Are we talking about the same thing? Researcher and practitioner perspectives of student collaboration

Averil Bolster and Peter Levrai


Student collaboration is a feature of tertiary-level studies and collaboration itself can be a stated learning outcome of degree programmes as an important employability competence. Much work has been done to define and understand collaboration, with a clear distinction being drawn between collaboration and cooperation. The concern of this paper is how the theoretical conception of collaboration is understood by practitioners of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and whether the theoretical distinctions found in the literature between collaboration and cooperation fit the needs and realities of the EAP classroom. A survey of 66 EAP practitioners in diverse contexts shows that there is a continuum of views about what is considered ‘collaboration’, which often differs from definitions in the literature. The survey also highlighted that a range of collaborative assignments are used across institutions, both in terms of mode and the role they play in assessment. However, something which is greatly needed is a shared understanding of what collaboration is (and is not) in EAP. This paper proposes a definition of collaborative assignments in EAP, drawing from both the research literature and practitioner perspectives, which can help inform future assignment design and assessment approaches.