Learning Through Group Activities

Bandura's social learning theory argues that new behaviours can be learned in social contexts by watching other people (observational learning). Group projects facilitate learning as a social process, as team members observe and model behaviours and attitudes to learn in collaborative environments, which is a skill that is highly transferable to the working environment.

The design of successful group projects should include a detailed group project outline which should include:

  • clear goal statements: what are the goals and expected outcomes (deliverables) for the project. Projects are compromised when the team fails to see the objective and purpose for the work.
  • clear assessment guidelines: learners know exactly how they will be assessed and what is expected of them.They can judge for themselves the validity and fairness of the assessment guidelines. If they believe the assessment if flawed, they will not engage in the work.
  • phased approach: Group project is structured across several phases with deliverables due at different times
  • suggested group management processes: how the group may work together, how the work can be divided by the team and how the team will report to the instructor.
  • suggested implementation timelines: how frequently the group checks-in with each other and the instructor. This keeps the team on task and prevents procrastination, especially if there are reminders throughout the course when each phase of the group project is supposed to start.
  • clearly defined due dates: milestones and final delivery due dates are clearly stated in a course schedule, course calendar and at certain points during the course, for example, in the introduction to one of the modules, there could be a reminder about the need to start working on phase 2 of the group project.
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This example of a group project outline for a social media marketing plan addresses some of the tips mentioned above.

Assessing Group Projects

One of the biggest concerns learners have about group projects has to do with inequities of contribution and the possibility that grading practices may not fairly assess individual contributions. Structuring the project in phases, monitoring the work of the group online or in the class and having a peer assessment component are strategies that can mitigate these inequities. However, it is important that the assessment strategy assesses both the "product" of the work (the deliverable) and the "process" (how the group worked together, how issues were resolved, how work was allocated, etc). Having a good grading rubric in place for each group project will go a long way to ensure effective group work.

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Although this is a complex rubric for a group project, it gives you an idea of what a rubric may look like and the criteria that can be used to assess the work of the group.

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Web Resources: Optional Readings

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Optional Activity

Watch the videos about creating and managing groups in Moodle and, if it makes sense for your course, create a group project.