Skip to main content
Collaborative Learning – Bath Spa University

A transformative learning journey with Bath Spa University prioritises collaborative learning

Our ways of working are enhanced through supportive learning communities. Staff and students engage in collaborative activities with peers and together through co-creation.

Key topics:


How far do you agree with the following comments?

  • My students are supported and enabled to participate in collaborative learning.
  • My students have opportunities to collaborate with staff to co-create their learning.

Collaborative activities (inc. group work)

Collaborative work can be one of the most memorable, enjoyable and useful learning experiences if well designed and supported. However, it can be difficult for certain learners and so collaborative work should be approached with empathy and care.

Enabling collaboration

Consider how to help learners get the most out of collaborative/group work. Collaborative work can be difficult for learners, especially when working with others that they do not typically work with. Consider supporting the development of interpersonal relationships through facilitating activities such as icebreakers.

Do not assume that all learners have sufficiently developed collaborative/group work skills at the outset. Consider how you can support learners to develop skills in this area and try to dedicate time to exploring this with your students. 

Difficulties frequently arise in collaborative work where groups of learners have misaligned expectations. Ensure to give appropriate time to explain the activity and its parameters, as well as facilitating groups in discussing how they will work together most effectively.

Some resources are:

  • The universities of Reading, Warwick and Brown: All provide tutor-facing guidance on how to design and manage effective collaborative/group work activities.
  • The universities of Leeds, Portsmouth and Sheffield: All provide student-facing guidance on how to get the most out of collaborative/group work.
Assessing collaboration

Setting up and running an assessment based on collaborative work can be challenging, and requires careful planning. One initial decision is whether the assessment will assess the only the output or result of the collaboration (e.g. a report, poster, presentation, etc.) or whether it will also assess the skill and process of collaborative work? Ensure to consult the module specification to see what is intended.

UCL advise eight key things which a tutor should decide/do to implement a collaborative work assessment:

  1. Understanding: Ensure your students understand the key elements of the task, such as the intended learning outcomes, the assessment brief, the assessment criteria, what counts as appropriate evidence and/or outputs, etc.
  2. Form groups.
  3. Plan what will happen if groups break down.
  4. Who will mark the work? (Tutors, students, or both?)
  5. How will the marks be split between group members?
  6. Plan what evidence of the process and/or outputs will be gathered (e.g. reflective journals, meeting minutes, etc.), and how.
  7. Plan what outputs will be created (e.g. a report, poster, presentation, etc.), and how evidence of this will be retained.
  8. If using student/peer marking: Support your students to understand and do this.

Discuss collaborative work assignments in advance with students. Ensure you dedicate appropriate time and focus to explaining the task and requirements. This allows students to get a deeper understanding of requirements and appraise whether and how they may find this difficult. Make clear to students how they can approach tutors with any queries or concerns.

Some resources are:

Difficulties engaging

Some students may have difficulties regarding working with others. Always remember to check their AAP for any agreed reasonable adjustments regarding this, which you should follow. Beyond this, you can discuss with the student to try to suggest minor adjustments to make the group work easier for them. For example, they may find it easier to work with their peers online rather than in-person, or they may find it easier to work with a group of familiar peers.

Further information on supporting diverse learners is available under Inclusive Teaching.

Help at Bath Spa

Teaching Expertise Development provide support to staff regarding teaching and supporting learning.


UCL note that Bovill et al. (2016) define:

  • “Co-creation of learning and teaching occurs when staff and students work collaboratively with one another to create components of curricula and/or pedagogical approaches.”

When students are engaged in meaningful ways to design and enhance their programmes, modules and wider learning, this can add new and useful ideas and perspectives which bring a richness to the curriculum.

The University of Warwick provide a thorough Co-Creation Tookit to guide colleagues through the process at their university. Nevertheless, much of this is more widely applicable to the UK HE sector.

Student partners

A common form of co-creation is to work with students as partners. This breaks down the traditional hierarchy of relationships through staff working closely with students through the design and enhancement process. 

Some resources are:

Help at Bath Spa

Portfolio and Planning provide support to teams on designing and enhancing programmes and modules at Bath Spa University.

Teaching Expertise Development provide support to staff regarding teaching and supporting learning.

Edit section | Website feedback to