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Building Capacity for Group Projects


I've shared before that I love group work but not all my students feel that way especially about group projects.  I understand that many worry who they will be grouped with or that they will do the entire project but everyone will get credit.  I start putting the students in groups 2-3 weeks before the group project.  I give them a simple task to work on let them know my expectations.  During the first group work, I ask that they be with their group, I encourage them to talk but I understand they probably won't.  After the group work, I have them complete an exit ticket about what went well and what could have gone better.  Before our next group work I share the most common answers from the previous exit tickets. For the "negatives" I share that they were written by more than 1 person so you aren't alone in feeling that, if you put that as your answer.  

The next round of group work, I encourage the students to try to talk to each other as this is normally the most common negative from the first round.  Again, at the end I ask for their feedback on the negatives and positive.  I found that this time there are so many more positives than negatives.

After each group work day, I remind them that we are working towards a group project where I need them to be able to communicate with their group members.  A few days before the group project, I show them how to find their group mates.  I ask each student to find their group number and see the people in their group.  

Finally,  it's group project day.  I present the project with the different roles and the expectations for each role.  Before the end of the class, the students must discuss who is going to take which role and let me know.  We talk about completing our role and only our role. Each students learns they are accountable for their job and only their job.   This eases many fears about doing the project on their own or what if another person doesn't help.  By only grading them on their part, the students learn they are accountable for their role in the project and not what others in the project do or don't do.  However, each part builds on the previous so falling behind on your part will impact your next group member.  

One role is the project manager and this person is very important.  The project manager overseas the project and ensures each deadline is met.  If a person misses their deadline, the project manager is to step in and see what is going on and encourage them to turn it in so the next person can begin.  The project manager also communicates with me and lets me know if they've been unsuccessful in getting a classmate to turn in their part of the project.  After the project managers tries, if they are unsuccessful, then I step in to help get the project back on track.  I started using a project manager role last year, and since doing group work this way, I've only had to step in 2-3 times.  I think hearing it from a classmates that they need your work to continue the project has a greater impact than hearing it from the teacher.  

The roles stay consistent from project to project.  Some of the roles are much easier than others which could cause a problem however, once a student takes a role, they can't pick that role again until they've done all the other roles.  I keep 4 roles on each project so they will get the same job 2 times during the school year.  By having them change roles each project, this keeps it balanced in the work load.  


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