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Center for Teaching & Learning: Student Groups

Supporting the MCPHS faculty and staff in their commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and learning

Setting the Stage for Group Work

Group projects can promote important intellectual and social skills. They help prepare students for teamwork and collaboration from workplace, to home, to community, and more. It's surprising how often we partner with others across multiple settings. There are students who shy away from working in groups and understanding the roles they will fill throughout their lives may provide some motivation to fully participate in the group assignments.


Group Work from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University.

Group Work: Using Cooperative Learning Groups Effectively - This article focuses primarily on small groups (2-6 students). See below for PDF. This article recommends that instructors structure the group process and assignment as follows:


  • Articulate your goals for the group work, including both the academic objectives you want the students to achieve and the social skills you want them to develop.
  • Determine the group conformation that will help meet your goals.
  • Choose an assessment method that will promote positive group interdependence as well as individual accountability.

Helping groups get started

  • Explain the group’s task, including your goals for their academic achievement and social interaction.
  • Explain how the task involves both positive interdependence and individual accountability, and how you will be assessing each.
  • Assign group roles or give groups prompts to help them articulate effective ways for interaction.

Monitoring group work

  • Regularly observe group interactions and progress.

Assessing and reflecting

  • Provide a structure for groups to reflect on what worked well in their group and what could be improved.

Assessing Group Work

Accountability is an important characteristic of group work. Students groups often begin with a team contract in which the specify how they will work together, communicate, manage deadlines, and more. At the end of the project, it is valuable for all to reflect on not only the success of the work submitted, but on the team's interactions and degree of functionality. Self and peer evaluations provide that opportunity. In addition to promoting reflection, which can lead to growth, some instructors use the evaluations as part of the project assessment. 

Using Rubrics - From Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation with links to peer and self-assessment.

Peer Evaluation of Class Participation - See the appendix B in the article from the Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning. These characteristics, such as courtesy, creativity, and cleverness, could be used in the development of a self and peer assessment.

Forms for Student Groups

Forms are from;

Oakley, B., Felder, R. M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of student centered learning2(1), 9-34.

These forms offer structure for your students as they work through forming their groups and manage the work process. They will need guidance to put these to good use. Consider completing these as examples or walk through the documents and explain how and why they will use them (this could be a live discussion or a recording).

Student Virtual Work Groups

11 Tips for Working Successfully in Virtual Groups Infographic

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