Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Group work advice for students

Some students may be experienced when it comes to collaborating within a group but others may be in need of some advice or guidance on what it takes to be an effective group member.  Much of the literature on implementing group work is focused on providing insights for instructors, but there are resources that are written for a student audience.  Here I hope to direct you to a few of these student-focused resources.

The Successful Strategies for Teams handbook
includes a discussion of team player styles in addition
to many other important topics for students to consider.
The first resource is a handbook, Successful Strategies for Teams, put together by Frances Kennedy and Linda Nilson at Clemson University.  The handbook, which is available online as a PDF, includes motivation for working in teams, stages of team development (forming, storming, norming, performing), skills, an overview of collaborative decision-making, and profiles of team player styles (contributor, collaborator, communicator, challenger).  A questionnaire about team player styles is also included alongside a discussion of each approach and what to do when a team is unbalanced, so to speak.  The handbook is full of information and insights; an instructor could easily select a particular topic to share with a class when group work is introduced initially and then refer students to other components gradually or when needed.

Guidelines offered by UNC at Chapel Hill
For those looking for something more compact, check out the set of guidelines offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Faculty Excellence (see "Figure 1" at left or click here for full newsletter):

If you have a copy of McKeachie's Teaching Tips (2011) on your bookshelf, turn to the section on active learning for an even shorter list of suggestions for students.  There is a significant amount of overlap between this list and the one shown here to the left; in addition to suggestions about considering everyone's ideas and equal contributions from group members, McKeachie also recommends that the students reflect on the group's process and identifies next steps and also that the next meeting be planned before the current one concludes.

"Helpful Tips for Collaboration and Group Work," a web resource from The University of the Arts, occupies a middle ground between the extensive handbook from Clemson and the lists offered by UNC and McKeachie's Teaching Tips.  The webpage offers advice for getting started plus sections devoted to working efficiently and dealing with problems within a group; students may find a resource like this one particularly useful because they can easily access information from the different sections, which are detailed but brief, when and if they are needed.

McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2011). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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