By Judith Dutill, Instructional Design Technologist
Sometime today, take a few minutes and type “I hate group work” into YouTube. Your search will return about 144,000 results including many videos created by college students lamenting over their hatred for and the injustices of the group work expectations in their undergraduate courses. One student vlogger shared: “When I die, I want every single person I’ve done a group project with to be at my funeral so when they bury me they can let me down one last time.” Talk about having some very strong feelings!
Teachers know that group work plays an important role in today’s classroom. Group work affords students the opportunity to practice the important soft skills they will need in their careers including collaboration, communication, problem solving, leadership, and organization.
On the other hand, from the student perspective, group work can seem like a frustrating and unnecessary burden. Students’ lives are so busy that coordinating collaborative sessions with team members who have equally busy lives can feel impossible. A commonly shared complaint is, “I don’t like group work because I just wind up doing all of the work myself!”
How can we help students see the value of group collaboration while also equipping them with the skills they need to collaborate successfully with their peers? On Friday August 26, 2016 a group of fourteen faculty members gathered for a roundtable discussion to consider this challenge and to discuss strategies for using group work in the online and on-ground classrooms.
Here are some of the strategies suggested by the group:
- Students do not always know how to function in a group – scaffold group assignments by providing resources that help students understand how to collaborate. Examples of resources you can share with students include:
Videos: Thomas Frank’s YouTube video 5 Tips for Dealing with Lazy Group Project Members
Embedded tutorials: Embed the Learn to Work in Groups Module into the Groups in Blackboard
Reading assignments: eLearners – How to Survive Virtual Group Work
- Teach students about online collaboration tools such as the Blackboard Groups tools and Microsoft 365
- Have students negotiate their roles and sign group contracts or submit communication plans
- Allow group members to evaluate and rank one another (make their peer evaluation part of the assignment grade)
- Do not prolong group assignments
- Reframe “group work” as “team work” or something with a more positive connotation
- Give students the choice to opt out and work independently
- Help students avoid procrastination by requiring timely check-ins, progress reports, or submission of work periodically throughout the term
- Use classroom assessment tools such as surveys to check in with groups and to evaluate their learning experience
- Assign students to groups strategically so students can support and learn from each other
- Clearly articulate expectations to students and spend class time reviewing the assignment and the way the groups will be graded
How do you use group work in the classroom? What strategies do you employ to set students up for success while working in groups? Tell us about it in the comments section!
Every person who attended the Lunch and Learn received a copy of the Faculty Focus Special Report: Effective Group Work Strategies for the College Classroom. Use the link to download your free copy!