GROUP WORK Gen Ed Skill Area Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt Cleveland State University
Why do group work? • Student assessment indicates that students learn and retain information better • Students report greater satisfaction in courses where group work is assigned • Skills valued by employers
Types of group work • Ad-hoc temporary clusterings of students • Formal groups with a longer-term project to complete • Study groups
Faculty and group work • Designing assignments • Assessing group work • Willing to sacrifice efficiency and control to other goals
Reassurances • Bad experiences with groups • How your class will be different • Clear assignments, tasks, and grading
Rationale for group work • Why are you doing it? • What is the assignment? • Some direction about tasks, division of labor • What are you looking for in the finished project?
Rationale for group work • How group work will be assessed • How groups will be monitored • What is the time commitment for groups • How to handle problems that arise
Creating effective groups • When to form • Size matters • 4-5 is ideal, especially if students don’t have lots of practice with group work • Composition • Random • Carefully orchestrated • Some room for student preference? • Shared criteria • Meeting times
Effective assignments • Complex enough to warrant group work • For inexperienced it may help to identify roles • Motivating enough to invite engagement • Links to objectives of the course • Involving presentation to class or even outsiders? • Problem-solving • Client-based
Effective assignments • Class time for group work • Teach skills of group work • http://www.ou.edu/pii/teamlearning/video.htm • Fiechtner, S. B., and Davis, E. A. "Why Some Groups Fail: A Survey of Students' Experiences with Learning Groups." In A. Goodsell, M. Maher, V. Tinto, and Associates (eds.), Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education. • http://dhc.ucdavis.edu/vohs/sec04-1.html
Facilitate student interaction • Early opportunities that serve as icebreakers • Pair or group students in the first week • Ask students to identify components of successful discussion and group work; set norms • http://www.iml.uts.edu.au/learnteach/groupwork/unit4.html
Sample assignments • Structured controversy: Groups of four explore controversial topic. Students work in pairs. Each pair takes a different side of the issue. The groups of four meet, and each pair takes a turn stating and arguing its position Next, each pair must reverse its position and argue the opposite position than the one it argued before. Lastly the group of four as a whole discusses and synthesizes all the positions to come up with a group report. There may be a class presentation where each group presents its findings.
Sample assignments • History: Write a “medieval newspaper” • Students conduct their research independently and use group meetings to share information, edit articles, proofread, and design the pages. • Science, engineering: Report on alternative energy sources. • Each member of the group is responsible for research on one source, and then all the members work together to incorporate the individual contributions into the final report.
Assessing group work • Process, product, or both? • Who will assess: instructor, students, or both? • Group marks, individual marks, or both? • Samples
Assessing group work • Example: A group of six students undertakes a six-week research project on the geomorphology of a particular region. They will produce a final group report, for which they will receive a group mark. In addition students will be assessed individually: they are required to submit a research diary recording their progress, relevant diagrams and printouts and findings at weekly intervals throughout the six weeks.
Troubleshooting group work • You are available for discussion • Peer assessment will be part of the process • Equip students to troubleshoot their own problems • http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/processes/group/list8.cfm