Teaching Group Work

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Group work can help students develop a host of skills that are increasingly important in the professional world. Positive group experiences, moreover, have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention and overall academic success. When planning group work, you can reflect on the size that will best suit your “More hands make for lighter work.” “Two heads are better than one.” “The more the merrier.” These adages speak to the potential groups have to be more productive, creative, and motivated than individuals on their own.

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First thing to be considered is student’s ability to engage in group work. It may prove more difficult for some students, so we make the groups and then assign tasks accordingly. We priorly clarify the expectations and learning outcomes of group work with students. This enables our students to prepare and focus. The group size can contribute greatly to group dynamics, a smaller group may find it easier to gel, allowing for participation from more reserved students. However, a larger group may allow for greater synergies as it incorporates a greater range of strengths and perspectives. While assigning the tasks, we keep in mind the ability of students along with the complexity of tasks and thus group sizes vary accordingly.

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Group projects can also help students develop skills specific to collaborative efforts, allowing students to tackle more complex problems than they could on their own, delegate roles and responsibilities, share diverse perspectives, pool knowledge and skills, hold one another accountable, receive social support and encouragement to take risks, develop new approaches to resolving differences, establish a shared identity with other group members, find effective peers to emulate, develop their own voice and perspectives in relation to peers. We allow students to complete their task as per their comfort level. We create a homely environment for students to provide comfort zone and give them full freedom to prove themselves

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While the potential learning benefits of group work are significant, simply assigning group work is no guarantee that these goals will be achieved. In fact, group projects can – and often do – backfire badly when they are not designed, supervised, and assessed in a way that promotes meaningful teamwork and deep collaboration. Successful group work requires not only careful preparation and facilitation but also regular reflection and reassessment afterward. After a class of small group activities, reflect on the group work process and refer back to the notes you made before class. Add comments about what worked especially well and what you would change in the future to make the exercise run more smoothly.

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