Assigning Group Projects

Student collaboration is important for deepening student engagement and understanding. Assigning group projects can be a great way to foster student collaboration.Group projects are also a great way to give students important life skills: coordinating schedules, conflict resolution, time management, the ability to break down tasks into smaller units, effective communication, just to name a few. 


However, in order for these group projects to be effective and to ensure that all students participate, they have to be set up with those goals in mind. 


Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when assigning group projects: 


Know and Communicate Your Intended Outcome 


When assigning a group project, ensure that your instructions clearly lay out the assignment, the deliverables, and how students will be graded. Make sure that all necessary materials are provided or listed and that students know due dates. 


Make It Relevant 


Make sure that when you assign a group project that it’s not only relevant to your class, but something they may see in the real world. Give them a real-world problem to solve or scenario to analyze. 


Assign Group Roles


Assigning group roles can help keep students focused as well as give them the opportunity to build different skills. Some roles to consider: meeting coordinator, timekeeper, facilitator, note-taker, and researcher. Have students switch roles for different parts of the project so they each get a chance to practice each role. 


Explicitly Teach How to Work in A Group


Take time to talk to students about how to work in the group  - how to perform each of the group roles, how to work through communication or schedule issues, and how to manage conflict are just a few things that should be explicitly taught to students throughout the process. 


Plan for Individual Accountability as well as Group Accountability 


Oftentimes, students groan when group projects are assigned. The reason? The slacker. The person that does not show up on time, if at all, does nothing to contribute and then gets an A along with the rest of the group. 


To prevent this (and help get buy-in from all students) have individual assignments related to the group assignment that will be graded. These assignments can be content related or process related (i.e. how is the group working together and how the student is fulfilling their role).


Have Deadlines for Project Components


Providing students with deadlines can help them stay focused, provide accountability to you and each other, and help them break down a larger assignment. This also gives you a chance to check in on their progress and provide assistance before they go too far in the wrong direction. 


Assigning group projects not only help students, but they provide you with valuable information about your students as learners and future leaders. Information you can provide back to them to guide them through their college career. 

by Stacy Brown

Published September 8, 2021

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