Supporting groups

Supporting groupsWell supported groups deliver better learning for students and decrease workload for staff.

  • Introduce time for groups to meet regularly in class.
  • Consider including a segment on group work skills in lectures.
  • Encourage students to reflect on their own team work skills.
  • An online discussion board can support all groups and particularly groups who have diversity with language skills and/or challenges in meeting face to face.
  • Create an opportunity for students to raise concerns about the functioning of their group early on in the Semester when the problems can be addressed.
  • Introducing formative self-and-peer assessment half way into the group task can have significant benefits.

Why

Group work is not easy and skills develop best when information and understanding develops together with experience. Thus giving students explicit guidance on group work skills while they have an opportunity to practice works well.

Many students are very busy with work commitments and meeting times can be hard to organise out of class. Class time meeting opportunities not only mitigate this challenge, but also allow the lecturer a chance to talk to groups, to monitor progress, identify opportunities/challenges, and offer guidance. This is particularly beneficial early in the Semester.

Students from non-English speaking backgrounds may find it challenging to contribute to fast paced group conversations. This can lead to a sense of unfairness in the group. Providing different ways for group members to contribute helps to gain the best out of all group members.

Evaluating and reflecting on group performance during the group task reduces the risk of unequal effort and creates a great learning opportunity. It also reduces end of semester workload for both staff and students.

Examples

  • Introducing a group work skill/attribute (e.g. active listening or Belbin group roles) regularly (in class or online) and then asking students to reflect in a journal/discussion board on how the theory applies to their group experience. The reflections can be included in overall assessment.
  • Encourage groups to agree on necessary tasks and ask members to identify how they would best be able to contribute.
  • Coming to class early and staying a while after offers students an informal way of discussing their group experience with a staff member.
  • Student groups can be given meeting opportunities in tutorials or in lectures.

Further resources