Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Design Flaws in Group Work

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Design Flaws in Group Work

Article excerpt

According to Maryellen Weimer, poor design is a contributing factor to many students' dislike of group work. The author identifies five weaknesses in planning group work that can contribute to ineffective group dynamics and decreased learning potential:

* Lack of individual accountability, which may include the practice of grading a project as a whole rather than based on individual involvement, can lead to some students taking a "free ride." As a result, the rest of the group has to contribute more than their share, generating "a lot of hostility toward the group process."

* Projects that allow tasks to be divided among group members-for example, assigning specific sections of a report to individuals-allow students to avoid working together if they already have their minds set against group work. Group identity does not gel, and the group will not have acquired the tools necessary for dealing with members who don't perform on a par with others. It is better to design tasks to be consolidated by the group as a whole.

* Inauthentic tasks are likely to leave students ambivalent about group work. Authenticity, or designing a task around a real-life scenario, promotes more enthusiasm toward the project. For example, an assignment to produce a list of interview questions can be expanded to include the opportunity to conduct mock interviews and then make a "hiring" decision, thus more closely connecting the assignment to real-life experience. …

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