GROUP WORK - Cleveland State University

Gen Ed Skill Area
Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt
Cleveland State University
Why do group work?
Student assessment indicates that
students learn and retain information
Students report greater satisfaction in
courses where group work is assigned
Skills valued by employers
Types of group work
Ad-hoc temporary clusterings of students
Formal groups with a longer-term
project to complete
Study groups
Faculty and group work
Designing assignments
Assessing group work
Willing to sacrifice efficiency and control to
other goals
Bad experiences with groups
How your class will be different
Clear assignments, tasks, and grading
Rationale for group work
Why are you doing it?
What is the assignment?
Some direction about tasks, division of labor
What are you looking for in the finished
Rationale for group work
How group work will be assessed
How groups will be monitored
What is the time commitment for groups
How to handle problems that arise
Creating effective groups
 When to form
 Size matters
4-5 is ideal, especially if students don’t have lots of
practice with group work
 Composition
Carefully orchestrated
Some room for student preference?
Shared criteria
 Meeting times
Effective assignments
 Complex enough to warrant group work
For inexperienced it may help to identify roles
 Motivating enough to invite engagement
Links to objectives of the course
Involving presentation to class or even outsiders?
Effective assignments
 Class time for group work
 Teach skills of group work
Fiechtner, S. B., and Davis, E. A. "Why Some Groups
Fail: A Survey of Students' Experiences with Learning
Groups." In A. Goodsell, M. Maher, V. Tinto, and
Associates (eds.), Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook
for Higher Education.
Facilitate student interaction
 Early opportunities that serve as icebreakers
 Pair or group students in the first week
 Ask students to identify components of
successful discussion and group work; set
Sample assignments
 Structured controversy: Groups of four explore
controversial topic. Students work in pairs. Each
pair takes a different side of the issue. The
groups of four meet, and each pair takes a turn
stating and arguing its position Next, each pair
must reverse its position and argue the opposite
position than the one it argued before. Lastly the
group of four as a whole discusses and
synthesizes all the positions to come up with a
group report. There may be a class presentation
where each group presents its findings.
Sample assignments
 History: Write a “medieval newspaper”
Students conduct their research independently and use
group meetings to share information, edit articles,
proofread, and design the pages.
 Science, engineering: Report on alternative
energy sources.
Each member of the group is responsible for research
on one source, and then all the members work together
to incorporate the individual contributions into the final
Assessing group work
Process, product, or both?
Who will assess: instructor, students, or
Group marks, individual marks, or both?
Assessing group work
 Example: A group of six students undertakes a
six-week research project on the geomorphology
of a particular region. They will produce a final
group report, for which they will receive a group
mark. In addition students will be assessed
individually: they are required to submit a
research diary recording their progress, relevant
diagrams and printouts and findings at weekly
intervals throughout the six weeks.
Troubleshooting group work
You are available for discussion
Peer assessment will be part of the
Equip students to troubleshoot their own

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