04 January 2013

Reflection: Group Work Troubles

This is the cheesiest picture I could find.
I realized recently that I'm employing a blended rotational model for my multimedia class. It started because there isn't enough equipment for all the students to work on the same units, so I put them all into groups and they take turns with the various equipment. Whichever unit a group is on, they head over to my website/blog and look up what they're supposed to be doing. In the meantime I'm facilitating different things that can't be taught in a tutorial or video, and making sure students are doing what they're supposed to and not doing what they're not supposed to.

So now I'm going to reflect on how it's been going, specifically the groups. There are three main problems: group fatigue, group size, and group selection.

Since I only have one sound booth, for example, the groups must rotate getting to use it. This also requires groups to stay the same during the entire rotation. Eight groups+one week each in the sound booth=eight weeks stuck in the same group. I've noticed several groups getting what I'll call 'group fatigue.' They're just getting sick of working together. When I was younger, making movies with my friends, it happened with every movie we ever made. Little decisions became monumental road blocks. This is what's happening with groups.

Four to five kids in a group are perfect for making movies, but too large for stop-motion animation or Lego Mindstorms. There are always one or two students that take over, and the rest of the group paces the lab tossing pencils in their hands.

Another classic group problem is group selection. There tends to be a group of bad students that get nothing done, a group of smart students that dominate, and a group of misfits that happen to not have friends in the class. But sometimes random grouping causes a lot of problems too. I had students submit lists of who they wanted in their group, and then formed their groups myself, but it hasn't been a huge success. Plus it takes a lot of time to create groups.

So, next time around, I'm going to try a few different tactics:
  • allow groups to change between terms
  • when two groups are working on the same unit, allow temporary changes
  • split the groups for certain units that need fewer bodies
  • mix in non-group work often
  • groups are determined by where you sit, to be altered at the teacher's discretion

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