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Monday, September 21, 2015

Choosing the Best Approach for Small Group Work by Claire Howell Major, PhD

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Claire Howell Major, professor of higher education at the University of Alabama writes, "While there are several different forms of group work, there are a few that are more often used than others and have a body of research that supports their effectiveness. Three of these are cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and reciprocal peer teaching." 

Photo: Faculty Focus

Enter the term “group work” into a Google search, and you’ll find yourself bombarded with dozens of hits clustered around definitions of group work, benefits of group work, and educational theories underpinning group work. If you dig a little deeper into the search results, however, you’ll find that not all of the pages displayed under the moniker of “group work” describe the same thing. Instead, dozens of varieties of group learning appear. They all share the common feature of having students work together, but they have different philosophies, features, and approaches to the group task.

Does it matter what we call it? Maryellen Weimer asked this important question in her 2014 Teaching Professor article of the same title, with the implicit idea that one approach might be better suited for a given task than another. She believes that the answer to the question is yes. And she’s right. As the adage goes, it is important to choose the right tool for the job at hand. A hammer is not the best tool for drilling a hole, and a drill is not the best tool for driving a nail. Both are good tools, when used for the appropriate job.

So it is with group work. If you don’t choose the best possible approach, then you will be less likely to accomplish the goals and objectives of the assignment.
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Additional resources

Join Claire Howell Major on Oct. 13 for Choosing and Using Group Activities in the College Classroom, a live, online seminar that will explore further some of the best ways to use group work. Bring your questions!

Whether you teach in a traditional classroom or use flipped instruction strategies, group work can work for you. This seminar will introduce you to three different group work methodologies and help you identify which ones are appropriate for your course, your students, and your teaching style.

Source: Faculty Focus


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