Activity: Facilitate group projects

Collaborative projects have the potential for high impact learning. However, students can dread them when they are not carefully facilitated and supported.

Use Canvas to set up groups and give students a ‘home base’ to work asynchronously: 

Guide students in creating agreements/contracts for how they will work together and resolve differences 

Group work misgivings often develop from past experiences where classmates did not follow through on obligations or misunderstandings arose about the group’s function. Provide a template in a shared document space where the group outlines: 

  • Methods for communication (discussion board, emails, announcements, texting, etc.) 
  • Frequency group members are expected to check for messages and updates 
  • Strategies to assign group tasks to ensure equitable responsibilities 
  • Steps to undertake if a synchronous meeting must be missed 
  • Steps to undertake if there is a group conflict  

Agreements/contracts should be posted in the group area or forwarded to the instructor before the group begins working on their assignment or project. Small group synchronous meetings could be used to review agreements/contracts and discuss any concerns or questions that may not have been considered. 

Actively facilitate group interactions—engage with purpose to support communication, problem solving, and conflict resolution 

  • Design a group project so that individual students have responsibility for stand-alone content components—you can assign the components or groups can decide amongst themselves. Avoid projects where one student can be tasked with researching content and another can ‘just do the PowerPoint’. 
  • Share how groups you work in (e.g. collaborative research and writing) operate when members may be scattered across the country or world. 
  • Ask groups to submit project ‘chunks’ over time. These project pieces can include initial plans, drafts, and group reflection on current progress. Product submission over time offers opportunities for feedback as well as a check on group dynamics. 
  • At each submission, ask students to complete a group evaluation of their team’s work process. The Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Innovation offers strategies and resources to support student reflection about group process and product. Follow up with the group noting areas of strength or success and facilitate discussion about areas for improvement.