Understanding Group-based Learning in an Academic Context : Rwandan Students’ Reflections on Collaborative Writing and Peer Assessment

Abstract: The overarching aim of the present thesis is to gain knowledge about how Rwandan university students understand and practice group-based learning. Specifically, this research takes a social constructivist perspective when examining how second year students within the area of Modern Languages reflect on collaborative writing and peer assessment as means to promote academic writing and active learning. Four studies make up this research. Thus, Study I examines how students carry out self-directed group work in writing. Study II investigates how instructor-guided writing groups can help promote students’ collaborative learning. Study III explores in what ways process writing as instruction method can help develop students’ academic writing abilities and Study IV focuses on how students experience peer assessment and peer feedback on group writing. The data, which are qualitative, were collected by means of interviews carried out with groups of students. The findings show that students perceive and conduct group-based learning in different ways, which can impact the quality of their learning. Also, based on initial support and guidance from the course instructor, most students acknowledged having been able to take stock of their common writing abilities and understand in what ways peer assessment and peer feedback can help them improve, and thus enrich their learning. A few students considered the common writing process time consuming though. In conclusion, some strategies are suggested to further improve group-based learning.