Group work can encourage the development of key professional skills, enhance student engagement and encourage deeper learning. This page highlights the benefits and challenges of group work, and suggests some tips for effective use.
Light et al. (2009) argue that educators may be sceptical of group work for a range of reasons:
Students may also have negative perceptions of group work based on their past experiences while others look less favourably on team work as they prefer to work alone as a result of their personality, learning style or need for singular achievement.
Conflict between group members can arise which impact the teaching and learning process and outcomes. Pauli et al. (2008) argue that these conflicts arise for a number of reasons:
Significant challenges arise for educators and students around the issue of the assessment of group work. For example, differentiating individual contributions to the group work product and process presents ethical issues for educators needing to attribute individual grades; students dislike it when there is the potential for the group mark to negatively impact upon their individual grade or when there has been social loafing by group members, with less motivated students gaining good grades as a result of others’ work.
Boud D, Cohen, R and Sampson, J (Eds.) (2001) Peer Learning in Higher Education Routledge: London.
Cartney, P. & Rouse, A. (2006) ‘The emotional impact of learning in small groups: Highlighting the impact on student progression and retention’, Teaching in Higher Education, 11, 79-91
Exley K and Dennick R (2004) ‘Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond. RoutledgeFalmer: London
Light, G.; Cox, R. & Calkins, S. (2009, 2nd edition) ‘Learning and Teaching in Higher Education’, Sage: London
Pauli, R.; Mohiyeddini, C.; Bray, D.; Michie, F.; & Street, B. (2008) ‘Individual differences in negative group work experiences in collaborative student learning’, Educational Psychology, 28, (1), 47-58
Tinto, V. (1997), “Classrooms as communities: exploring the educational character of student persistence”, Journal of Higher Education, 68(6), pp 599-623
Van Rheede van Oudtshoorn, GP & Hay, D (2004) 'Group work in higher education : a mismanaged evil or a potential good?', South African Journal of Higher Education, 18, (2), 131-149. [http://journals.sabinet.co.za/ej/ejour_high.html]
Light, G.; Cox, R. & Calkins, S. (2009, 2nd edition) ‘Learning and Teaching in HIgher Education’, Sage: London - Chapter 5 “Facilitating small-group teaching” pp.127-153
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