Navigating the (sometimes) rocky shores
of teaching and consulting
Reviewing the Use of Small Groups in the Classroom
Some things to consider when reviewing an instructors' use of small groups.
Interaction with the groups:
Group assignments and grading:
1. The task should require "group" interaction - not be able to be divided into smaller parts and done individually and then put back together with no need for the group to meet and discuss to accomplish the task.
2. The task should have a definite outcome and deadline. Telling groups to "discuss" this, does not tell them when they are done or give them a focus to work toward.
3. The group task should require them to use the knowledge/skill you want them to learn. Discussions which require them to produce a product beyond defining terms are best. Michaelson suggests projects which focus on why or how. Is the outcome clearly articulated?
4. There must be individual and group accountability (also part of grading assignments). Often a pre-group task which requires students to be prepared in some way for the group task is helpful.
5. Having all groups work on the same project and then report out simultaneously (or as close to that as possible) creates another learning opportunity as they compare results with other groups.
Designing Effective Group Activities (pdf file) (Michaelson, Fink and Knight's article on designing group assignments)
Cooperative Learning for New college Teachers (article on why and how to use cooperative learning groups)
Putting Cooperative Learning to the Test (Harvard Education Letter article about the benefits of cooperative learning)
Cooperative Learning (quick overview of cooperative learning)
Cooperative Learning: Effective Teamwork for Engineering Classrooms (brief overview and essential elements of cooperative learning, including the instructor's role)
Resources on Collaborative Learning (links to four sites discussing and/or giving specific ideas on how to do collaborative learning)
Collaborative Learning: Group Work and Study Teams (article from Tools for Teaching by Berkeley professor, Barbara Gross Davis)