Welcome to day one of the 12 Days of APpy Christmas. The idea of this series is to share success stories from across the college during this first term. The AP team has worked with a huge cross-section of staff this term and for each of the next 12 days we will share case studies which will hopefully inspire staff and provide new ideas to continue on our path towards extraordinary LAT at the college. Please use the comments to discuss your thoughts on these and we hope that this will become a regular feature of this blog in the weeks to come.
Getting learners to work in groups is one of the most common teaching methodologies and for good reason. As the vast majority of careers will require us to work in groups of varying sizes, it makes sense for our teaching sessions to include activities to be completed in groups. But how can we be sure learners know how to contribute effectively in such dynamics? How do we accurately assess their performance? And how do we reduce the capacity for group members to ‘coast’ in such situations?
This has been an area of focus in the Newark College Media department, where students will usually work in groups to create a media product from a pair working on a podcast to a team of 6 shooting a feature film. The perennial debate in the department has been around accurate assessment of the learners, both formatively and summatively.
For the recent Advertising project, the teaching staff took the following steps to encourage positive contributions across all group members and to try and avoid the classic scenario of:
Class Discussion on Group Work
Initially the learners were encouraged to discuss the benefits of group work and their previous experiences of working in groups. Learners were asked to use reference points from their first half term at the college, their previous educational experiences and any group activities they were involved in outside of college or school.
The next stage of the discussion was linked to professional and personal standards and a particular focus on the working process required to produce a high-quality end product. Personal and group targets can be set at this stage and recorded for tracking. This also provided the opportunity to agree summative feedback at the end of the unit on learner performance in a vital study and progression skill.
Setting Ground Rules
Once in groups, the learners were encouraged to agree a set of ground rules or ‘norms’ that were then captured and recorded by the tutors. These were used to assess performance and progress both through peer and tutor assessment and were incorporated into the agenda of every production meeting. The impact was a far more considered and respectful working process in most cases and a regular opportunity to set new targets for the next stage of the group work.
It is very common to request that your groups all present back to the class, either before commencing an activity or when completing a task. This can be time-consuming, occasionally artificial and also a drain on that most important resource – time. These were replaced by spontaneous brief progress reports delivered at random moments across a session, designed to keep learners on their toes and ready to provide information at any given moment. Brief and informal peer assessment followed to consolidate the impact of the activity.
Do it for a Reason!
This comes at the end of this blog but could equally have been used at the start. The Media team used this assignment to investigate the assumption that group work was the best methodology for this unit of work. The end result in this instance was to confirm this to be the case, but equally the team have challenged themselves to re-assess the use of group work in each assignment from now on. Make sure that there is a reason for getting your learners to work in groups, get them to focus on their contributions and the end results can be highly beneficial!