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Tools and Tips for Group Work

Fostering engagement with peer-to-peer group work interaction can support students’ sense of community and social presence in an online or hybrid course. Consider these research-based suggestions for effective group work:

  • Provide students with links to OIT-supported collaboration tools, and allow groups to select the tools with which they are most familiar.
  • Make effective use of Zoom breakout rooms to provide a forum for groups to meet during class, and encourage students to create their own Zoom meetings for group work outside synchronous class meetings.  
  • Design group tasks that require students to apply essential course content to real-world challenges.
  • A helpful tool for this purpose is Salmons’ (2019) Taxonomy of Collaboration (inspired by Bloom’s Taxonomy).
  • Schedule group tasks to follow individual mastery of foundational knowledge, skills, and/or brainstorming.
  • Structure grading to make individual success dependent on group success (providing students with a direct means to alert you to group issues).
  • Tips for effective group formation and functioning: 
    • allow students to form and join groups based on shared interests and/or availability to meet (if meeting outside class; this can be done via a class-wide Doodle availability poll);
    • scaffold groups in setting their own norms, rules, and procedures; 
    • prompt students to assign group member roles and to rotate those roles (e.g., time-keeper, facilitator, recorder/reporter, etc.);
    • provide groups with sufficient time to complete tasks, using a combination of in-class time and time outside class meetings;
    • Set initial expectations for effective group work and provide clear guidelines on tasks, timelines, and workload division. 
  • Require some type of group accountability, e.g., have them include you as an “editor” on a collaborative Google Doc (allowing you to view individual contributions in the version history), require regular progress summaries; provide a rubric that spells out group member responsibilities and participation expectations; and/or inform them that at semester-end they will anonymously rate their fellow group members on participation.  

References for the above group work strategies: