Saving face: Managing rapport in a Problem-Based Learning group

Leslie Robinson, Ann Harris, Robert Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This qualitative study investigated the complex social aspects of communication required for students to participate effectively in Problem-Based Learning and explored how these dynamics are managed. The longitudinal study of a group of first-year undergraduates examined interactions using Rapport Management as a framework to analyse communication with regard to the concepts of face, sociality rights and interactional goals. Problem-Based Learning requires students to engage in potentially face-threatening interactions as they discuss subjects of which they have little prior knowledge, placing them in situations that require negotiation using face-saving strategies in order to meet objectives to share their learning with others. The study described within this article focuses on the key role of the Problem-Based Learning chair and shows how failure by the chair to manage rapport effectively can influence the quality of group learning. The findings suggest that educators need to understand the complex interactional demands students have to face in undertaking Problem-Based Learning and support students to overcome these difficulties considering the three bases of rapport management
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-24
Number of pages14
JournalActive Learning in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


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