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2014-2015 Workshops: Best Practices

Best Practices (In a Nutshell) for Group Work

Best Practices for Managing In-Class Activities

  • Introduce the task. 
  • Provide students with enough time to engage with the task.
  • Walk around and address questions as needed.
  • Debrief. Call on a few students to share a summary of their conclusions.
  • Address any misconceptions or clarify any confusing points.
  • Open the floor for questions.

Best Practices for Managing Term Long Group Projects

  • Provide a Meaningful Task
    • Consider the learning outcomes for the course and choose assignments related to it.
    • Have students complete tasks that involve using and developing skills they will likely use in their professional lives.
    • Explain how the assignment fits in with the course and/or the real world and how students will benefit.
    • Create and provide clear instructions for the group project.
    • Announce groups early in the term.
    • Tie in-class activities and lectures to the group assignment.
  • Positive Interdependence
    • Design assignments so every member is important.
    • Determine how groups will be formed. Will students form their own groups or will they be assigned?
      • Limit group size.
    • Assign or allow group members to choose roles (coordinator, note-taker, researcher, etc.). If appropriate, change the roles periodically.
      • Consider having students complete a skills inventory to determine their strengths.
    • Have students establish ground rules. Students can create a contract for each member to sign; this contract can include agreed-upon penalties for those who fail to fulfill obligations.
  • Face to Face Interaction (Collaboration)
    • Provide opportunities for students to develop rapport with one another through icebreakers or team-building exercises.
    • Give students time to plan for deadlines and assign roles.
    • Encourage teams to collaborate with online applications.
  • Individual and Group Accountability
    • Explain how students will be evaluated and use a rubric to communicate these expectations. 
    • Allow students to rate each other’s quality and quantity of contributions. Use these evaluations when giving individual grades, but do not let it weigh heavily on a students’ final grade.
    • Communicate clearly how peer assessment will influence grades.
    • Break a larger assignment into smaller pieces and set multiple deadlines to ensure that students work toward reaching milestones throughout the process rather than pulling it all together at the last minute.
    • Incorporate peer review at each milestone to encourage self-awareness and to ensure ongoing feedback.
    • Check in with groups intermittently, but encourage students to handle their own issues before coming to you for assistance.
  • Small Group and Interpersonal Skills
    • Model asking and receiving help.
    • Be available for concerns and questions.
  • Group Processing
    • Teach students to evaluate their group work.