By creating opportunities for students to collaborate on activities we can enable them to consolidate their learning and construct an enriched joint understanding of module content. Group working can have benefits in terms of students’ sense of belonging and community which have knock on effects for satisfaction, attainment and retention. Working together with peers can also be a motivating and confidence-building experience.
In this first article in a series of three, we look at some types of groupwork activity that you could build into a module
Which type of groupwork task?
Discussion to share ideas and understanding can form part of most groupwork but it can also be an end in itself. It could take place in a live meeting either online or face-to-face, or it could be in a discussion forum or chat as an asynchronous element.
It can be highly structured or open-ended and can be used as a lead in or follow up to other work.
Co creating a product can allow students to apply and demonstrate skills and knowledge. The product could be anything tangible from an electronic circuit, to a stage performance, to a marketing pitch or newsletter.
The problem could be a simulation of a typical project from the workplace or based on a real or fictional scenario or case study.
For a longer project students can be drip-fed new information at set intervals. For example, in a business or law project they might receive an email from the client that requires a response or changes the requirements. In a health care scenario, a patient might present with a new symptom.
Working together on a game-based task can be a fun motivator for students. As well as helping them explore the taught content that the game relates to it allows them to develop transferable skills such as collaboration, critical and strategic thinking, adaptability, and resourcefulness.
Games may be created specifically related to your taught content following a well-know format such as escape rooms, or simulations – the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Students could also get involved in commercial online games which studies have shown can develop valuable skills.
Carrying out research and analysing data can develop knowledge and understanding, either as a one-off exercise or part of a larger project. Small groups could be given one aspect of a topic to research, each feeding into the larger group to create the bigger picture.
This could be structured, with students being given specific questions to address or directed to specific sources, or more open-ended.
Students being tasked to work in groups to understand a concept from the module and find a way of ‘teaching’ it to their peers could be a challenge in its own right. Or, it could be used for groups to present findings or products from any group project.
Students could be encouraged to use a range of digital tools to teach and present, from PowerPoint to whiteboards and quizzes or web presentation tools like MS Sway. Their creative teaching methods might even inspire us with ideas to enhance our own teaching.
If you’ve been inspired by these ideas, look out for upcoming articles on the digital tools and platforms to facilitate group work and the support you can provide to students to empower them to get the most out of group work and collaboration.