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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Group project strategies contribute to learning potential for college students

by Daniel Pimentel
Ph.D student, University of Florida

The Parable of Stones: Communicating the Benefits of Group Projects

Daniel Pimentel

Daniel Pimentel

Often considered the holy grail of technology companies, Apple Inc. represents a diverse and interdisciplinary team of professionals. From packaging design specialists to software engineers, the team at Apple is what many would call the ultimate group project based on its roots in a California garage in 1976.

Nearly two decades after his small project revolutionized the way humanity communicated, Apple’s founder and icon, Steve Jobs, spoke on a childhood experience and the importance of teamwork. He described how as a child an elderly man on his block invited him to view his collection of rocks. The man was rugged and aged, and Jobs wondered what value these rocks provided for the man. Placing them in a motorized container filled with liquid and grit powder, the man turned on the machine causing a chorus of clanks and swashes. He invited Jobs back the following morning.

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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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4 tips for designing a successful group project

by Seul Lee
PhD student, University of Florida

Group projects are important for students majoring in advertising, public relations, journalism and telecommunication because those industries require a higher level of cooperation.  If structured well, group projects can promote important intellectual and social skills and can help students prepare for work world in advance.

Group projects are distinguished from group activities in that group projects are more likely to be long-term-based and require group product(s), such as a written report, a presentation, a design work, or a paper.

Positive group experiences contribute to develop skills specific to collaborative efforts and to have a field experience with real-world clients. However, there are often typical problematic group members, such as a free rider, a dictator, the do-it-all, the procrastinator, the socializer, the academically poor student, the quiet student, and/or the complainer.

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