Last month at The Sipping Point our teaching conversations focused on the theme of ‘Making Group Work ‘Work’’. This particular topic attracted the most people yet to the Sipping Point so for those who couldn’t be there, I think it’s well worth reflecting on some of the points that emerged.
At DCU’s St Patrick’s campus, the session opened up with the irrepressible Martin Molony (School of Communications) asking us to consider common group work stereotypes. No doubt familiar to many of those in the audience, these ‘types’ ran the gamut from the uber enthusiasts to the seemingly work shy. We were presented with the common challenges of group work which included varying abilities, varying skillsets, varying motivations, and varying commitment levels. In a nice about-turn of transforming a negative into a positive, we were asked to encourage students to think about these challenges as potential opportunities and indeed enablers of successful group work.
The inspiring Susan Pike (DCU School of STEM Education, Innovation & Global Studies) walked us through several examples of different types of group work projects she has been running in geography teacher education. These ranged from projects that had small groups of students getting to socialise and know each other through completing a local field trip, to class-wide activities that got everyone engaged in a collective, high-energy buzz about the posters they created. The confidence-building effects of these activities proved a wonderful counterpoint to all the negative ‘stuff’ we tend to hear about group work in HE, reminding us of why it’s so important to include it in curricula in the first place.