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Student perceptions of peer based learning in the English Literature unit 'Romanticism and Revolution'

Lorraine Sim
English, Communication, Cultural Studies, The University of Western Australia
My presentation discusses results based upon a questionnaire I presented to forty students studying a second/third year English Literature unit I taught in semester two, 2002. The questionnaire asks students to evaluate how useful they find various 'partners' integral to their learning in the English Literature unit named 'Romanticism and Revolution'. The study asks (i) students to rate the usefulness of formal learning partners including lecturers, tutors, other students and secondary reading material on a scale of 1-4; (ii) what, if any, informal mediums, such as mass media or informal discussions with friends, they used in their learning for that particular unit, (iii) in general, whether they learn more from individual research or group work and (iv) suggestions for new teaching strategies in the English department.

Student responses to the first question were unexpected and constitute the focus of my discussion. Of the 26 students who used the 1-4 range, my results showed comparably high ratings as to the primary usefulness of tutors, lecturers and secondary reading materials in terms of student learning. However, 21 (80%) of those students voted other students in tutorials as the least useful source of learning of the four. This result was very surprising and has important ramifications regarding teaching and learning practices in English departments, which focus on the educative role of peer based learning in tutorials. My presentation evaluates the results and suggests ways in which peer based learning in small group environments can be reinvigorated and made more useful for students. Although my results are unit specific, they raise important questions about teaching strategies and student perceptions of learning in English literature and the need to develop students' skills in critical thinking and critical discussion.

Please cite as: Sim, L. (2003). Student perceptions of peer based learning in the English Literature unit 'Romanticism and Revolution'. In Partners in Learning. Proceedings of the 12th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 11-12 February 2003. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/sim-abs.html

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Last revision: 16 Jan 2003. This URL: http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/sim-abs.html