Assigning Group or Team Work, Feb. 2016

We all know that teamwork in the classroom can be extremely challenging.  The good news is that proper planning can help you avoid problems and lead your students to an enjoyable, authentic and effective experience.  Whether you are interested in incorporating brief group assignments or more formal, semester-long team projects, use these strategies to get started:

Understand the dynamics involved in group and team work:  Scan the links below to get a sense of how to design group and team projects.  These resources offer guidance on every step of the process, from planning through assessment.  Also note that this week’s 20-Minute Mentor video “How do I assign students to groups?” suggests ways to design groups and establish goals and grading policies.  To access this video, visit Monday Morning Mentor and enter the password groups5.  This video is only available through Sunday, February 7, 2016.

Help your students understand what is expected of them:  One way to avoid the problems described above is to create a case study of a dysfunctional group scenario—one in which many of these types of problems occur—and spend class time 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.  Then, work together to create a contract specifying appropriate problem-solving strategies for your own class.  Taking the time to recognize the problems that can occur within groups and diffuse them immediately will give your students the tools they need to deal with issues as soon as they arise.

Arrange for teams to meet virtually:  Instructors sometimes avoid team or group work because they sense that their students are simply too busy to meet, but with the various meeting and discussion tools available through HuskyCT and GoogleDocs, virtual discussions can occur any time, any place!  Contact the Instructional Resource Center for details on forming groups and creating group discussions in HuskyCT, and consider registering for CETL’s February 12th lunchtime seminar Developing & Facilitating Engaging Online Discussions.

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.  See the links below for more information on designing successful team or group work.