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Including Group Work in a Large Lecture Course

Including Group Work in a Large Lecture Course

4 June, 2016

Group work and collaborative learning can be integrated into large lecture classes both as brief active learning activities during class as well as more in-depth learning assignments.

To effectively include group work in  a large lecture course, here are some techniques you can use:

  • Ask students to read articles or other material before they arrive in order to make sure that there is time in class to do group work activities.
  • Consider having assistant teachers attend class to help you in facilitating activities.
  • Ask students not to sit in certain rows, so you and your assistants can move around the room to make sure that students are on track.

In-class collaborative active learning activities

At a point during your lecture when you want to offer students an opportunity to get involved with the content, try any one of the following techniques:

  • Use a visual aid such as aPowerPoint slide to give directions with more complex tasks.
  • Clearly inform the time-on-task.
  • When an activity is over, turn off the lights to indicate that students should stop and redirect their attention back to you.

All in-class collaborative activities are generally a 3-step process:

  1. Introduce the task. Consider assigning small group roles. (For example, direct students to work in groups of 3. The middle person takes notes and the people on the right and left take different sides of an argument to defend. The middle person chooses which argument is the strongest.)
  2. Give students time to get involved in the task (walk around to make sure students are on task and understand what they need to be doing).
  3. Call on a few groups to share their ideas or results, and open the floor for questions.

More in-depth group work

Projects that are more engaging and require more time can also be assigned as group work. When assigning group work in large classes:

  • Use a spreadsheet to randomly group students. Enabling students to form their own groups can be tricky and will tend to result in unequal groups.
  • Post the groups online.
  • Use class time so students can finish group work.
  • In the beginning, have the groups do some team building exercises and assign roles and expectations.
  • Assign individual roles within groups and change the roles throughout the semester.
  • Have group members come up with their own processes and procedures for what to do if things go wrong. This may reduce the number of group problems.
  • Allocate a percentage of the assignment grade to peer evaluations of individual contributions to the group.

Some example collaborative assignments:

  • Collaborative writing assignments.
  • Group wiki or website.
  • Group presentations (have students create a video of their presentation so that final presentations do not consume hours of class time. Choose the top three or four to present in class).