As the term unfolds, many professors will be asking students to work productively in groups. While there’s lots of evidence to support collaborative learning, both in terms of knowledge gained and essential work skills honed, many professors are also faced with groups that don’t gel or fall under the dominion of one hyper-achiever, and the occasional student who is willing to ride on colleagues’ coattails. Then there’s the question of group versus individual accountability.
Nikki Schulz, engineering (pictured), and Ross Hanig, business, suggest checking out the teacher-designed web site CATME.org, which offers many suggestions for overcoming obstacles that can keep learning groups from functioning optimally. The site provides quick inventories that allow professors to form groups which are more likely to be productive, tips from the trenches for managing the noise and extra movement groups generate, keeping track of individual contributions, working through personality conflicts, and getting students to make equitable contributions to their final course projects. Like any tool, it can’t answer every possible problem, but it is field-tested and a good place to start if you find yourself up against the same issues and complaints regarding group work. And as with most TLC tips, pursuing CATME.org for the length of time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee at your desk may pay some excellent dividends.
For more information contact Karen Eifler at firstname.lastname@example.org.