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Group Projects

We all know and remember them well. I am going to venture to guess most of us hated them. It’s no surprise that our active and prepared students also dislike them.

At the end of each semester I ask my students to present interdisciplinary mini-lessons to their peers. This makes them active participants in the class, it gives them an opportunity to present their don’t spent area knowledge to their peers, and it adds an element of fun into our class as these are participative and lively. These come complete with lesson plans for their peers and gives us a bit of a breather after a heavy semester.

Inevitably I have one group per class that has an uninvolved member. Shockingly, it is always a student who has continually missed class, is barely participative when they show up, and is generally missing work and/or has low exam scores. I am often not surprised to hear when they are uninvolved in their group’s preparation.

I realize now as a professor that all of my educators knew when people were uninvolved in my own group projects. The question then becomes how to deal with this. Do I address the situation with the uninvolved student? I can take the point for doing the lesson plan from him or her on the rubric, but should this be all I do?

I also know it will be painfully obvious during presentations that these students haven’t done any work on the project. I refuse to teach by embarrassment (although it occasionally happens when a student is continually unprepared); however, do I avoid embarrassing a student by asking questions on the presentation to every group member instead of him or her? Or do I go ahead and ask questions knowing the lack of preparation will come through?

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2 comments to Group Projects

  • I require all the “group work” to be conducted on a Blackboard wiki. They know that the written grade for the assignment is based on both the wiki and final written project that is distributed to the class. They are told at the start that I will assess this way.

    So I have had excellent presentation and 3/4 of the students get full credit and 1/4 gets credit only for the presentation, which amounts to a failing grade for that project.

  • At a family get-together yesterday, one of my husband’s cousins was talking about her finals and end-of-the-year projects. She’s a college freshman. She had 2 group projects and complained about her groupmates not pulling their own weight. She said that as part of the project, though, students are asked to do peer evaluations (individually) on the students they worked with.
    I wish I had thought of this for the groupwork my own class just finished. It’s a private way for students to tell the truth about their involvement and that of their peers. And if in a group of say, 3, if 2 both report a third as being the slacker, you’ve got something to work with. I think I’ll try something like this the next time I assign a group project.