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Methods of good practice for collaborative group work.
Research shows that the manner in which an instructor implements and facilitated a group project has a significant impact on the success of the group project. UW-Madison campus research on group work combined collaborative technologies and research-based facilitation strategies with the goal of improving the experience students and instructors had with collaborative group work.
The list of suggestions below, resulting from instructor and student surveys, provides methods of good practice for instructors planning to experiment with collaborative group work. The results of the study, in conjunction with the literature on group work, provide evidence of how task design, group process facilitation, and technology choice influence the success of the group project.
Ensure the task is worthy of collaborative group work
- Consider the pedagogical challenge. Determine whether group work adds value to the task.
- Specify how the group project aligns with the learning objectives for the course.
Design the task carefully
- Identify the types of interactions desired (student-student, student-instructor, student-content).
- Identify the tasks students will need to complete.
- Identify the barriers students might face and/or where they may have struggled in the past.
- Choose technology that aligns with the interactions, tasks, and challenges.
Prepare students for collaboration
- Communicate the rationale for group work including why the challenge is worthy of collaborative group work and how the group project relates to the course objectives.
- Help students understand what makes good collaboration.
- Provide students with the tools they will need to deal with team dynamics.
- Provide students training on the technologies identified for the assignment.
Perform regular assessments of process and product
- Use milestones or check-ins to ensure groups are on the right track.
- Provide students the opportunity to evaluate their group members' contributions to the project.
- Grade the collaborative process used as well as the results of the collaboration.
- Include group and individual performance in the final grade.