When should we use group work?

In  the Faculty Focus article “How to Design Effective Online Group Work Activities,” Mary Bart writes that we should “design tasks that are truly collaborative, meaning the students will benefit more from doing the activity as a group than doing it alone.”  Her articles goes on to quote Jean Mandernach:

“Too often we give students an activity and call it group work when in reality it’s something they could do on their own. Then we get frustrated when they don’t work together and just do the work on their own.”

The article recommends group work for assignments for which:

  • “There’s no right answer, such as debates, or research on controversial issues.”
  • “There are multiple perspectives, such as analyzing current events, cultural comparisons, or case studies.”
  • “There are too many resources for one person to evaluate, so a jigsaw puzzle approach is needed with each student responsible for one part.”

Be sure to check out the “Online Group Work Instructor Checklist” at the end of the article.