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:
- Brindley, J. E., Blaschke, L. M., & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3).
- Oakley, B., Brent, R., Felder, R. M., Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of Student Centered Learning, 2(1), 9-34.
- Salmons, J. (2019). Collaborating in a connected world, in Learning to Collaborate, Collaborating to Learn, (pp. 3-23). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.