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A b o u t  a s t e r
S t a f f

The importance of small group teaching for enhancing students' critical skills is widely recognised throughout Higher Education, and indeed the demand is increasing for students with teamworking skills who are articulate and can think on their feet. However, changes in the resourcing of Higher Education have resulted in reduced opportunities for traditional small-group teaching within mainstream courses, and institutions are naturally concerned that the very best use should be made of the opportunities that remain.

C o n t a c t  a s t e r
M a i n  p a g e
The aster Project aims to explore how Communication and Information Technologies (C&IT) can assist students and lecturers in making the most of small group learning and teaching, and to promote and support effective change in educational practice. The purposes of small-group teaching are varied, and can include critical skill development, deepening understanding, remediation and new learning. Important too are objectives relating to student motivation, social interaction and generally sharing the culture of the discipline. Small group teaching also takes a variety of forms. For these reasons, a wide range of different forms of support for small-group activities may be appropriate. In one situation prior intervention in a course may make the traditional seminar more effective when it does happen, whilst in other cases C&IT may offer a substitute for or a supplement to a face-to-face meeting. Part of the aim of the project is to help students, lecturers and institutions think through just what approaches will be the most productive in any given situation.


The aim of the aster Project is to establish, validate and disseminate a corpus of good practice and expertise on the use of C&IT for small-group teaching, and to move towards setting up a Centre for continuing support. This aim will be met through the following objectives:

  1. Document and evaluate current practice and methods using C&IT to support small-group teaching
  2. Establish an educational framework for relating C&IT support to educational objectives
  3. Disseminate acquired expertise, through workshops, on-line information and publications
  4. Implement and evaluate 'good practice' projects across varied institutions and disciplines
  5. Evaluate the impact of the dissemination and establish mechanisms for continuing support

PROJECT TIMETABLE (September 1998 - September 2001)

The first year of the three-year project will focus on identifying current practice and needs and in identifying the potential of C&IT. We will survey relevant literature, the views of lecturers and institutions, form links with existing projects, develop an educational framework and conduct case studies in a variety of discipline areas. The second year will focus on the development and refinement of dissemination materials, and on more focussed case studies exploring the methods and approaches advocated by the Project. The final year of the project will involve a wide range of dissemination activities and an institution-based evaluation of the impact of the work of the Project.


The project will not develop software products, but will produce a variety of reports and dissemination materials. These will include:

  1. A review of current literature on research and practice in small-group teaching and C&IT use
  2. A report of a survey of current practice in small-group teaching in selected discipline areas
  3. A report of the developed educational framework
  4. Case study reports
  5. A wide variety of web-based dissemination materials,including information on other relevant projects, information on relevant C&IT tools, methods or resources, guides to good practice across a range of subject areas and illustrated principles and guidelines derived from the Educational Framework
  6. Evaluation reports on the impact of the work of the project
  7. Annual project reports

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