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Strategies to promote successful group work

colloborative-mdCertainly there are pros and cons to incorporating collaborative learning (group) opportunities in any course. Although variable, students often do find that working in a group provides:
– emotional support among group members(can be less intimidating for the shy student)
– the ability to select aspects of the project best suited to each person’s expertise
– more manpower to accomplish much more than alone
– a safe place to share ideas and discuss new information
– an opportunity to learn from others and develop new skills
– shared responsibilities – not all the weight of the project falls on one person

However, there are also some disadvantages:
– control of the group and direction by one dominant student
– conflicting attitudes and opinions
– lack of equal participation
– inability to make decisions – especially in a group that is fairly incohesive

I’m sure you would agree that group work activities, when appropriate to the learning task, have a positive impact on student learning. Here are a few helpful tips I located on-line (thank you fellow blogger) that support successful group work. These are proposed as highly effective for online learning, however I feel that they could be implemented with success in traditional (physical classroom) learning environments as well. They are:

1. Transparency of expectations and purpose: ensure students are very clear on what is expected, why the group work is included in the course, etc.

2. Include clear instructions: directions are very important!

3. Form smaller groups: if possible, give students the choice to self-select their teammates

4. As the instructor, be sure to monitor and offer support as needed. Check in with the groups and ensure they are progressing toward their goal. They may need support, a nudge to move along, or suggestions to explore other aspects of their project.

5. Be sure to include etiquette guidelines: I like the idea of having each group discuss and collaborative agree to a group “covenant” of ground rules to follow

References:

Kokemuller, N. (2015). Advantages and disadvantages of gorup work in a classroom setting. Retrieved February 2, 2015 from: http://education.seattlepi.com/advantages-disadvantages-group-work-classroom-situation-1333.html

5 tools and strategies that support group work collaboration online. Retrieved February 2, 2015 from: https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/5-tools-and-strategies-that-support-group-collaboration-online/

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