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Facilitating Group Investigations active learning activities in physically-distanced learning spaces
Time and Effort
|Instructor Prep Time||Low|
|Student Activity Time||Medium|
|Instructor Response Time||Medium|
|Complexity of Activity||Medium|
Group Investigation has student teams plan, conduct, and report on in-depth research projects. These projects provide opportunities for students to study a topic intensely and gain specialized knowledge about a specific area. Students select topics of significance to them, form interest groups, and carry out their research on that topic.|
Use it when you want...
- To have students recognize that research is a logical, well-organized endeavor that differs from one discipline to another,
- To have students enhance their understanding of the importance of discovery, or
- To have students gain experience in giving and receiving constructive criticism.
What students will need
- Laptop, or tablet, or mobile phone
- Classroom with campus wireless connection
- Resources for student access to computers
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Group Investigations learning activity within a classroom with a physical distancing layout.
- Decide how topics will be selected, what resources you will accept, and how students will report their findings.
- Develop a case study handout with a series of questions to guide students’ analysis using Google Docs and/or create a Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session in which students with work collaboratively.
- Have students brainstorm potential topics that fit within your parameters. From the list generated by students, select the topics for the assignment.
- Form teams based on topic interest. Note: Consider limiting the group size to 2-3 students. Groups larger than 2-3 people are encouraged to use text-based chat features instead of speaking to one another to reduce the noise volume in the room and to prevent shouting across long distances between students.
- Share the method students will use to work collaboratively on the activity.
- Option 1: Students speak with one another across the empty seats.
- Option 2: Groups follow a link that creates a new version of the template in Google Docs. The document is shared among the group members and with the instructor.
- Option 3: Direct students to the Canvas course space and into the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra session. Create breakout rooms spaces for each group. Note: Breakout groups are only available in sessions with 250 or fewer attendees. You can create up to 20 breakout rooms. There is no limit to the number of attendees you can put in each group.
- Give teams time to organize their efforts. Have them prepare a prospectus in which they formulate their research questions, state the goals of the project, and identify the resources they will need to carry out their investigation. They should choose the method they will use, then divide up, and assign tasks.
- Ask groups to begin their investigation by gathering and reviewing information, deciding whether more information is needed, and analyzing and interpreting the results.
- Have groups prepare their final report.
- Students submit final reports.
- Review final reports and provide feedback/grades to group participants.
- Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
- Classroom furniture is not to be rearranged to facilitate activities. If you need a different general assignment classroom to meet your instructional needs, contact your curricular representative.
- If students are to move around the room during an activity, consider the mobility, location, equipment, and furniture needs of all students.
- The physical distance between students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak.
- This same physical distance may increase the noise level in the room as students try to speak to one another. This noise level may cause issues for some students. To this end, it is recommended that group size be limited to pairs (ideally) or triads at most. Activities requiring larger group sizes should utilize text-based chat solutions like those found in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.
- The technologies recommended here should meet most campus accessibility requirements. However, you should check with the McBurney Disability Resources Center for guidance on any specific accommodations for your students.
Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 255-260.