Facilitating conflict: A qualitative study of how learning assistants in Experts in Teamwork experienced facilitation for handling conflicts in the student groups
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The primary purpose of this thesis was to investigate how the learning assistants in the NTNU course Experts in Teamwork (EiT) experienced facilitation for handling conflict in the student groups. Facilitation is the teaching method of EiT that enables the learning assistants to assist the students in the development of their teamwork skills. The methodology adopted for this study is based in qualitative methods. A phenomenological approach was chosen for my semi- structured interviews. Four learning assistants from EiT were selected as my research participants. The resulting data was analyzed using the constant comparative method. The choice of theory was done based on the results of the analysis. The analysis resulted in the main category of experience. It was developed out of the subcategories: the conflicts, components of facilitation, collaboration and support, development and moving on. My findings show that the level of conflicts in EiT is experienced as low. Most of the student groups are able to sort out smaller conflicts on their own with the help of "EiT tools" provided by the learning assistants. The learning assistants experienced that facilitating conflicts was challenging. They felt unprepared to handle conflict and it was emotionally straining. The learning assistants found support in their facilitator team and teaching assistant. The ability to share one’s experiences was particularly important when faced with a conflict situation. The learning assistants said that both the students and they could learn a lot from a conflict situation, as long as they took the time needed to reflect upon their experiences. The learning assistants felt that they had developed in their role as facilitators. The learning assistants experienced that it was difficult to know if the student groups had finished their conflicts by the end of EiT.