Making Groups Work

When I first started to have students work in groups, I made a huge mistake: I assumed that, once the groups formed and I told them what their task was, they would go out and do great work. Needless to say, it didn’t work out that way!

In fact, I became so discouraged at how dysfunctional the groups were and how bad the work was that they handed in, that I abandoned groups for a while.

After doing some research, however, I realized that, with pre-planning on my part, there was no reason why group work could not be an energizing, efficient, and positive way for students to function. I no longer hesitate to have students work in groups.

For me, there are three components to making group work a success:

1. Form groups in such a way that they will be more likely to function well (see the “Forming Effective Groups” post),

2. Train the groups how to function effectively, and

3. Create a system for evaluating group work through each stage of the work process.

Yes, this means doing a lot of “set-up” work prior to the class, but if you do it well, the rewards are huge. I no longer hesitate to have students work in groups.

This entry was posted in Actively Engaging Students in Classroom, Best Practices, Teaching Practice, Working in Groups and tagged , , by Jane Alden Stevens. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jane Alden Stevens

Jane Alden Stevens is a photographer and educator who is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati. An active artist, Stevens has exhibited and published her work extensively both in the US and abroad. She is the author of “Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered” (2004). In the course of her teaching career, Stevens taught courses in film, photography, and professional practices for fine artists. Her interest in teaching practices was deepened when she started teaching the "Graduate Teaching Workshop", a required graduate level course for fine artists and art historians that prepares them to teach the courses they will later be assigned. She was also involved in the Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Cincinnati, which prepares masters and doctoral students across all programs for teaching at the university level. She has conducted pedagogy workshops for a variety of universities, as well as participated in academic practicum panels at educational conferences. The recipient of numerous teaching awards, Stevens was honored with the all-university Cohen Award for Excellence in University Teaching at the University of Cincinnati in 2002 and Professor of the Year honors in her college in 2011.

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