Thesis Circle

About the pros and cons of thesis circles

A thesis circle involves a number of students and at least one professor, lecturer or instructor who collaborate in supervising and coaching final (undergraduate or MSc) projects. This tool for supervising students working on their thesis, also known as ‘thesis rings’, was developed in the 1990s at Maastricht University (Romme & Nijhuis, 2000). Thesis circles have a number of advantages in comparison to individual thesis supervision. First and foremost, research has shown that thesis circles have a positive effect on both the quality of the supervision process and the performance of the students involved (Rompa & Romme, 2001; Romme, 2003). Second, in thesis circles students are less likely to procrastinate and/or to drop out. Possible explanations are peer pressure and emotional support that students provide each other. Third, thesis circles are a form of collaborative learning. By working together, students are able to bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other. For example, during the writing process, they may take the role of reviewer and critically evaluate and comment on each other’s work. Fourth, as a group it is much easier to collect data. Individual students often struggle to get in touch with organizations and collect data. In thesis circles, data collection is a collaborative effort, and collecting and assembling large datasets is generally not a problem. However, and this brings us to the obvious flipside of thesis circles, free riding (social loafing) cannot be fully prevented. Free riding refers to the phenomenon in which persons make less effort to achieve a goal when they work in a group than when they work alone. Despite this potential pitfall, in our view, the advantages of thesis circles outweigh the disadvantages. What are your experiences with thesis circles? Please leave your feedback. We appreciate your comments and suggestions on how to improve the concept of thesis circles.


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