During his second visit to the Business School, Professor Larry Michaelsen met with academics and conducted a forum on effective use of groupwork and case studies. Larry presented a number of reasons why group work is seen as a hindrance by students and can turn into a negative esperience. In traditional groupwork, assignments that lead to students splitting up the workload, problems of free-riding and unequal effort are prevalent. These problems can be readily prevented by using the 4S's when designing the groupwork assessments. The 4S's are:
- Significant problem: Students are given a problem that is authentic for the unit and has relevance and application in their lives e.g. relating to discussion of the issues for the Sydney Metro.
- Same problem: Each group works on the same problem, case, or question. This way they all know as much as others to be able to effectively critique and care about the other group's responses.
- Specific choice: Each group is applies theoretical concepts to make the specific choice. This way no group can split up the task and all benefit from developing the rationale for their choice.
- Simultaneously report: Groups report their specific choice simultaneously (from Michaelsen, 1997).
Using the 4S's strategy usually reduces or eliminates workload and free-rider problems, while making the task more interesting and engaging for students. Research demonstrates that through such activities students learn more and are much happier with their groupwork experiences.
To get further acquainted with Larry's approach you can use the following resources:
- Three Keys to Using Learning Groups Effectively*
- Thriving in Academe: Team based learning - article that talks about mutual accountability as a driver for student engagement**
- Business School information about in-class groupwork
- Larry's TBL website
*By Larry K. Michaelsen -- Adapted from the Professional and Organizational Development Network Essay Series Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the Academy, Vol. 9, 1997-1998.
** By Larry K. Michaelsen and Michael Sweet - from National Education Association Higher Education Advocate, 2008, Vol 25(6)