The purpose of the project was to facilitate new formed groups (of students in English language schools) with an enhanced social connectedness within the group so that they would feel more secure and relaxed during the first and following lessons.
Research goal and used methods:
First I needed to find out how people feel, do and what the causes are for people to open up in new groups. This was researched in study1 with interviews (psychologist and English teacher), an observation and a workshop.
A concept was developed with testing during study2. It consisted of an observation, questionnaires, interviews and an expert review. Every study focussed on details of the design that needed further development of which the direction was still uncertain.
An evaluation study (longitudinal use, observation and questionnaire) tried to find an answer whether the product would melt the ice for social contact.
Research results and implications:
The evaluation study showed that students were pleasantly surprised with the elements of the booklet and gifts. They were open in communicating with each other, so the ice was melted. This study also showed that the booklet needs optimization with the first lessons’ schedule. More striking is the exclusion of the gift assignment (students were given an English item). Students were already comfortable after the introduction with a personal item and postcard discussion so there was no added value for the gift at that point. The gift remains available as an option, but was excluded as a standard item
The final design is a booklet that is sent to students who are starting with an English course. The booklet contains basic information about the course (how many students and their background but also the course structure) and contains some assignments. Students will make a postcard and send it to another student to get in contact before the course. The next day they will receive a postcard themselves and try to find interesting elements that they like. One day before the course, they are asked to find a personal item that tells something about them. In this way it is easier for students to introduce themselves.
A typical English product can be added by the teacher as a gift if that fits with the course objectives and the students characters. The booklet and gifts are run by a service that the teacher applied to.