March 4, 2010

Reflection on Group Experiences

By: in Effective Teaching Strategies, Teaching Professor Blog

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If you’re interested in having students learn something about how groups function as they participate in a group project, you might consider having them do some journaling about their group experience.

You can make this activity (it could be a graded assignment) manageable by having students write a designated number of times (say three) while the group is working and maybe once when the project is complete. You can have them write online so you can respond there, and you can limit your commentary to two or three questions, which you might encourage students to answer in their next installment. Individual members’ confidentiality should be respected—other group members should not get to read what anyone else has written.

I found an excellent prompt to guide student reflections in a study that used these student journals as part of a research project. Here’s a slightly condensed version of it.

“Write a report describing significant aspects of your team experience. Your comments will not be judged on whether they are ‘valid’ or ‘correct’ because … they are supposed to represent your perceptions of your experiences. Instead, you are asked to strive to provide clear and complete descriptions. You may comment on any aspects that you consider significant; however, if you want some guidance, consider discussing issues such as: The extent to which your team worked together and on what, what general ‘team rules’ you followed, whether your expectations met or differed from your actual team experiences, what factors you believe contributed to effective and/or ineffective team behavior, and how have your views about team projects evolved since your last report.” (p. 19)

This kind of activity/assignment forces the kind of reflection that results in insights for many students. I’ve found even without a lot of instructor feedback, students start to see how important leadership is in groups, how different roles function including their own, how the work gets partitioned, and what the group does or doesn’t do about those members who aren’t carrying their weight.

Reference: Hilton, S. and Phillips, F. (2010). Instructor-assigned and student-selected groups: A view from the inside. Issues in Accounting Education, 25 (1), 15-33.

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