Group work is essential in helping students to prepare for the workforce as the process of working in groups equip students with the necessary communication and team building skills . It is important for instructors to plan and design group work carefully to assist students throughout the group work process. This guide provides instructors with some useful tips on designing and managing group work which are organised into 3 stages as shown in the graphic above.
Instructors may allow students to form their own groups or to assign students into groups. The advantage of student self-formed groups is reducing time to get to know one another as students are already acquainted . Some instructors may prefer allocating students to groups to ensure heterogeneity. Assignment of students can be done randomly, or based on certain considerations, such as learning outcomes, qualities of students such as their academic background, race, gender etc.. This will help instructors to maintain the heterogeneity and form balanced groups.
Having only 2 students to a group may limit ideas and insights due to the lack of people being involved. On the other hand, having a large group makes it difficult for every member to constantly contribute due to the lack of participation opportunities . It is suggested assigning 4-5 students to the group as the most ideal group size . On the other hand, having 3-4 students to the group might be more suitable . Ultimately, it is up to the instructor to select an appropriate group size depending on the demands of the group work.
Designated group roles can be instructor-determined or established by students. Having group roles ensures smooth and effective group processes and help to reduce problems that may arise in a group setting e.g., uncooperative students, assertive students and misunderstanding of workload distribution among students . Research has shown that assigning roles in group work have mitigated distraction, allowed more opportunities for student to participate, lesser occurrence of “social loafing” and propel students to learn more . Here are some possible group roles designations :
|Facilitator||Setting the agenda and objectives of group meetings, reiterating decisions and discussions made and ensure ground rules are adhered to.|
|Note taker||Keeping track of all the discussions and task delegations.|
|Timekeeper||Ensuring that the group spend the right amount of time on a particular task.|
|Progress tracker||Checking in with all the group members on their progress and sort any potential problems should the task needs more time to be worked on.|
|Editor||Compiling all the works together and ensure coherence and consistency in the overall group work.|
|Presenter||Collating the main points discussed in group meetings to present it to the class or instructors.|
|Devil’s advocate||Producing questions/opinions/views that differs with the group to promote thorough discussions/ debate.|
|Priority Delegator||Ensuring the group spend an appropriate amount of time for each task.|
|Wildcard||Standing in any missing role due to unavailability of other group members.|
Instructors must be aware of the considerations of designing group work to ensure a proper collaborative environment for students. Instructors must take the initiative to inform students of how to go about working in groups  (Download the infographic [PNG File, 1.2MB] below).
Here are some ways how instructors can assist groups in achieving their learning objectives:
Instruct students to log a weekly journal/ report denoting their progress or to present what they have done for the past week — individually or as a group. Some online tools that instructors can consider include ELearn Journal, Padlet, Google Docs.
Additionally, the report can consist of information such as the group discussions’ main points, the group meetings’ attendance, and the plan for upcoming weeks . This will help instructors to understand each member’s participation. Instructors can then provide constructive feedback to the group and/or individual team members.
Some examples of feedback are the progress of the group, what the group did well, what can the group improve . Verbal feedback can be given through consultations or written feedback based on the group or the reflection journal/ peer evaluations that have been submitted.
Decide on a common mode of communication within students and with the instructor. Ensure students in the same group are aware of how to contact one another and to plan how they should work together . They may utilize online communication tools such as SMU Timetable Bot (Telegram), Outlook Calendar, when2meet, Slack, Calendly to coordinate their schedules.
Instructors must inform students how they can reach their instructor should an issue occurs . Instructors must also keep track of groups prematurely and reach out to students to ensure that it is not too late to solve the problems that the groups might be having .
Recommend website resources and provide links to class activities. Instructors may inform students of resources such as logs, websites, research journals, articles that might be useful for students to use and refer to for their group work .
For example, instructors may share with students the links to the Kahoot/ Wooclap quizzes that have been used in class activities. Instructors may also upload solution slides onto eLearn or make use of discussion forums e.g., eLearn, Piazza for students to clarify their doubts.
Instructors and students may also refer to the Teaching & Learning Survival Tools: User Guides & FAQs for more information.
|Additional time and effort that a group work needs e.g., synchronise schedules, making consensus as a group, or compiling of individual tasks together.||
|Free riders who are not motivated to do any of the tasks.||
|Conflicts among group members which can cause lack of participation among group members.||
|Students may tend to agree with one another to avoid conflict (Groupthink).||
Be clear in communicating the assessment criteria to ensure student are aware of the standard they are expected to meet . This is also to avoid a frequent issue in group work where frustrations happened among students due to the misconception of how they are being graded .
Instructors can consider using reflection reports to gain a better understanding of the processes (e.g., producing ideas, delegating tasks impartially, being respectful with one another etc.) to grade them . Students can be both evaluated as a group and individually. Some examples include team evaluations where each student will appraise the overall collaboration of the team, peer evaluations where each student will appraise each other’s quality of work and self-evaluations where each student will reflect on his or her contributions towards the group work. Instructors may consider exploring CATME Tool to assess group work.
Instructors are encouraged to adhere to the University’s grading guidelines in designing the grading scheme for group work. More information can be found in the Teaching@SMU Handbook Handbook(SMU login required).
Here are some resources (e.g., grading Class Participation, Assignment, Presentation, Project, Peer Evaluation) that instructors may use for assessments:
|Group Evaluation||Individual Evaluation|