Thursday, February 06, 2014

Group Work

After a month with a horrendous workload (hence the dearth of posts on this site - I've still been posting on the other blogs I run), I know of no better way to get back into blogging than journaling my day to day activity.

Study and communications skills for the biosciences I've been reading Study and communications Skills for the Biosciences, paying particular attention to the section on group work. I've got a vested interest as group working and assessment will form a major component of the new module I am running next year.

Today I ran a formative groupwork exercise on the final year module I am currently teaching. My hope was that the formative nature of this exercise would lowers the stakes/barriers and make group work more acceptable to students.

And the outcome was ... good. The students worked hard at a challenging topic and kept on task. Working in groups definitely helped understanding, particularly for some students who were struggling individually.

My take home message from this session is: successful group working is all about structure. Chunking the topic into pieces interspersed with plenaries also helped too and kept the pace moving along. I don't think I would have seen the same outcome if this had been a summatively assessed task. And did the students appreciate working in this way? I hope so.


  1. I draw a distinction between "groupwork" (ie tasks that are do-able by individuals, but have been assigned to multiple students to complete) and "teamwork" - which genuinely requires collaboration between multiple individuals to carry out

    1. Fair point. The students today clearly benefited from group discussion, but were essentially working towards a (shared) individual goal. Tomorrow's blog post focuses more on assessment. Which is where teamwork becomes particularly problematic.