Organizing, & Working on, Group Projects

A ParaphraseWhen your group controls the (learning) process, your learning is faster, more relevant, and sustained. Assessment is built into your group's competency and control.

 

What Who How When:
Self-introductions:
interests & qualifications
all   Meeting #1
Determine convenor and/or clerk, as well as recorder of meetings all
  • determined by group process
  • factors to consider:  volunteers, experience, expertise, desire to learn,
  • manner of distributing/posting minutes
    • review minutes to track progress
Meeting #1
Set group communications:
frequency & means
all
  • face-to-face meetings:  time & location
  • telephone:  list numbers & convenient times
  • e-mail: addresses (distribution lists)
Meeting #1
Summarize objectives all Suggestion:
  • each member independently writes down two or three main objective's of the project.
  • Group compares and agrees upon objectives
Meeting #1
Determine process
to achieve objectives
all
  • project planning tools
    (Gantt, Critical Path, PERT)
  • project production tools
    (word processing, demonstration software (PowerPoint), etc.
  • stages of development
  • critical sequencing (timeline)
  • assign sub-groups
Meeting #?

In the case of large sub-groups:   begin again above!

Research  
  • library research
  • field research
  • other:
 
Analyze research/findings  
  • mid-stream check-in
  • planning for gaps
  • requests for assistance
 
Outline "product"  
  • opening paragraph/thesis statement
  • individual topics
 
Write/Compile
document/presentation
 
  • opening paragraph
  • body
  • closing arguments/statement
 
Document & create bibliography      
Test      
Review and evaluate  
  • product
  • process
  • participation
 
Summarize      
Rehearse presentation      
Present final product      
Celebrate      

Philosophy of group projects

Group learning, or working in groups, involves shared and/or learned values, resources, and ways of doing things.  Effective groups learn to succeed by combining these factors. However, each group, and each individual, will only be as effective as they are willing to embrace and/or respect differences within the group.

Interaction within the group is based upon mutual respect and encouragement. 

Often creativity is vague.  Ideas are important to the success of the project, not personalities.  A group's strength lies in its ability to develop ideas individuals bring.

Conflict can be an extension of creativity; the group should be aware of this eventuality.  Resolution of conflict balances the end goals with mutual respect.  In other words, a group project is a cooperative, rather than a competitive, learning experience.

The two major objectives of a group project are:

  • What is learned:  factual material as well as the process
  • What is produced:  written paper, presentation, and/or media project

Role of instructors/teachers/professors:

  • The success of the outcome depends on the clarity of the objective(s) given by teachers, as well as guidelines on expectations.  The group's challenge is to interpret these objectives, and then determine how to meet them
  • The process of group work is only as effective as teachers or instructors manage and guide the process.
    Group projects are not informal collaborative groups. 
    Students must be aware of, and prepared for, this group process.  
    Cooperative group projects should be structured so that no individual can coast on the efforts of his/her teammates

Scoring:

  • Rewards ideally should be intrinsic to the process, with group members deriving their reward from their contributions to the group and project
  • External reinforcement (grades, etc) for individuals can be based upon improvement, as opposed to comparative, scoring. Traditional, comparative scoring works to the detriment of teams with low-achieving members.  Evaluation based upon improvement rewards the group for an individual’s progress.  Peer, comparative evaluations can have a negative effect on teams:  low scoring members are considered "undesirable" and drags upon performance

High achievers versus low achievers?

  • We assume high achievers mentor or teach low achievers.   In the process of teaching others, we can learn more about the topic. As we tutor, even simple questions from the tutee make us look at our subject matter freshly. As we explain, we gain a deeper understanding of the topic.  Low achievers then tutor or teach high achievers!
  • High achievers profit in cooperative learning in other ways: leadership skills, self-esteem gains, conflict resolution skills, and role-taking abilities which become part of the leaning process, and betterment of the student.

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