Group Work

Group work can increase student learning and participation in several ways. Here are ideas for designing effective group activities that are meaningful to students.

Encouraging Participation

Most instructors worry that students will not speak up in class. By helping students better prepare for section, instructors can ensure more frequent class participation.

Sketching Social Theory Collectively

by Chris Herring, Sociology
While most professors have converted to Power Point, sociology professor Michael Burawoy remains wedded to the blackboard and diagrams relentlessly… [A] primary task became figuring out a way to get my students to take these illustrations as the starting point for discussion rather than the end-point.

Interpretation as Staging: A Lesson in Dramatic Literature

by Jordan Greenwald, Comparative Literature
I…came to realize that this lesson could not be learned through class discussion alone, since asking these questions while leading discussion is pedagogically less effective than getting students to ask those questions themselves. I therefore decided, with the encouragement of my co-instructor, to design a group assignment that would familiarize students with the choices one makes when bringing a dramatic text to life.

Help Them Help Themselves!

by Nicholas Knight, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
I knew it would be completely infeasible to teach half of the class how to program during office hours or via a forum. So for the first homework, I designed teams that each had a member with computer programming experience. As a result, every team completed the assignment, and the collaborative write-up ensured that each team member understood the material, even if one team member did the majority of the programming. I was explicit with the class about our strategy to combine programmers and non-programmers.

Encouraging Full Participation in Section

by Suzanne Scoggins, International and Area Studies (Home Department: Political Science)
When a few students dominate, it diminishes the opportunity to hear different voices. This pattern, once established, worsens with time, and by the end of a semester, only a handful of students may be participating in section…Once I began asking groups of two to participate in section, I noticed a marked improvement in overall participation rates. Prior to using this strategy, a “good” section was one in which about half of the students spoke in class. After focusing on groups of two, I found that an “average” discussion was one in which all but one or two students spoke up.

Problem Solving and the Random Number Generator

by Justin Hollenback, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Based on the mistakes the students were making, I felt that the example problems I presented weren’t conveying the material as well as I wanted. Students did not appear engaged or actively learning during lecture. In response, I developed a strategy … to make the process of working out example problems in class more interactive.