Rethinking the division of labor between tutorial writers and instructors with respect to fostering equitable team dynamics

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Sabo, Hannah C.
Elby, Andrew
Sabo, H. C., Elby, A. (2020). Rethinking the division of labor between tutorial writers and instructors with respect to fostering equitable team dynamics. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 16(2).
[This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Curriculum Development: Theory into Design.] This paper proposes the rethinking of the division of labor between physics education research curriculum developers and classroom instructors. Historically, both curriculum developers and instructors have taken responsibility for fostering students’ conceptual development, epistemological development, and other learning goals related to physics content knowledge and practices or process skills. By contrast, responsibility for fostering productive group dynamics has been taken up almost entirely by instructors. Tutorial and lab developers structure their materials to be used in small groups, but have not generally designed, tested, and refined their materials to minimize problematic group dynamics. In this paper, we argue that the written tutorial can and should do more to prevent negative group dynamics from arising. To make this claim plausible, we describe an example from our own experience. While revising a tutorial, we noticed some problematic dynamics emerging; one of the students was unfairly blamed for a simulation-setting mistake and was later left out of a conversation. We came up with hypotheses about factors that might have contributed to those dynamics. A few of those factors, we argue, could be addressed in part through tutorial revision. While acknowledging that instructors will always have more capacity and hence more responsibility than curriculum writers to foster productive group dynamics, we call for tutorial writers, during the testing and revision of their materials, to monitor how the tutorial impacts team dynamics and to be transparent (in publications and presentations) about how they modified the tutorial to address problematic dynamics they observed.
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