Developing and using group assignments: Bridging the theoretical and the practical

by Jordan Neil
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

In my presentation in Mass Communication Teaching, I looked to highlight many of the facets that comprise successful group assignments, as well as the common barriers to
achieving that success. Furthermore, against a backdrop of why group assignments are important within teaching theoretically, the presentation was structured so as to also provide real-life, practical examples to draw reference from.

Although most of my research for the presentation was based off the work by educational scholar Wilbert McKeachie, in his book “McKeachie’s Teaching Tips,” I found ancillary readings online to supplement and support the textbook.

Some of these examples are listed below for your reference:

Cengage: Designing Effective Group Assignments
http://learn.cengage.com/content/enewsletter11-designing

Cengage: For Students: How to Make the Most of Group Work
http://learn.cengage.com/content/enewsletter11-students

Sussex University: Assessing Group Work
https://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/gateway/file.php?name=ps0083-assessing-group-work-mar-2005-1&site=44

Monash University: Learning Effectively Through Group Work
http://www.eng.monash.edu.au/current-students/download/groupwork.pdf

Benefits of Group Work: Students and Instructors
http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategies/groupprojects/benefits.html

From the above readings, it was clear that successful group learning through structured group assignments is a goal that is easily achievable, but equally easily to be countered through the intangibles of teaching.

For example, the personality types of the group, the personal experiences students bring to class that affect attentiveness, etc. However, if we embrace that we can’t control all aspects of teaching and look to focus on the components we can, this allows for a greater
specificity in group assignment structuring and a better opportunity for all group members to express themselves fully.

In an attempt to convey the barriers to designing a successful group assignment, I let the class participate in Tom Wujec’s Marshmallow Challenge. This worked as both a practical example in how to structure group assignments around individual personality types where possible, but also a metaphorical example of how to continually assess the success of how your group assignments are structured.

Marshmallow Challenge
http://marshmallowchallenge.com/TED_Talk.html

If you would like to see reference my presentation again, please click on the link below.

My Prezi
bit.ly/HrNFPR

Jordan Neil is a doctoral student at the University of Florida and a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).

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