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do students learn better in groups?

What are your feelings about group projects?...I've always been against them, but now I'm starting to change my views. Since most companies want to have workers with the "soft skills", can group projects stimulate that learned behavior?

Hi Joseph,
I like group projects due to the fact you just mentioned. The students need to develop their “soft skills” if they are going to be successful.
In selecting group projects and assigning groups you have to make sure of the right kind of parings to insure that everyone works well together and are respective of each other. In addition, there is always the problem of making sure everyone in the group contributes. I select group projects that have the students do a certain amount of work on their own and their work contributes to the project as a whole. This way it is clear when someone has not done their fair share. Generally this need happen only once and then the student is ready the next time.

I used to hate group projects because I was at the top of learning curve and I hated slowing down my learning process to work with other students. However, I have changed my mind. When I started wowrking on my MS, I entered the program and was placed with "more experienced" students. They quickly pulled me up to be a full functioning member of the group. I grew to appreciate the dramatic effect group projects can afford to the shy, inexperienced student. Being coached by my peers accelerated the learning process because I was internally motivated to "fit in". That experience helped me to see the benefit of team work.

Hi Joseph,

As both a traditional and online instuctor, I have found group projects/work to be a favorable learning vehicle.Our research supports the concept that group learning is near the highest learning method.You are correct that the work place expects employees to know how to work together to complete goals and tasks.

Mike Aday

Hi Mike,
Your comments to Joseph are well founded. If teachers will develop a method of creating and balancing student groups their jobs will be easier. Team work is the key to successful business practices. We need to teach our students how to be a part of a team while developing their individual expertise levels.

It sounds like we all like group projects. Everything I have read about retention says that students will be more likely to stay in school if they form strong peer groups.
Group work, however, doesn't have to be long-term projects, only. Group work done in the classroom also gets students talking and sharing.

Hi Laura,
You are right about the strength of peer groups. With non-traditional students especially you will find the need for them to form strong support groups.
I have found that using groups for certain projects is very effective if I make sure that each person has an assignment that helps them to pull their weight for the common good. Over the years I have been able to create projects that provide for this type of involvement.
I also have found that I need to reform groups ever so often. This way students get to work with a variety of different individuals and their unique characteristics, which also applies when they are out in the workforce.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I feel that working in groups not only help them develop the "soft skills", needed in the work place, but it also helps them to adapt to the idea of working with others who may not see things the same way. When in the workforce we do not have the luxury of choosing who we work with, so group activities help them to accept others who are different in ethics, background and experiences. This helps the individual to grow and learn at the same time.

Hi Arlene,
One additional thought about using groups. I like to change groups on a regular basis. I do this when a project is completed by the group. This way they know change is coming so they aren't taken off guard. By making the change students get to constantly develop and reinforce their “soft skills” that you mentioned.
Another component of developing work readiness is that all through their school years students are educated with peers that are within three years of them. That is a very small range of age in terms of career needs. The first day they go to work they can be working with people with the same experience as they or they can be working with people with 35-40 years of experience. The perspectives of people with 40 years of experience are certainly different than newcomers. Sometimes new employees just don't understand the challenges of different career perspectives or stages.
Also, something we as educators need to help our students with understanding the types of workers they will find when they are in the field. I work with my students to help them understand their “direct opposites”. These are the coworkers that they will find most challenging to work with. I have a course section that takes them through steps that will help them be successful with such workers. I also, help them find their “kindred soul”. This is the person that they can go to that will help them be successful. This person is one that they can “bounce” ideas off of, and can find support when they need it.

Group learning has worked for me as long as the group size is controlled and the tasks are specific. All involved can benefit.

Hi Les,
As you have mentioned having students work in groups requires attention to detail. You have to make sure the grouping is appropriate and that each students is making a contribution. I watch the students very carefully as they first start working in their groups to make sure that I don't have a festering problem that could make the group work fail. My students really like working on group projects because collectively they can see progress, not to mention their own contributions.

I have found that group projects work well BUT it depends on the make-up of the class. For my freshmen a group project will send them into fits... they really hate it and would much rather do a paper or a project all on their own. For my upper level students they jump right in and get their group set and quickly learn the group dynamics so they can be a successful and productive group. Sometimes a group contract with clearly defined criteria such as contact information, rules, conflict management goals, assignment strategies, etc make for a more successful project.

I have found that my students do not enjoy working in groups unless I provide them with a way to grade or evaluate their peers in the group, in other words they evaluate each other based on time spent, effort, and participation. This has alleviated the problem with one member stating that he or she did all the work and seems to promote teamwork as everyone has the opportunity to assess other team members.

Hi Terri,
Good model to follow for group work. As you mentioned it all depends upon maturity of the group. Upper level students have started to realize that they need to and will have to work together in their careers. These activities help them to get ready for just such a process.

Hi Cari,
Good response to the most common problem in using groups. Making sure that each member contributes, and does what is required. The evaluation process helps to maintain the balance that is required.

I find that students can usually learn from other students when they are working in a group setting. Many times the other students will have more experience with a subject and are able to pass on that information. Slower students seem to get comfort from learning from their more experienced peers as well. It gives them confidence they will reach the same point and advance as students.

Hi Trang,
Good observation. I have found that as well. Generally people like to help others to achieve. Group work allows that to happen.
How do you assign your students to their work or learning groups?


My classes are small enough that students can work in small groups easily. I put the more experienced students with the newer students and then they work together on projects. I assign these groups differently on a daily basis.

Newer students watch more experienced students work on hands-on projects.

Hi Trang,
Thanks for the information. Sounds like you have a good plan working for you in creating learning groups.

Yes they do human interaction is a very important part of learning however you must make sure that everyone has an objective for it to be successful

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