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Preparing Peer Facilitators for Cooperative Learning Groups. Hal White Professor of Biochemistry University of Delaware. Case Studies in Science Teaching Buffalo, NY 7 October 2005. Common Group Situations. Consider each of the situations on the handout.

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Preparing peer facilitators for cooperative learning groups
Preparing Peer Facilitators for Cooperative Learning Groups

Hal White

Professor of Biochemistry

University of Delaware

Case Studies in Science Teaching

Buffalo, NY 7 October 2005

Common group situations
Common Group Situations

  • Consider each of the situations on the handout.

  • Check the 5-6 boxes next to those situations that you think are the most common problems encountered.

  • Go back and circle the number of the situation you think is most likely to interfere with the success of groups.

  • How did you decide on the most serious problem?

  • How would you deal with that situation?

Common situations encountered in groups

1. Student who confidently presents information that is incorrect yet goes unchallenged by other group members.

2. Student who misses class or regularly comes late to class and requires class time for the more conscientious members of the group to fill him or her in on what was missed.

3. Unprepared student who routinely comes to class but doesn’t contribute to group discussions or projects.

4. Likeable talkative student who is unaware that he (or she) frequently interrupts others and dominates discussion thereby preventing contributions by quieter members of the group.

5. Student who readily understands the material but is not particularly interested in sharing that knowledge with other group members.

6. Student who thinks problem-based learning is not a good way to learn and deliberately or unconsciously disrupts the process.

7. Quiet student who has good thoughts to contribute but never seems to get the attention of other members of the group.

8. Students whose friendship outside of class creates a subgroup that frequently breaks off from the main group in class discussion.

9. Student who, due to illness or some other legitimate reason, misses a week or more of class.

10. Group that gets along well and is satisfied with a superficial procedural understanding and doesn’t seem to be aware or interested in a deeper conceptual understanding.

11. Student who has difficulty focusing on course material and frequently ends up discussing sports, the campus social scene, or the previous night’s TV show.

12. Student who ignores or puts down group members that have a different cultural background, racial background, or physical appearance.

13. Student who doesn’t listen to or seem to understand the points made by other group members.

14. Group that can’t make progress without assistance, and show signs of frustration (and perhaps resentment) when the tutor doesn’t provide the information desired.

15. Group in which a disparity in the abilities of members makes communication of concepts difficult.

16. Student who directs all of her/his questions to the tutor (and instructor).

17. Students who do all of the necessary work but do not seem to enjoy discussing problems and related concepts with one another.

Common Situations Encountered in Groups

Common PBL Group Problems1

1 Based on responses from 126 peer-facilitators over 11 semesters

Some issues related to dawn
Some Issues Related to “Dawn”

  • Tardiness and absenteeism.

  • Time management.

  • Group ground rules.

  • Group responsibility for individual behavior.

  • Dealing with hostility within a group.

  • Personal privacy.

  • Timing and method of intervention.

Ground Rules for Behavior in Groups

  • Come on time and be prepared for every class.

  • Notify other group members, your tutor, and the instructor in advance (when possible) if you must miss a class.

  • Freely share information you gather outside of class with other group members.

  • Use class time wisely.

  • Solicit and value contributions from every group member.

  • Group members who disrupt the group's function by ignoring the group's guidelines can be confronted by the other members of the group and suffer the following consequences: ….

Groups in action
Groups in Action

  • Dawn’s Eight O’Clock and Water Striderscome from a series of 12 video vignettes (trigger tapes)on PBL group problems available on line at:


Chinese proverb
Chinese Proverb

Tell me, I will forget

Show me, I may remember

Involve me, and I will understand

Stand and deliver
Stand and Deliver

1. Teacher Selection

The “teacher” is the group member who has a birth date closest to today’s date

2. Lesson Plan

Teachers study a geometric figure they will describe orally to their “students”

Stand and deliver1
Stand and Deliver

3. The Lecture

Teachers describe to your students what you saw, as accurately as you can: 2-minute time limit.


4. Teacher Conference

Teachers leave the room and discuss your lesson with one another.

Stand and deliver2
Stand and Deliver

5. Individual Work

Students, without talking, draw a “carbon copy” of what your teacher described: 2 min.

6. Group Work

Students within groups, compare drawings, discuss, and develop consensus drawing: 5 min.

Stand and deliver3
Stand and Deliver

7.Teacher Assessment

Teachers return and see what your students have drawn. Students discuss exercise with your teacher.

Stand and deliver4
Stand and Deliver


Did everyone in your group draw the same picture?

Did subsequent discussion improve the representation?

Was the teacher happy with the result?

What were your frustrations, if any?

Can you make any conclusions?

How would you grade this assignment
How would you grade this assignment?

  • Is there a “correct” answer?

  • How important are

    • Shapes?

    • Relationships?

    • Orientation?

    • Size?

    • Position on Page?

Observations and analysis of students working in groups in class have revealed that
Observations and analysis of students working in groups in class have revealed that:

  • Learning is identified by students as getting the right answer.

  • Learning is disassociated from understanding and explaining.

  • Answers are sought first by recall, not analysis.

  • Considerable time is needed before concepts are considered and even rudimentary analysis is attempted.

    from D. Hanson and T. Wolfskill, J. Chem Ed. 75(2): 143 - 147 (1998)

Institute for transforming undergraduate education
Institute for Transforming class have revealed that:Undergraduate Education

January 18-20, 2006Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education – PBL WorkshopsUniversity of Delaware

July 17-21, 2006PBL2006, an international conferenceLima, Perú