Psychology staff were looking for a way to teach their students how to construct an argument in an essay and demonstrate that an essay question can be tackled in different ways. The approach they adopted was to set a single essay question, which each seminar group would then attempt to write collaboratively. The completed essays were then presented to a different seminar group and tutor for peer marking, enabling students to begin to explore rubrics and marking criteria as well as see an alternative approach to the same essay. Peer feedback was not presented back to the original group.
Within the seminar, the whole group discuss how to tackle the essay, including agreeing the conclusion and then breaking it down into three main points and an introduction. The students then break off into smaller groups and are allocated a section of the essay to write. They are given the time to research the essay and begin writing a paragraph, which they will continue to work on through the week.
To facilitate the group approach to essay writing, the students are using Office 365, with the document created in the tutor’s personal OneDrive area, but access given to all students. This enables all the students in that group to see the essay plan and the different sections that are being created. It also enables the students to continue working on their section outside of class, as it is accessible at all times.
The following week, seminar groups review the essay, ensure all the paragraphs flow together and that the arguments made are coherent. Essays are then shared to a different seminar group, where tutor leads a discussion exploring the similarities and differences between the essays they wrote and the one under review.
The collaborative essay writing exercise is run every year, and it well received by staff and students. The students are learning their critical thinking and reasoning skills, as well as developing and exploring how to approach an essay. In addition to this, students are developing their digital capabilities by using the Office 365 tools, which are used throughout their degree for group work activities.
Maggie Gale (Lecturer in Psychology), Kevin Silber (Lecturer in Psychology) and Johanna Westwood (Learning Technologist)