Reasons for groupwork

Students working together in groups can achieve understanding of a topic and/or process that its members could not reach alone. Working together can be designed to suit all kinds of learning outcomes.

Groupwork in action

  • Short term, in-class and non-assessed group activities activate students to engage with material. These can be used flexibly throughout the semester.
  • Consider including at least one smaller group activity during every large lecture to engage students with concepts and ideas.
  • Long term groupwork tasks in stable groups are a way to develop groupwork skills.
  • Development of groupwork skills can be enhanced by including at least two rounds of self and peer assessment on group skills and behaviour.
  • Students can be assisted to learn content collaboratively in groups by designing tasks focusing on a key decision.
  • Groupwork skill learning is often enhanced by allocating class-time for teaching teamwork basics and for teams to meet.
  • Using class-time for students to apply concepts/theory in groups to a complex problem will allow for extending material and creating variety to class designs.

Why

Humans learn better by engaging with an issue, topic or a problem than they do by listening or reading. Well-designed groupwork can help students understand key concepts and ideas through discussion and extend their knowledge through realistic application tasks. Debating and shared decision-making further develops inter-personal and communication skills.

Group tasks can be designed to explicitly guide students to use problem-solving and critical thinking skills, thus developing professionally and socially relevant skills.

Working in groups can also help students to become more independent learners by steering the focus away from the lecturer as the source of information.

Examples

For activating students:

  • buzz groups where students identify e.g. the most salient point of a text/most difficult aspect of theory/best application of theory in ad hoc small groups.
  • pyramids where students first work in pairs, than in groups of four and then in groups of eight to produce an outcome which is then reported to class (tip: consider simultaneous reporting techniques when designing how to report).

For delivering content:

  • Designing case studies where students review a real or imaginary issue in a particular context and provide a solution to a specific question or problem - what should be done?
  • In organisational investigation students undertake an examination of an organisation, or a specific area within an organisation. This may involve direct contact with an organisation. Assessed task with a specific choice work well to focus efforts. Assessment could be a 1-page recommendation for development, a specific decision for action, or identification and analysis of the greatest strength/weakness/threat/opportunity.

Further resources