social loafing in group project October 6

Tips for Addressing Social Loafing in Group Projects

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Group work is a valuable learning device that teaches teamwork skills which students will use no matter what profession they enter. It is perhaps even more valuable in online classes, as more and more organizations are using distributed employees who need to coordinate their work from a distance.

But group work also brings with it the danger of social loafing, those one or two students who do not contribute their fair share to the project. Not only does it undermine the quality of the project, but it creates frustration among other group members who see it as unfair to have team members not pull their own weight. This can have a dampening effect on the motivation and thus performance of other members of the group.



College students working together in class. May 1

Four Types of Group Work Activities to Engage Students

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Collaboration helps to develop many of the key skills that will be required of students for their future success. Students can develop many of these so-called “soft skills,” or Essential Employability Skills, by engaging in group work and other forms of collaboration (Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development 2005). Collaboration leads to greater retention, improved student achievement, and increased self-esteem and metacognition, and it can be used to facilitate active learning and to promote inclusion by increasing contact among diverse groups (Bossert 1988; Bowman, Frame, and Kennette 2013; Hennessey 1999; Kennette and Frank 2010; Kramarski and Mevarech 2003; Rajaram and Pereira-Pasarin 2007; U.S. Department of Education 1992). Despite the many benefits of group work, instructors are sometimes hesitant to use it due to some of its well-known pitfalls (social loafing, disputes, individualized grading, student bemoaning, etc.).


group work in college classroom January 23

Bridging the Gap between Pre-Work and In-Class Sessions in the Flipped Classroom

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One of the challenges of the flipped classroom is building meaningful connections between the pre-work and the in-class sessions. Opponents of the flipped classroom argue that information overload can easily occur in flipped classrooms (Benitez, 2014). Furthermore, while many instructors prefer to use short videos or online modules for the delivery of the pre-work, active learning strategies in the classroom need not be tech heavy. The greatest benefit to using the flipped classroom is the implementation of active learning strategies within the repurposed class time (Michael, 2006; Jensen et al., 2015). The techniques provided here can all be completed in your class with whiteboards, markers, and/or chart paper. In this article, I will share four different strategies that can help your students connect with your classroom pre-work, and embrace a constructivist approach that will help them apply their new knowledge.


cooperative learning October 13, 2015

Ah-ha Moments—When Cooperative Learning in the Classroom Works

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Goals for my First-Year Seminar students include proficiency with a host of study skills as well as course content based on what we call “learning about learning.” To support new college students in understanding what, exactly, learning is, my colleagues and I introduce a number of themes and authors to our students over the course of the first semester. Themes can include locus of control, memory learning and the brain (including information processing models), current research on learning disabilities, theories of motivation and learning, mind-set theory, emotional intelligence theories, and research on millennial students just like them. Students read materials written by authors doing work in these areas.


March 20, 2015

The Best Post Wiki: A Tool for Promoting Collaborative Learning and Higher-Order Thinking

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Pedagogy specialists including Armstrong & Hyslop-Margison (2006) support democratic collaborative activities as a positive predictor of student satisfaction. This transfers to online and hybrid (blended) courses. A sense of democratic community within an online course encourages engagement, which can promote higher-level thinking. This raises the question: How can instructors create successful collaborative learning communities online?



January 15, 2014

Group Testing-taking Options to Consider

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I’ve been doing some reading on group test-taking (often called cooperative or collaborative testing in the literature). I am stunned by the number of studies and the many ways the strategy has been used. I’m not going to summarize the research in this post, but rather offer a collection of options. Most of these ideas appear in more than one article so I’m not citing references.


January 9, 2014

What Components Make Group Work Successful?

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There’s lots of research documenting the positive effects of group experiences on learning outcomes. Less is known about the specific aspects of group experiences that contribute to their overall positive impact. Thomas Tomcho and Rob Foels decided to explore this question by looking at the research on group learning in the field of psychology, as reported in the journal Teaching of Psychology.


February 18, 2013

Peer-led Reading Groups Boost Engagement and Retention

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A legal historian by training, I have taught many general education courses that draw students from across majors and disciplines. It is not uncommon for the 21st century college student to become somewhat disengaged with the works of Plato or Kant, and this is especially the case when these readings are complex and/or students are outside their topical comfort zones. As a result, in-class discussion suffers, momentum and dialogue are hindered, and students may feel alienated from the course. This is exacerbated by varying levels of engagement with out-of-class readings, producing uneven student learning outcomes.