Asymmetric knowledge: the lecturer student paradox

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Asymmetric knowledge, e.g. agency theory, is used to explain the dichotomy about why parties behave differently. This helps explain a perennial pedagogical dilemma: the role of the individual versus the team in learning, teaching and assessment. Researchers and practitioners argue team-working is an essential employability skill (Suleman, 2017; Kelly et al., 2019). However, some students hold negative perceptions arguing it compels them to collaborate with peers with whom they may differ pedagogically, or socially. Addressing this resistance, students may self-select teams. Critics argue this perpetuates group think, entrenches prejudices and does not reflect the reality of work. Therefore, consideration should be given to if and how academic intervention may be employed in constructing student teams. This research explores team-working within two Professional Doctorate cohorts. Professional Doctorates encourage group learning as professionals learn best through the medium of communities of practice (Lave & Wenger 1998). Nonetheless whilst students acknowledge its role in enhancing their learning, its use as an assessment tool provokes varying reactions from willing acceptance to hostility. The Professional Doctorate encompasses four taught modules with one utilising student teamwork as the primary learning and teaching strategy. Although historically at the end of the teaching programme, delivery was transferred to the start, based on previous student feedback. Consequently, module delivery was at the end for this senior cohort and the start for the new cohort. A third party facilitated team selection through a student self-evaluation survey which identified students’ skills and behavioural characteristics, which were sorted into 4 colours. Students were advised to seek group members of different colours, to ensure teams with mixed skills and behaviours. Although both cohorts experienced the same external intervention, the process generated different outcomes in terms of team formation, team performance and individual marks. The suggestion is that asymmetric knowledge may explain the different outcomes. Findings could be of use to fellow academics when designing and delivering both formative and summative team-working assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019


  • team work
  • professional doctoral studies
  • teaching and learning
  • pedagogic design
  • practice


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