Opening up thinking: Reflections of group work in a bilingual postgraduate program

Document Type

Journal Article


International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning (ISETL), the Center for Teaching and Learning at The University of Georgia, and the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) at Virginia Tech


School of Education




Bowering, M.H., Leggett, B.M., Harvey, M.J., & Hui, L. (2007). Opening up thinking: Reflections of group work in a bilingual postgraduate program. In the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. 19 (2), 105-116. Available here


As the number of off-shore content-based courses presented by Western universities increases, the issue as to the suitability of elements of constructivist pedagogy arises. This paper reports on mainland Chinese student views of two different types of collaborative work conducted bilingually within a Master of Education program specializing in Educational Leadership. Despite the fact that the literature is divided on the appropriateness of such activity within Confucian-Heritage contexts, initial student evaluations voted the two group activities as the most valuable of all the course components. This encouraged the team to investigate the phenomenon by gathering both quantitative and qualitative evidence relating to the value, the organization and the contribution of individuals in each case. The extent and the nature of the generally positive responses are reported in the paper before a discussion reflecting on what the comparison of “think, pair, share” with “team activities” reveals for future courses. The conclusion is drawn that the study underscores confidence that group work can be very effective in such bilingual, content-based courses in China and elsewhere.

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