group learning activities
Many faculty now have students work in teams to complete course-long projects that are designed to accomplish multiple course objectives and that count for a significant part of the course grade. These groups do not always function well, which concerns faculty. If experiences in groups do not develop good teamwork skills, then maybe it’s better not to use groups and have students do assignments individually. Frequently that’s what they prefer anyway.
Research on the effectiveness of Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) continues to accumulate. In part, the findings are impressive because the method is highly prescribed, which means it’s being used similarly at a variety of institutions, with different student cohorts and in a range of fields, although most of the research on the method has been done in chemistry.
Like many matters regarding teaching and learning, there isn’t one best way to put students into groups. The best way is related to what you want students to learn from their group experience. Here’s a brief discussion of how that works for three common ways of forming groups.
I am unabashedly proud of my pedagogical article resource file. I’ve been collecting good articles on teaching and learning since the early ’80s. I use the file almost every day, and in the process of looking for a particular article, I regularly stumble onto others whose contents I remember when I see them but have otherwise forgotten.
I often get questions about group work. Recently, the question was phrased like this: “Can students learn anything in groups?” And, like faculty sometimes do, this questioner proceeded with the answer. “I don’t think my students can. When they work in groups they have no interest in doing quality work. Whatever the first person says, they all agree with that and relax into a social conversation.”
There are many reasons why students don’t like group work, and in the online classroom the list of reasons grows even longer as the asynchronous nature of online courses not only makes collaboration more difficult but almost counterintuitive.
Utter the words “group project” and you’re likely to hear at least a few groans from your students. The reasons for their dislike of group work are many, but logistical difficulties of getting everyone together and lazy group members who don’t pull their own weight are two of the biggest complaints.
By offering students a supportive group for writing assignments and research projects, students can form strong learning communities and feel less isolated when they see others around them struggling to generate ideas, craft thesis statements, or write creative transitions. Allowing students to develop friendships around writing is one way to help them to see writing—often
Some students tell us they hate groups—as in really hate groups. Why do faculty love groups so much, they ask. I work hard, I’m smart, I can get good grades by myself, these students insist. Other students are a waste. I end up doing all the work and they get the good grade I earned for the group. Why do you, Professor Byrnes, make me work in a group. I hate groups!
Starting a lecture can be a challenge: getting everyone seated, attentive, and ready to move forward with the content can take several minutes. I have found that sometimes it feels abrupt and disjointed, especially when it has been a week since the last class meeting, so I’ve been working on strategies that help me get