The ability to work well in groups is one of the most important skills we can teach students, regardless of discipline. Ideally, group work draws on the discovery that comes from deliberation and the wisdom of collective experience. But assigning just a sufficient amount of work to a group doesn't mean that the students will work together. All too often, groups divide the task and meet only long enough to patch their pieces together. As an instructor, you are responsible for creating tasks and facilitating an environment that encourages, or necessitates, authentic co-operation.
- Design group work complex enough to require a group.
- Students often have had unpleasant experience with collaboration: acknowledge this, explain how your groups will be different.
- If group work is important, make it part of class; use class time and have groups report on their progress and results.
- Spend time helping groups develop; teach team building skills, help them define their roles and provide a structure that encourages equitable participation.
- Keep groups small (2-4 members) and varied; don't be afraid to group them yourself.
(NOTE: The below links will open in a new browser tab or window)
Designing Successful Group Projects
TEPs own Collaborative Research guide to designing group assignments that reflect the larger class goals and incorporate student input.
Common student concerns about group work
From the Colorado State group-work guide for students.
Short In- Class Activities for Collaborative Learning
While this site is designed for science instructors many of the activities/ strategies suggested are applicable to other disciplines. The site offers guidelines for selecting and organizing groups, as well as many collaborative learning structures (activities). Also has testimonials and suggestions from teachers who've used these strategies.
Team-based learning website from the Team Based Learning Collaborative that offers resources about TBL (team-based learning), such as video testimonials from students and faculty.