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Module Five: Inside a Group
 

Group Work in the ClassroomResearch supports the use of group work as an effective teaching and learning tool (Conway, Kember, Sivan, & Wu, 1993; Freeman, 1995). Mello (1994) identified five major benefits for students working in groups being; “(1) students can gain an insight into group dynamics, (2) they can tackle more comprehensive assignments, (3) interpersonal skills can be developed, (4) students are more exposed to others’ points of view, and (5) be more prepared for the commercial world,”  However, group work in the classroom is often met with resistance by the student population. Too many have experienced the midnight push to complete a group project left lacking by one or more “missing in action” or “non-contributing” group members. Grouping can be challenging and there are a number of effective ways to establish groups in the traditional and online classroom.    

Grouping Solutions

Using digital collaborative tools to group projects can provide instructors and team members with a mechanism for collecting and assessing group contributions and interactions. Course management system tools such as discussion forums, blogs, wikis or other collective components can provide a common area where the group members can exchange ideas and work collaboratively to accomplish the project goals. Many free online tools are available for the exchange and collection of information from multiple members (wiki, blogs, Google Docs, Vyew, Adobe Connect, VSee). Tools that provide a way to capture exchange history will help with assessment and accountability.  

Educating students in the roles and responsibilities of the individual members is critical to the success of the group effort. Too often students focus their efforts on their singular contribution and not the overall goals of the project. Guiding students to more fully understand the dynamics of group interchange and group practices will help the students make better decisions regarding the distribution of work and the expected final product. Instilling within any group project a philosophy of working as one to accomplish a goal as opposed to “divide and conquer” will help students improve their communication and collaboration skills.

 
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