Sometimes it seems as though group work just isn’t worth the time and effort. We see the same problems time and again:
- Students who miss vital planning meetings or cannot remain focused during group meetings
- Students who claim that they’re on track, only to fall far short on presentation day
- Students who appear to drop off the face of the Earth mid-project
- Students who veer away from the group’s agreed-upon focus and show up at the last minute with “new” material, much to the chagrin of other members
- Groups that do not hold regular planning meetings
- Groups that present without having done a dry run or with students who may never even have shared their parts with one another
- Groups sharing a common credit or grade, even though some students either do little or nothing to benefit the group and some do most of the work on their own
The list goes on and on…
One way to avoid these problems is to create a “typical” group scenario—that is, one in which many of these types of problems occur—and spend class time reading and responding to questions about the situation. Ideal questions would point out problems and ask students to brainstorm ways that the group could have avoided or confronted the difficulty before it negatively impacted them.
Don’t give up on team work! It’s such a common part of the working world that students need all the practice they can get. Instead, recognize the problems that can occur within groups and diffuse them before they ever arise.
- Faculty Focus “Effective Group Work Strategies for the College Classroom”
- Harvard’s “Working in Groups”
- Stanford’s “Cooperative Learning: Students Working in Small Groups”
- LearnHigher: “Group Work”