1 Size of group
Research shows that groups of three or four students tend to work best while groups of five or more often run into more problems.
2 Group roles
Plan the group work carefully. Make sure all of the members of the group have clearly defined roles and are not only responsible for the final product but are also individually accountable to others in their group throughout the process. This interdependence is key to successful group work. Group roles may be: Facilitator: this person keeps the group on track and helps everyone move forward. Timekeeper: This person is responsible for making sure the work of the group is on track. Quality checker: This person is responsible for the quality of the work being produced. Representative: This person is responsible for reporting the work of the group to others: teacher or other groups. Be willing to facilitate conversations about roles but make sure that not too much time is taken up with deciding who will be responsible for what. Some groups can take a long time to make decisions and it is important that you step in to help them move forward.
3 Individual accountability
Group work is often interpreted as everyone working together on a joint project at the same time. However, successful group work should incorporate time for students to work both individually and as a group. This not only stimulates the more able students to reach their potential but also encourages more individual accountability. If there is one final product produced using software, this inevitably entails one student’s computer so make sure all of your students understand how and why they should contribute to the final product. One way of ensuring individual accountability in a team is to point out that all of the members of the group should be able to explain the final product in detail, and they are all responsible for contributing to the quality and timing throughout the process. It is useful to have one or more students make an ongoing record of the project for a final display eg take photos of students at work or make short film clips at key points in the project. This also motivates individual team members to participate throughout the process.
4 Group synergy and dynamics
Some teachers change groups for every new project that is carried out. This prevents group members from really getting to know each other and working through differences. Assign members to groups early on to allow the group members to get used to working with each other and only change members if absolutely necessary.
5 Student Feedback
When asking students to evaluate each other’s work, it is essential to use a clear structure for comments, providing them with concrete guidelines, eg Choose 2 sentences from the project or 2 areas that you like best and make 2 positive comments about them. Choose 1 thing you do not find clear and ask for clarification.