When designed, supervised, and assessed properly, group assignments can have many benefits for students, such as:
- Increased learning
- Improved communication skills
- Exposure to diverse ideas
Here are some ideas on making group assignments the best they can be for your students.
Assigning Students to Groups
- One instructor offered the following idea: “On the first day of class, I hand out index cards and tell students to get together in groups of four. They fill out their cards with their team members and a team name that they choose. For the rest of the semester, they know who they will be working with whenever I assign in-class group work and they can get together and get settled quickly. Additionally, I can pick from that set of cards at any time when I want to ask a question in class. The students know that I’m being random in my selection, and it also makes them accountable to each other to ensure that the group will be represented in class on any given day.”
- Catme.org is an online tool that facilitates assigning teams, as well as providing a framework for team members to give the instructor feedback about others in the group. Note, this is a fee-based service.
- This blog post from Inside Higher Ed provides ideas on how to give students some agency in choosing their groups while allowing them to preserve relationships with friends who they may like, but not trust to do their share of the work.
Accountability in Groups: The Group or Team Charter
Team charters give groups the opportunity to set expectations for communications and tasks. They help manage the common concern that “I’m doing more work than everyone else” by ensuring that responsibilities are appropriately and publicly distributed before any work begins. Additionally they can help set timelines and group check-ins, to ensure that work is completed on time.
Here are some tools to help students develop their own charters:
- The Team Charter: A handout from Learning Technologies, Inc. that can be given to students.
- Group Resume: An activity to run with students.
Managing Group Work
- 5 Tips for Making Group Work Manageable from Edutopia.
- Guidelines for Using Groups Effectively from the University of Michigan.
- Group Project Resources from Carnegie Mellon.
- Setting up and facilitating group work from Vanderbilt University.
Types of Group Work
- Different types of small groups, from the University of Waterloo.
- Team-Based Learning, from the Team Based Learning Collaborative.
- The Essential Elements of Team-Based Learning, an article by Larry K. Michaelsen and Michael Sweet.
- Four types of group work activities to engage students, from Faculty Focus.