Organising effective groups for assignments

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Welsh coastline, Glamorgan, 5 July 2015

Another of the interesting workshops at IML touched on good organisation of group work. One of the handouts was an extensive guide developed by Adam Morgan. I chose to form groups of 4 students (4/5 was the suggested size). I also read with interest the section on “Forming Effective Groups”, which reviews 4 options: “random selection; self-selection; selective appointment; and task appointment”. I wanted to avoid random selection, whether by alphabetical order or other – from past experience, a portion of students are always unhappy with their group because of this. I also wanted to avoid self-selection, because students tend to play it safe and gravitate towards their friends, usually leaving some students feeling unwanted. “Task appointment” was  a possibility (“the instructor offers students a number of topics and let’s them select”), but students need to do choose their won topic as long as it relates to their in-country study destination the following year. I decided it was better (and quicker to get them going) if I used a “selective appointment” approach. I spent a couple of hours looking at each student’s main degree and their country of destination for next year’s study abroad in the Americas (they are doing a double degree in a profession and International studies). This way I was able to combine students into groups based on country of destination and vocational degree area. For example, I was able to form a group of Journalism students who are going to Chile together, Public Communication students who are going to Argentina together, engineers, science, etc. When I explained the method to the students (I projected the Excel working sheet on the screen), they seemed quite pleased – no complaints: “This is better because one of the problems with group work I’ve had in the past is that tutors think it’s best to link one business student with one science and one journalism and so forth, but it doesn’t work – there is no real common link. Anyway, through this method we actually got the group membership we wanted!” So far so good, then. Let’s see the results later on.

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