5 tips for structuring and grading group projects

Being able to work effectively in a team setting is an important skill in many jobs. So to help students develop the ability to work in a team, many college courses incorporate group projects. If you’ve used a group project in a course you’ve taught, you know that successful group work doesn’t just happen. Krystin Anderson offers advice on how to develop effective group projects.

by Krystin Anderson

Krystin Anderson

Krystin Anderson

So you want to use a group project for your students.

If you feel some apprehension about using group projects, you are not alone! Group projects can cause anxiety for teachers and students alike, both of whom are afraid that what is meant to be a positive, collaborative learning opportunity will become a nightmarish conflict of personalities and interests resulting in tears and failure.

(Click College Rant: I hate group projects for one student’s musings.)

However, group projects offer opportunities for students to complete something they could not on their own, not only because of the time constraints within a semester but because a single student may not have the all skills that a group of students could bring together.

Group projects also help students learn how to work in groups and to become interdependent—a skill most media professionals use frequently throughout their careers.

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Strategies for designing group projects

by Tianduo Zhang
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Tianduo Zhang

Tianduo Zhang

Group projects can be an extremely helpful tool for instruction. Group projects allow students to work on complex projects, get work done faster, learn communication and collaboration, and become familiar with the real-world working environment that requires teamwork.

However, group projects don’t always work in the ideal way. Almost every student who has completed an undergraduate degree had something to say about group projects. The most common problems are: work schedule, miscommunication, unaccountable team members and unfairness in grading.

So here comes the question: Could we as instructors do something to prevent such problems from happening? The answer is: Absolutely yes!

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