I recently attended another conference, the Online Teaching Conference. Held at the San Diego Convention Center, it covered a wide variety of topics from increasing participation in online classes to free tech tools to group work in distance education classes. I’m assuming that most teachers in America (of the world, for that matter) don’t teach courses exclusively online. However, many of the ideas presented there are applicable to any teaching arena.
The topic I found the most interesting was the conversation about group work. One of the suggestions was to encourage the group to not only do an “ice breaker” at the start of their team experience, but to also explore what roles each member would have in the group. After the students discuss roles, teachers can have the group decide on group rules and expectations. This is especially important for a long-term project.
One of the teachers presenting talked about how they have their students turn in a “group expectations” page detailing what the group expected of its members. The presenter said that while they give the group a grade for turning in the page, they don’t necessarily grade the group on how closely they actually stick to their original expectations. This is often because the students set unrealistic expectations for the group. On a number of assignments, the presenter said he asks his students to revise their expectations document part-way through the project so they can make their guidelines more realistic. The presenter indicated that the times when he provides this kind of group support to his students, the groups usually do better, produce higher quality projects and get along better.
This idea makes so much sense! But, I had never thought of it! Learning how to function in a group (that you can’t always choose) is an essential skill in today’s world, and we as teachers can do a lot to help teach our students how to be a good group members.
What have you learned about working with groups (in your experience as a student or as a teacher)? Comment below!