Investigating transparency in collaborative learning and its delivery through Scrum

SOKOLOWSKI, LIZ (2022) Investigating transparency in collaborative learning and its delivery through Scrum. Doctoral thesis, University of West London.

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Sokolowski - Final PhD Thesis (June 2023).pdf - Accepted Version

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Collaborative learning is widespread in higher education and all evidence points to it continuing to grow in importance as a teaching and learning strategy. Collaborative learning is central to constructive education, a paradigm with historical roots in Dewey (1929), Vygotsky (1962) and Piaget (1978) that focuses on student-centred learning, with the learner as an active agent in the process of knowledge acquisition. Its potential advantages have been widely reported, yet evidence suggests that many students are still finding collaborative learning a negative, rather than a positive experience. In searching for ways to address this, the concept of transparency was uncovered as a potential means for improving collaboration, a view also backed by students, though what was meant by transparency in this context was not explained, nor were there any suggestions for how it might improve collaborative learning processes or outcomes. Initial investigations suggested that transparency was an under-researched area in the domain of collaborative learning. At the same time, an examination of successful projects in the computing industry highlighted the central role of Agile processes, and particularly Scrum, in delivering these successes. Scrum promotes transparency and continuous improvement, and this prompted the question of whether it could be adopted for collaborative learning in Higher Education, in order to provide positive outcomes in this domain.

The main aim of this thesis is therefore to investigate whether the outcomes of collaborative learning in Higher Education can be improved through transparency, and to examine whether using Scrum for the management of student collaborative learning can produce high levels of transparency and therefore better outcomes for students.

The study used a mixed methods approach, drawing on the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research. Research instruments included questionnaires, peer reviews and focus group discussions. An initial study used means-end analysis to define the attributes, consequences and higher order values that students associated with transparency in the context of collaborative learning. This was then followed by an exploratory study which introduced Scrum into the second part of a student group project to compare a cohort’s experience of using both ‘conventional’ and Scrum project management. Students reported high levels of transparency and a preference for using Scrum, however the results revealed that Scrum had only been partially implemented. The final empirical study then investigated the degree to which the student centric view of transparency obtained from the initial study was supported in a collaborative project using a full implementation of Scrum. In addition, the collaborative project was based on a creative task outside Scrum’s traditional domain of software engineering, to establish whether it could be used successfully for projects of any type and perhaps become a standard for managing collaborative learning in higher education.

The findings showed transparency to be a complex and multi-dimensioned concept. Although universally concerned with information disclosure, providing too much information can be counterproductive, leading to a reduction in transparency, or ‘transparency paradox’. Appropriate visibility and awareness of information was found to be important in this context. The means-end analysis study provided a student view of transparency in the form of attributes that students associated with the concept. Scrum was found to provide high levels of support for these attributes, as well as visibility and awareness through its face-to-face meetings and Product Backlogs. Students rated the transparency provided by Scrum highly, but although it contributed to better process outcomes and more satisfied students, the effect on grades was limited. Nevertheless, the overall findings of this study confirm that Scrum has potential for improving groupwork transparency, student experience and outcomes. The thesis adds to the body of knowledge on efforts to improve collaborative learning, providing a rare empirical study showing how students perceive Scrum to contribute to overall transparency, and how Scrum can be used successfully in projects outside its traditional domain. A theoretical contribution of the study is an examination of a value-oriented approach to students’ perceptions of transparency in the context of collaborative learning.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Identifier: 10.36828/xvqy3654
Subjects: Education > Teaching and learning > Technology-enhanced learning
Depositing User: LIZ SOKOLOWSKI
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2023 15:48
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2023 15:48


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