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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?
- 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.