We Are Here to Help
Our goal is to meet writers where they are in their writing journey, wherever they are, and to help them where they want to go. We are big-picture people, more focused on that journey than on a single writing moment, though we take seriously those moments, those papers and Powerpoint presentations, with which writers entrust us along the way.
We understand the value of group writing projects and presentations. We also know how stressful many students find doing them. Here are some tips, based on pedagogical research on how to design effective collaborative experiences for students, that we would like to offer.
Assigning Groups (or Not)
Here are some questions to consider.
- Why are you assigning a group project? Are you trying to divide the workload of a large-scale project among your students (ie. it’s too much information for one student to process and present)? Are you trying to facilitate more professional interactions among your students?
- How will groups be chosen? Will it benefit the class dynamic to have students pick their own groups? Will it be a detriment?
- How can you design this project so that work is evenly distributed among the team members?
- Will you require check-ins with the group in order to make sure that the group’s climate and productivity are meeting your standards?
- What are your objectives for this group project? (ie. How will you measure success?)
In our Experience…
If you do allow students to pick their own groups, encourage them to go outside their comfort zone. Working with a new group of people has the potential to introduce students to new ideas for their project that might be more effective than the ones they already know or that they and their friends already agree upon. Also, be sure to encourage your students to have a preliminary meeting, perhaps at the Writing Center, in order to establish the group as a unit with defined tasks and goals.
It’s all in the timing.
- Students should be given adequate notice of projects and submission dates.
- Especially if you are assigning groups, allot some class time for students to plan (at least enough time to plan a more formal meeting).
- Mandatory check-ins are always a good way of keeping the group on track and on time.
- Group evaluations should be comprehensive and actually count towards a students grade.
- Make sure students know that they can make appointments for the Writing Center far in advance, which will also encourage them to keep their project on track.
Creating a project that hinges on interdependence is vital to maximizing results for the group. A project that is designed with the possibility for one person to do a majority of the work will likely lead to one person doing a majority of the work.
Recommend that students create a team structure: a team leader who regulates deadlines and coordinates team meetings; a team liaison who contacts the professor with any and all questions from the group.
Having the whole team come to the Writing Center is an effective way to ensure that the group dynamic is a positive and productive one.
Making a “So What?”
Attempt to create a common goal apart from the final product that explains why it matters in the real world. Be specific in explaining how this project will foster career/personal skills like communication, conflict management, and problem solving.
- Requiring time sheets for each meeting is a great way to keep everyone accountable for their part of the project.
- A short reflection paper will provide better insight on the group dynamic, where they excelled and where members fell short.
- Asking students to rate each other on various topics such as preparedness, contribution, cooperation and amicability could be helpful in factoring individual project and participation grades.
Encourage your students to utilize the Writing Center! Please make sure that your students are aware of our group project policy.
We strongly encourage all writers who contributed to the document be present for the tutorial. If only one group member attends the tutorial, we will only work on the part of the project that that group member composed.