“The world increasingly relies on people being able to work together to collaboratively solve problems.” — Dan St. Louis, Principal of University Park Campus School
Group work is an integral part of school and world culture. Through group work, students learn that there’s a diversity of valid perspectives, build comfort around using their own voices, and understand the value of accepting and building on the contributions of others. When facilitating group work in the classroom, teachers need to be actively involved and continuously help with team maintenance.
Once my students are put into groups, I have the create a team charter in less than ten minutes that addresses the following:
Participation: We agree to….
Communication: We agree to…
Meetings: We agree to….
Conduct: We agree to…
Conflict: We agree to…
Deadlines: We agree to…
We cannot expect that all our students will get along and everyone will do their assigned job. So, I give my students access to a few resources that address collaborative group work and resolving conflict.
Here are a few resources I provide for my students:
Tom WuJec’s TED Talk “Build a Tower, Build a Team”
Coping with Hitchhikers and Couch Potatoes on Teams Adapted from Barbara Oakley
Implementing Group Work in the Classroom Centre for Teaching Excellence
Group work: Using cooperative learning groups effectively Vanderbilt Center for Teaching
Amy Edmondson “How to turn a group of strangers into a team”
After giving my students opportunity to explore these resources I then assign them a choice in how to explain and share their learning/understanding:
Choice A – Create a How-To document to provide your students direct instruction how to work through conflict. This How-To sheet is for students to follow, reread and refer to. Be sure to Provide specifics and 3 or more links to additional resources how to resolve conflict
Choice B – Create a Google Presentation with ten or more teamwork problems and possible solutions, particularly regarding conflict. In addition, provide 3-4 links to videos and articles how to resolve conflict
Before we give students a team project or assign group work, discussing and examining the complexities of group work can give students the tools and techniques to work better together as a team. Having students share their products provokes discussion about inviting people to work together to solve big problems. This gives students vision and vocabulary to work collaboratively.
When students are working on a group project, I also have them design the group work rubric for students to grade themselves on how they worked in their group and how their group worked as a whole. Students identify the categories and criteria to develop these rubrics and then we all come to an agreement which one to use as the grading rubric for the final project.
Lastly, students complete a group work processing questionnaire created on Google Forms for students to answer reflection questions.
How do we make sure that teaming goes well? Discussing the elements of group work, collaboration, and continuous team maintenance helps provide students with models of teaming that works. Then, the results for collaborative group work can be awesome.