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Preparing Students for Group Work

Students need help developing the skills necessary to be effective collaborators. Here are some suggestions for helping students work effectively with others, in your class and in the world beyond.

Explain the importance of collaborating

At times, you may encounter resistance to group work from students. Students may be more receptive if they are reminded that collaborative environments foster creativity, and collaborative abilities are vital for success as a working artist and/or business professional. Share your experiences with collaborative endeavors to support these ideas. Or, share the following quote from the Pixar website:

 

“We concentrate on finding people with breadth, depth, communication skills and the ability to collaborate. If you have those attributes, we can teach you the tools.”

—www.pixar.com/companyinfo/jobs/career_faq.html

 

Discuss the characteristics of good collaborators

Let students know what to aspire to. Give students feedback on their collaborative skills, and/or encourage them to reflect on their own abilities in these areas. Characteristics might include:

  • Contributes many ideas.
     
  • Listens attentively and encourages others to share ideas.
     
  • Thoroughly completes assigned individual tasks on time.
     

Structure collaborative activities and projects

Structure, especially for first-year students, will provide the clarity of purpose needed to make a group experience successful.

  • Assign a clear task for groups to accomplish.
     
  • Provide steps to follow, on the board or in a handout.
     
  • Set time limits/deadlines for groups to complete their task(s).
     
  • Communicate expectations for how groups will work together.
     
  • Assign a role to each member of the group to guide participation and help students develop relevant skills. Incorporate roles from your industry such as, art director, copywriter, client or target audience member.
     
  • Teach or model necessary social skills.

Help Students Stay Focused

  • Stay involved throughout the process. Interact with each group and be available for consultations.
     
  • Have group members rotate and take on various roles in the group.
     
  • Encourage groups to solve problems that arise, but intervene if necessary to help a group identify ways to move past hurdles.

Give students who are more experienced collaborators more responsibility.

Students with more collaboration skills may also be able to:

  • Identify their own group goals, create agendas, and establish priorities.
     
  • Set time limits and/or deadlines for themselves.
     
  • Clarify and delegate individual roles/responsibilities.
     
  • Organize meetings outside of class or online.

Provide feedback and/or grades based on clear criteria.

  • Have groups demonstrate accomplishment of assigned tasks—either orally or in written/created form.
     
  • Have students write individual self-assessments to describe their contributions to the group, as well as assess their peers' contributions.
     
  • Create a rubric to define your criteria for success.