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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.
  • Consider collaborative processes, collaboration levels, and trust levels to design appropriate and effective group work assignments. Salmons’ (2019) Taxonomy of Collaboration (inspired by Bloom’s Taxonomy) is a helpful tool for this purpose. 
  • 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.  
  • See these additional tips on the Mindful Facilitation of Group Work during your class sessions. 
  • 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 Learning10(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.