Incorporating group work into remote learning

Uncategorized Apr 06, 2020
Group work has a number of important benefits - it fosters the critical skills of collaboration and teamwork, and it develops communication, negotiation and problem solving skills, all of which are very important for future success. 
In addition to this, during this time of remote teaching and online learning students are no doubt feeling quite isolated and lonely. They no longer have the daily interactions with their peers that they are so used to having. So it may be worth trying to incorporate some group work into remote learning, to try and help your students feel connected to their classmates again. 
It’s worth noting however, that this relies on everyone in your class having equal access to technology. If you are in the fortunate position where all of your students do have reliable access, then here are some ideas for how you could include group work into your lessons: 
  • Google Docs or Slides: both of these can be easily shared and updated by all group members in real time. If you have G-Suite then you can also use Google Hangouts for group discussion. 
  • OneNote: if you are using OneNote, you can set up Class Notebooks that include shared spaces for group work. 
  • Prezi: can be shared and worked on by all group members. 
  • Padlet: you can set up boards for each group, email them the link and instructions, and monitor it from your end. 
  • Microsoft teams: you can set up smaller ’teams’ and create channels for focused discussion. 
  • WebEx: allows you to set up groups, create spaces, and monitor their work. 
  • Microsoft Office 365: has a range of tools to foster group work (similar to Google slides/ docs). 
  • Skype or Zoom for video conferencing. 
Whatever medium or tool you use, it’s a good idea to make sure of the following (especially in the beginning whilst everyone is still getting the hang of online learning). 
  • The teacher is the one to allocate the groups and set up the shared spaces 
  • Students have been given explicit instructions, and are clear as to what their roles are and the action steps that they need to take within a given timeline. 
  • Try to make sure that the task requires them to interact and work together to achieve a final goal. Otherwise students may just complete their individual work and upload it to the group document without really working as a group. It helps if there is a final product that they need to create together or a problem that they need to solve together. 
  • The teacher provides support and scaffolding along the way, with a number of ‘check-ins’ to monitor progress. 
  • There are set guidelines and expectations in place regarding communication between group members. 
Here are some examples of group tasks (these are coming from a Humanities and Social Studies perspective but it can be applied similarly across learning areas). These would need to be broken down into smaller, more explicit steps with clear instructions when issuing the task, but this gives you a bit of an idea. 
  • In groups, students are to design a solution to a future water scarcity crisis. Allocate each student in the group a different country around the world to investigate how their country has attempted to resolve this problem. Analyse the pros and cons, and then come together as a group to discuss each option and decide what would work best in your country. Put together a pitch that will be presented to the 'Minister for Water' using Google Slides. 
  • Record a podcast detailing what a day in the life in Ancient Rome was like. Have one student be the interviewer, and then assign roles to the other students (a woman in Ancient Rome, a slave, a politician, etc). They could do this by recording a Skype or Zoom conversation.
  • Create a new political party including name, logo, slogan, ideology, policies etc. As a group design a political campaign including a speech, a poster and a TV advertisement. 
  • Use a group Padlet board to create a collage depicting the impact of consumerism on people and places around the world (including pictures, videos, web links, documents, etc). 
I hope you find these ideas useful and if you have any feedback or questions, please let me know. 
Kelly :) 
PS. to access a range of free tools and resources to help you save time and increase your impact in the classroom, check out the Freebies Vault

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