Connecting, interacting and supporting: Social capital, peer network and cognitive perspectives on small group teaching

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No mass lectures anymore but small-group teaching; this is the current trend in higher education and the way universities hope to attract future students. Students get to know each other easily when they collaborate in small groups. The question arises whether dividing a cohort of students in small groups is sufficient for helping all students to build relationships with peers potentially contributing to their achievement? Longitudinal survey- and social network data revealed that when students believed that they could accomplish their studies well, they performed better. Interaction with peers and with teachers enhanced this ‘I-can-do belief’. It was found that within learning communities, as one of the investigated forms of small group teaching, cohesive groups were formed. Further analysis showed that when small groups are formed, the risk emerged of achievement segregation. The better-achieving student created more access to help resources and formed relations in particular with better-achieving peers who potentially contribute to their success. But what about the student who has difficulties with passing the exams? These students become friends, ask help and prefer to collaborate with similar lower-achieving peers. Since the ambition of the Dutch government is that the potential of all students should be reached in higher education (cf. strategic agenda higher education 2015-2025), more research needs to be done about how to organize small group teaching to benefit all students.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Hofman, W, Supervisor
  • Flache, Andreas, Supervisor
  • Jansen, Ellen, Co-supervisor
Award date22-May-2017
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-90-367-9775-7
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-9776-4
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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