Online educators while online teaching face many new challenges in the classroom, from online harassment to students earning college credit for work they haven’t done. One of the most important but less discussed challenges is teaching in a virtual environment and dealing with group work. Here are 8 ways to handle group work in online teaching.
Group work can be an excellent way to teach students how to work well together while also presenting a challenge to the teacher so they know how to keep control of the class and ensure that every student is productive. However, this can often be a source of difficulty when students do not want or cannot contribute at the same level.
In this blog post, we share our opinions on four effective methods for dealing with group work: Setting Rules, Gamifying Education, Difficult Problem Brainstorming, and Rotation Systems. We hope you find them helpful!
1. Setting rules for group work during online teaching
Setting a rule for group work is the most straightforward method. For example, students can be given homework of three problems each. If one or two students cannot complete their homework, they need to ask the teacher or other students to help them by sending them their answers.
All solutions will then be submitted at the end of each session. You can also allow partial completion of assignments so that the final grades will not be affected by individual student performance but only by group work quality and submissions.
2. Gamifying education
Group work is, in many ways, more challenging to teach than individual work. It takes a lot of effort and energy to keep the group engaged and working together. In this situation, gamification can help create an atmosphere of enthusiasm and motivation among students by making your teaching more interactive.
3. Difficult problem brainstorming
Students can be assigned to solve difficult problems together. One way to do this is by using various methods of brainstorming. First, each student solves a different problem individually. Then, they can list problems and put them on the board or use sticky notes.
Each student may choose one problem that any other student has not yet solved. This method encourages students to be original and try new solutions. This is the most engaging form of group work, as it encourages students to think and collaborate actively.
4. Rotation systems
In rotation systems, students are assigned randomly to different teams at the beginning of every session. They work with different partners every time and submit their homework together after each session.
This method is different than the other two because it addresses the issue of fairness. All groups are equally distributed at the beginning of each session so that every student has a chance to work with partners of their choice.
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5. Make assignments appropriate to group work
In addition to setting rules, you can select assignments best facilitated by group work. For example, students can be assigned to solve logic problems using multiple methods and then talk about which methods worked better and why, or they can use a campaign planning tool such as Campaign Cartographer (software) to plan a game and discuss their approach afterward.
6. Make assignments appropriate to the size of your class during online teaching
Online educators often have fewer students to teach than their traditional colleagues. In this case, it is important to consider the type and size of problems students can work on in a given class period.
For example, if you use a traditional classroom model with a 20-minute class period and ten students, you might split your class into four groups of five or six. You could assign one group each session to solve word problems or another each week to solve math word problems.
7. Maintain a community of learners through group work
Group work can increase students’ sense of belonging to a community and their enthusiasm for lifelong learning. You can encourage that feeling by encouraging students to help their peers after each session.
For example, you could set up a forum for student discussion in which members of each group could ask questions about group members’ solutions after each session and receive feedback on how to improve their own solutions. Students will then be motivated to listen to each other and help peers solve the problems together.
8. Working with students in one-on-one online sessions
The most effective method of student facilitation is individual online sessions, also called mentoring or co-teaching. These sessions are easiest to organize if you have one or more other teachers who can help you teach the same class simultaneously.
For example, you might ask a colleague to organize their online math class for the same time slot and invite your students to join it. If your colleagues use different software than you, ask them to use the same software and integrate your classes.
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Ask your fellow educators or mentors if you feel confused about which methods to use in your classes. It is not recommended to experiment with different methods without receiving feedback. Instead, it is best to be guided by the suggestions of experienced teachers better suited to each particular situation and class.
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