuing questionnaires I can tell you. We’ve also done it in Social Sciences and Science subjects.

This approach is also useful as a complement to representations of course designs (as in LAMS etc.). A situated view of learning would tell us that any course design is experienced differently and using this Shared Thinking approach it becomes possible to add a learner-generated representation of the student experience to go with a representation of the course design. I have argued for some time that this is the missing ingredient in the debate about representations of course design. Now the collective student experience can add meaning to such designs and a library of collective representations would add significantly to the evaluation of course designs – a litmus test for design representations.


One comment

  1. Nicholas Bowskill

    Hi Andy, thanks for your interest. There’s an experiential workshop in York on Weds 8th December if you can stand the journey. I appreciate its a very long way from Bath but you’d be very welcome and maybe you could spread the word if you know of any others interested?

    See for more

    Best wishes
    Nicholas Bowskill
    Faculty of Education
    University of Glasgow

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