Setting Groups Up for Success

Once in a group, students can’t automatically be expected to know how to work well together. It is therefore critical that the teacher provide information, insight and guidance to groups before their work begins. To that end, I spend an entire class period preparing them.

First, I show them a Powerpoint that outlines the stages that a group goes through from beginning to end. Much of the information comes from the Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing model of group development that was first proposed by Bruce Tuckman.

I then go over the group tasks, policies and procedures that are relevant for the group work I am asking them to do. Here is an example of this document from a class in which the groups were each creating a print-on-demand book. The document clarifies the role of each group member, outlines meeting policies, and talks about what to do if a group member becomes problematic.

Finally, I have the class split into their groups to come up with an agreement about what they expect will happen during the group work process. Each group member signs it, and the agreement gets turned into me. This way, if a group or group member becomes dysfunctional, I can refer to this document to see what they agreed to that isn’t happening.

Thus prepared, the groups are now ready to go to work!

This entry was posted in 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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