Better Group Projects

Three activities that will make your next group project awesome!

Say the words, “group project” and you will likely hear a collective groan.  Students hate group projects because the workload is never balanced and getting people to meetings is an exercise in herding cats.  Teachers hate them because they have to be both psychologist and mediator, not to mention bracing for the scathing class reviews at the end of the term.

But group projects will never go away.  There are just too many benefits.  It exposes students to working with different (and difficult) people, helps people build leadership skills, and can help challenge individual assumptions.  Teachers feel a need to assign group projects so they can better prepare students for the real world, plus assign more complicated problems.   In the end, working in groups is simply how life works. 

There are three activities that will make your next group project not only tolerable…but, awesome! 

1. Collaborate Online

Everyone is busy.  Everyone is overloaded with obligations.  Squeezing in meetings to “re-group” creates an additional time burden that often ends up being unproductive.

Shed those meetings and instead collaborate online.  Groups need to work together in one environment but have the flexibility to accommodate one’s own schedule.  That’s collaboration!  A good collaborative online environment allows members to see each other’s progress, solicit feedback, and identify problems before they become major barriers to the group’s success.

Assigning specific roles, whether done by the teacher or by the group, allows the team to collaborate while separating responsibilities. This article from The Teaching Center provides an excellent framework for establishing roles.  By breaking the project up into roles, the teacher is able to identify and follow individual contributions, while encouraging teamwork.

Knowing the teacher is watching can provide some students with more motivation. It can also support the teacher with their Growth Mindset efforts.

2. Get Creative

Our expectations for engagement have radically changed.  Boring PowerPoints are no longer sufficient for a group to make its final presentation.  Video, animated GIFs, compelling images and innovative screen layouts create a much richer experience.  This is why STEM is becoming STEAM, with “Art” added to the mix. 

Group projects have shifted to being creative endeavors.  As Project-Based Learning (PBL) expert, A.J. Juliani, says, “All kids are naturally creative and every classroom should be filled with creativity and wonder”.

Creativity skills can be learned and demonstrated with the proper software platform.  The platform needs to be easy enough that anyone can create something stunning without having to learn specialized skills.  Creativity should be fun and meaningful to the message the group is making and will flip everyone’s attitude on your next group project.

3. Share It!

Once the project is finished, it should be shared!  This is not just group collaboration on creating the project.  Sharing means pushing the final output to the teacher, classmates, school body, parents…even the world.

Of course, the teacher, school, and group should be very clear on who should be able to view the final project, but broad sharing puts a sharper edge on expectations of quality.  Groups may also decide to share their findings on social media, creating a resource for future people to learn from.  How great is that?!? 

Your students will even put links to the project on their resumes as proof of their ability to work in groups.

These three activities will change everyone’s perspective on your next group project.  Who knows…you may even be looking forward to it! 

These are all core benefits of using Plexie, a fantastic tool for doing collaborative work.  Plexie is available to teachers and students for free, so sign up and get started today!