Collaborative Learning: A Qualitative Descriptive Study of Undergraduate Student Nurses’ Experiences of Receiving a Group-Mark for Modular Assessment


  • Deborah Keogh School of Nursing and Human Sciences, Dublin City University
  • Veronica Lambert School of Nursing and Human Sciences, Dublin City University


Assessment, group work, group mark, undergraduate, student nurses


Background: Over the last few decades, education, including nursing, has afforded considerable attention to collaborative learning. However, students can also sometimes find working in a group negatively impacts on their learning. Problems encountered with group work may be more upsetting when the student’s grade depends on the work of the group. Successful collaborative learning requires students to have positive beliefs about collaborative learning. Few studies have examined student experiences of group work when a group mark is awarded. To motivate group learning, educators must better understand the effect a group mark has on student experience of group work.

Objective: To describe nursing student’s experiences of receiving a group mark for collaborative learning modules and the impact this has on their learning and group work experiences.

Design: A qualitative descriptive approach was employed.

Setting: One higher education institution in Ireland in which nursing students undertake a primary degree.

Participants: A total of 14 undergraduate nursing students (across years 1, 2, and 4) who were completing a degree in children’s and general nursing participated. These students were selected because they were exposed to problem based learning modules through which they receive a collective group mark for collaborative learning.

Methods: Individual and focus group interviews were conducted. Data were analysed thematically.

Results: Students reported binary dependent relationships; whereby each student was dependent on other group members and other group members were dependent on each student for their grade. This mutual dependency created an array of negative emotions which emerged across the three sub-themes of lack of controllability; challenges of co-dependency and invisible work.

Conclusion: Students must be taught effective group work skills to enhance learning and group work experiences. Further research is needed to examine the appropriateness of awarding group grades where results contribute to degree classification. 






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