Enhancement of Professional Behaviours and Perceptions of Critical Skill Job Preparedness through the Use of a Group Work Contract in Fourth-Year Nutritional Science Students

Nadia M Cartwright, Payal Patil, Danyelle M Liddle, Genevieve Newton, Jennifer M Monk


Collaborative group assignments in undergraduate education are important for promoting skill development and preparation for the workplace; however, they are subject to the challenges associated with group dynamics. We determined the effectiveness of a Group Work Contract to facilitate professional behaviours and positive experiences amongst fourth year nutritional science students (n=144) while working collaboratively to complete a Group Literature Critique Assignment designed to promote scientific literacy and critical thinking skills. Changes in students’ attitudes and approaches to group work were assessed before and after completion of the contract and the assignment via two online surveys (Pre- and Post-Group Work Surveys). Completion of the Group Work Contract improved group dynamics including i) frequency of communication, ii) distribution of effort between group members, iii) mutual reliability, iv) respectfulness and inclusivity. Students also reported fewer group problems and an improved ability to work collaboratively in problem solving (P<0.05). Importantly, students reported reduced feelings of anxiety related to group learning and perceptions of achieving a better outcome versus working alone and learning more as a result of working in a group (P<0.05). Additionally, students reported an improvement in their job readiness perceptions with respect to the development of their scientific literacy and critical thinking skills as a result of completing the Group Literature Critique Assignment (P<0.05). Collectively, this data demonstrates that structuring the group work process through the implementation of a Group Work Contract can support the development of positive and effective group dynamics resulting in reduced student anxiety about collaborative learning and perception of a better overall outcome.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v10n2p27


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Copyright (c) 2020 Nadia M Cartwright, Payal Patil, Danyelle M Liddle, Genevieve Newton, Jennifer M Monk

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email: ijhe@sciedupress.com

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