The classroom as a learning community? Voices from postgraduate students at a New Zealand University
How important is the social experience of learning in the postgraduate classroom? This thesis explores what eight postgraduate students judged to be their ‘best’ classroom experiences within one New Zealand university. The researcher started from the assumption that the students’ ‘best’ classroom experiences would correspond with what the literature characterises as ‘communities of learners’ in which the students felt that their past experiences were valued and personal relationships were respectful and relatively equal. This assumption was, for the most part, accurate. Problematic areas, such as assessment, were also identified. International students’ experiences were a key part of the research. Six of the students were studying in their second language yet that alone was not the main indicator of classroom participation as personality (such as shyness)also affected how students engaged with the course content, the lecturers, and with each other. The case study approach raises possibilities and questions as well as recognising trends that suggest that postgraduate students value interactive learning within meaningful classroom contexts.