Group & Team Work in the ALCs

This will become the “preparing for session #3” post on Monday, 10 March. For now it simply contains scenarios you will work with as part of that prep.


1. Team Research Presentation: Students collaborate to create a group presentation on the impact that zebra mussels have in three different locations around the world (e.g., the Great Lakes in North America, in Great Britain and in Spain). In this presentation students will compare and contrast the impact of the invasive species, as well as analyse steps scientists and governments have taken to minimize the harm done to human infrastructures and ecosystems in different places.  At the close of this presentation, students will propose action steps for a local agency to take regarding zebra mussel invasion.

2. Group Jigsaw Discussion: Students prepare for a discussion with a focus on 19th century French painter Édouard Manet, a “pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.” Each student in a group investigates a specific, different aspect of this overall focus on Manet. For example, one individual will look at early works, another at later works (their stylistic qualities, still another what the paintings mean in social and historical context), another at major art movements of that time, and finally a last person will investigate work of an artist/key artists contemporary to Manet. In discussion, each student provides an overview of their investigation related to the overall topic – Manet as this artistic, transitional figure.

3. Group Scrambled Outline: At the start of a new course topic/unit, groups of students are provided statements from a outline for a science-based research article addressing sustainable agriculture. Working together, they reorganize the statements into a coherent outline with an introduction, body and conclusion, making a record of their discussion/decision points in constructing the article and its argument.

4. Team Peer Feedback: Students in upper division social science class write persuasive papers on the intersection of family life and public policy. Topics examples: gay marriage, interracial adoption, corporal punishment, surrogate motherhood. Students are required to write a final paper in which they attempt to persuade others to take their position while respecting competing points of view. During an in-class peer review session, students evaluate each other’s papers in relation to the following criteria: good thesis, clarity and soundness of arguments (major claims, supporting evidence), attentiveness to and respect for those who disagree with the author’s perspective.


1. How would you prepare students to successfully complete these activities, i.e., work together to achieve learning objectives?  Where & how would you make available the assignment – its specific activities/tasks, key resources, and requirements/criteria for successful completion?

2. What features of the Active Learning Classroom (physical setting, available technologies – digital and analog) might you direct or suggest students use to better coordinate and complete their group or assignment? What are some other technologies that might be used for cooperative and collaborative learning, both inside and outside of class meeting time?

3.  As time permits, discuss where/whether/how you’d support students in learning the technologies attached to the completion of this assignment.


Kanuka, Heather. Interaction and the Online Distance Classroom: Do Instructional Methods Effect the Quality of Education?  Journal of Computing in Higher Education. 23, no. 2-3 (2011): 143-156.

An examination of instructional strategies that facilitate higher levels of learning, many of them involve group/cooperative/collaborative learning. Good place to learn about “communities of inquiry.” Provides many ideas for instructional strategies that support deeper learning.

More than “get into groups of four” – Understanding “cognitive whys” & “social hows” of group work. Kate Martin, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Minnesota, provides an excellent overview of the “why” and “how” of group learning.

Michaelson, Larry, L. Dee Fink, Arletta Night. Designing Effective Group Activities: Lessons for Classroom Teaching and Faculty Development.

Oakley, Barbara, Felder, et. al. “Turning student groups into effective teams.” Journal of Student Centered Learning. 2, no. 1 (2004).

“…members of an effective team always work together—sometimes physically together and sometimes apart, but constantly aware of who is doing what. They take different roles and responsibilities, help one another to the greatest possible extent, resolve disagreements amicably, and keep personal issues (which may occur when any collection of people work together) from interfering with the team functioning. With a group, the whole is often equal to or less than the sum of its parts; with a team, the whole is always greater.”

Pozzi, Francesca. 2010. “Using Jigsaw and Case Study for Supporting Online Collaborative Learning.” Computers & Education 55, no. 1: 67-75. ERIC, EBSCOhost (accessed May 16, 2012).

This paper examines two learning activities that promote collaborative learning: jigsaw and case studies. Through comparison and contrast, the authors identify strengths and weaknesses of each activity, and reflect on the impact of structuredness on the collaborative learning process.

Conrad, Rita Marie and Ana Donaldson. Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Students need guidance on learning how to learn collaboratively and how to work effectively in groups. Instructors should be strategic and thoughtful about helping their students work together effectively. This book plots out “phases of engagement,” a process that takes place over the semester, and helps students learn how to work together more effectively and how to become more independent learners. In my view, the book could be a little better theorized, but nevertheless introduces good ideas and activities to try.

These scenarios adapted from an activity originally developed by Cris Lopez, UMinnesota Office of Information Technology Consultant.


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