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Reflections of a different kind, midterm writing: Teamwork and Authenticity

by on July 10, 2011

Reflections of a different kind, midterm writing: Teamwork and Authenticity

When it comes to group work:  “I often feel very two-faced assigning group projects to students because of the issues others have mentioned, but being cognizant of these dilemmas will help create better projects and provide students an alternative form of assessment. Too often teachers assign group projects because they think they should without thinking through all these procedural components,” written by our OTL classmate, James Teague, in reference to a thread that I began about teamwork and authenticity,  Is teamwork an authentic spectacle of the real-world?

The question that I posed was this: Our goal as educators should be to present our students with an educational experience where they are learning, understanding, and synthesizing skills and information in order to take that new-found education and apply it to their own lives for betterment and enrichment for themselves, their communities, and the nations. Is group work, teamwork, or collaborative projects going to do this for our students or is there a more effective way?

As I continue to contemplate what I will write for the midterm assignment, I can’t help but feel quite connected to the ideas of authentic work, teamwork, alternative assessments, and how it ties into my graduate project: Project-based Multimedia Learning. I would like for you expand with me, if you would, two of the glaring issues.

Dilemmas, How can we support students, who probably don’t know each other, in working together without being too involved? 

Procedural Components to make group work successful:

  • Wait until the end of the semester or quarter to propose a group assignment
  • Assign groups based on natural student interaction
  • Propose both a mid-assessment and a post-assessment to check on student progress before it spirals out of control (James Teague)
  • Assigning roles to mimic workplace (Alice Boyd)
  • Come up with a common set of rules
  • Also, I think that two in a group seems to work the best, it is truly hard communicating with more than this, unless you require an online group chat session as part of the assignment
  • What about making the assignment shorter, a two-day turnaround, this way everyone contributes within a 48 hour period of time
  • Make assignment pass or fail with only a small percentage offered as a grade
  • Give choice within reason
  • Recommendations and Ideas Per James Teague:
      1. Discussion about the skills sets needed in the group project
        2. Having students rank their ability (online survey)
        3. Teacher assigns groups following results
      4. Apply for the role within your group.
      5. Check in with group leaders on a regular basis as a project managers meeting. This saves a TON of questions. The managers get the questions answered from you directly and all together and report back to peers. This could also be done in an online setting. (Private Discussion Board)
      6. Build accountability per each student a self-reflection and then privately have the students privately evaluate their peers based on criteria.  I’ve had students as high school seniors who have been friends since kindergarten really tell the truth here. It can be very illuminating. This is more like a “review” process in a company so in that respect it models the proverbial “group” project working in the “real world.”
  • Realistic scenarios  and real-world application (Alice Boyd/ Philip Arnold)
  • First day of school mandatory video/chat session, one hour, synchronous, in order to help students feel more connected

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One Comment
  1. All great ideas, Candice! My recent experience at Educause’s Learning Technology Leadership training provided me with good insight into what makes exceptional group work. Even though the intensive group work was face to face, here are a few things that made our group work well together:

    – After a few days of working many hours together, we got to know each other very well, and,
    – We had a common, and realistic, problem to solve (at the end of the week, our team had to make the case to implement a training program at our “institution.”)

    Thanks for your post!


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