Features of a Good Group Project

Why do you do group projects in your course(s)? Is it because you value collaboration in your field and want to make sure students have some experience in that? Or is it because you are “supposed to” do group projects? In talking with faculty over the last eight years, the answer seems to fall somewhere between those two poles. But almost everyone I talk to admits to not spending time in class talking about good collaborative strategies, and most have designed projects that, at best, ask students to cooperate, not collaborate.

I found Scrum because I was disappointed in how my students were managing group projects I assigned them – largely dividing up the work, slapping it together at the last minute, and calling it good. But really what else were they going to do? I didn’t talk to them about how to collaborate and didn’t give them much time in class to work together while I monitored.

The last chapter in Agile Faculty talks about how to design effective group projects using Scrum, but the advice for thinking about whether or not your group assignment is effective or not transcends Scrum. So as you are thinking about that end-of-semester group project, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does the project directly help students work toward the course learning objectives?
  • Is it more important that students cooperate or collaborate for the project? Do they actually need to work with their peers to complete the task
  • Why is this assignment a group project instead of an individual one?
  • Is the project realistic in scenario or connected to things students value?
  • How much time will the project take – and will you use class time to allow students to work on the project?
  • Can you make it clear in the course schedule that you value the assignment as a means to meet course learning goals?
  • How much control might students have over their own learning and deliverables while completing the project?

Chapter 8 does into depth withe these questions, but taking time to consider these ideas can help you decide if your assignment really needs to be a group one, why you are adding this assignment to your course, and how you might improve the assignment to reach your course outcomes.

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