Working With & Learning From Classmates
Ever watch a cooking show only to realize afterward that without a recipe card or instruction sheet the meal was impossible to repeat? Ever sat in a meeting listening attentively to a PowerPoint presentation only to promptly forget everything just moments later? The same thing can happen in a classroom or lecture hall, which is why many college and university instructors have turned to small groups and group learning projects to enhance the student learning experience. The reason? People learn best when they are actively engaged in the process of learning. In fact, students working in small groups or on group projects tend to remember more of what they have learned--and have a more complete understanding of the material being presented. However, not everyone appreciates the value of collaboration.
Learning to Work Together
Mention the words "small group" and some people immediately recall an unorganized, unstructured group project from back in high school. Others are reminded of difficult projects they've participated in at work. However, while these projects have similarities--such as scheduling meetings, holding discussions, organizing data, and developing presentations, they are, in fact, different. Unlike work or high school projects, where different participants may have each had their own personal agenda (or lack thereof)--the primary goal of each participant in a higher-education environment group project is to do well and "make the grade."
Getting Started on the Road to Group Project Success Making the grade with group projects is easy when team members work together and follow a general project outline. A logical place to begin with group projects is to schedule an initial first meeting where everyone shares their contact information and a general meeting schedule is arranged. The next steps are discussing and outlining the project's objectives and assigning various tasks, including who will be responsible for what areas of research, data organization, and analysis, as well as how the final presentation is prepared and presented.
Similarities and Differences
While most members of this kind of small group will have a broadly similar goal, chances are each individual participant will be very different. It is this unique variety of perspectives, skills, and strengths that can make a group project extremely successful. In fact, if the group is able to assign tasks based upon individual strengths while working in collaboration, they will be well on their way to success.
Differences as Strengths
The road to a successful group project can be bumpy at times. Strangely enough, that which makes group projects so successful--the cooperation and collaboration of a variety of people--can also be a source of frustration. After all, whenever a diverse group of people come together to work on a project there may be discussions about things such as who will handle what area of the project and how the project should be organized. However, it's important to understand that this is, in fact, part of the process--and another reason why group projects are such an effective educational tool.