by Shawna Lee, the Teaching & Learning Centre
in the March 2018 issue
Group work. Those two simple words can create a strong response (both positive and negative) from educators and students alike. Advocates favour group assignments because “In the real world, students need to know how to work with others”; however, pre-service education has marked differences from professional practice. This translation may not be as clear-cut.
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between group work and collaborative learning. Essentially, product vs. process. Though the two are not mutually exclusive, understanding the subtle distinction is useful in facilitating successful learning opportunities for students.
We have all seen it... the risk of academic honesty concerns when some students do the bulk of the work while others seemingly coast along. Even including group contracts and peer assessments may not negate this risk, as peer ratings may be skewed by social connections and fear of repercussion either from group members or in the assigned grade. So, how do we provide opportunities for collaborative learning and prevent some of the challenges that may naturally arise? The first step is for us to be clear of the purpose and objective of the group exercise. Is it linked to an assessment of learning or as learning?
If the group work relates to an assessment of learning (summative), is the intention to also assess the collaborative function of the group? If this is the case, the group process needs to be included as part of the learning outcomes. Consider aspects such as:
Is the group work intended to provide an opportunity for learning (formative)? If so, consider aspects such as:
With careful planning, collaborative learning and group work can provide excellent opportunities for student growth and development. The Teaching & Learning Centre has a wide range of resources available to help you plan and navigate formative and summative group work with your students! From contemplation to completion and everything in between, visit The Teaching & Learning Centre website: Groups.
View the March 2018 issue of the Academic Newsletter.