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ICBL Small Groups


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  • Hi, I’m Gerry Bergtrom. I serve 2 masters at UW-M. I have been a faculty member in the Biological Sciences at UW-M for more than 30 years, and a Instructional design Consultant in our Learning Technology Center for about 5 years.
  • We have already seen how impromptu groups can be engaged in critical thinking about experiments and other scenarios using easy to score clickers and short index card writing assignments. We also spent some time describing the art of creating and grading good online discussion forums. Next, we’ll look at other complex group assignments.
  • Group projects engage students in peer-learning communities. They also present challenges, particularly for students in blended and fully online courses. Our goal now is to Discuss different kinds of group projects you might want to implement in your classes, Talk about some goals of group projects, Hear from you about what worked and what didn’t work so well in your projects, Get us to think about solutions for designing successful group projects.
  • Cell biology is required for about half of the students majoring in biology. The blended course was offered for the first time to 28 students, with the ultimate goal of scaling up to the 80 or so students that can fit the small lecture hall used for this course. The group presentation project was first used in a fully online course, but can also be used in a blended course.
  • The learning goals for the Presentation project I assigned included the following: Read about several and then select a topic from among several offerings… by group consensus or vote. Work as a unit to deal with real-world implications of collaboration: assign subtopics for more in-depth research; assign tasks, meet deadlines, etc. Learn basic PowerPoint. Write a script and develop effective presentation techniques The first goal was perhaps the most challenging and interesting. I provided the framework for how the group should function. Perhaps because the tasks were very regimented they may have appeared daunting to some students. When these students failed to meet deadlines or failed to complete a task entrusted to them, the result was that the rest of the group and the group leadership had to cope. More than a few group leaders and members contacted me with complaints that some of their classmates were not carrying their load. I found myself spending some time training conscientious group members on how to deal with these classmates. They learned that if they undertake responsibility for a group project in class or some day in their work life, they must deal with and compensate for a group member that fails to deliver! Key learning outcomes included improved basic scientific and information literacy, improved critical thinking and analytical skills, greater collaboration and communication skills. Finally, the outputs of the project were: project components delivered in organized format The first draft of a scripted PowerPoint presentation on the chosen topic A completed final draft of a scripted PowerPoint presentation, with a list of credits. I did not require actual presentation this time… but your could do so!
  • Here are the main challenges I encountered in developing and running the project: Making sure that all group members contributed (or were penalized for not doing so). creating group cohesion (learning community) by providing for communication between group members; enabling group consensus & decision making; keeping group members on task/track to meet deadlines; allowing flexibility to compensate for change in group membership; Creating a rubric based on realistic expectations
  • Here is what things looked like to students in the course.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Beyond Clickers, Index Cards & Discussion Forums: Facilitating Group Activities, Peer Instruction and Learning Communities in Blended and Online Courses Matt Russell, Ph.D. & Gerald Bergtrom, Ph.D. Learning Technology Consultants Learning Technology Center University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
    • 2.
      • Group activities for blended courses can be
      • simple exercises for groups in F2F sessions, e.g.:
        • a) e.g., clicker and index cards to engage students in case studies, experimental scenarios, etc. (see presentation on Active Learning Strategies)
        • b) participation in F2F discussions
      • ...or more complex:
        • Formal Discussion Forums (see presentation on Online Discussions)
        • Other Group Projects
      • We’ll focus on Group Projects here…
    • 3.
      • Some Questions & Considerations
      • What group projects do you assign or want to implement in your classes?
      • What are some learning goals for a group project?
      • What are some challenges to creating and implementing a group project?
      • What works… or doesn’t? Some logistics solutions for success.
    • 4.
      • An Example from a 3 Credit
      • Cell Biology Course
      • The Course:
      • Part of Biology Majors course sequence
      • Enrollment = 60-80 students
      • 1/2 lecture/1/2 online
      • The Example:
      • Group Presentation Project
      • Good for groups of 4-7 students
      • First used in a fully online course
    • 5.
      • Goals and Deliverables of a Group
      • Presentation Project in a Biology Course
      • Learning Goals:
        • Group-pick a topic, assign tasks, meet deadlines & deal with real-world implications of collaboration.
        • Research a specific course topic in depth
        • Learn basic Powerpoint.
        • Write a script; develop effective presentation techniques.
      • Deliverables:
        • Scripted PowerPoint presentation
        • Presentation delivery online or in class.
    • 6. Challenges & Solutions for my Group Presentation Project: CHALLENGE SOLUTION Ensure equitable contributions by group members Designate roles and tasks: students self-select roles and sub-divide tasks Promote group cohesion, learning community; enable group consensus & decision making providing for alternate venues for commu-nication between group members (Adobe Connect, Skype, conference calls…) Keep groups & group members on task Divide project into discrete segments, each with it’s own requirements, deadline & appropriate repositories for completed phases of the project (e.g., Discussion Forums, DropBox). Compensate for slackers Grade each ‘discrete segment’ for quality and timeliness; emphasize the group’s responsibility for a quality product Creating a rubric based on realistic expectations Half of the grade was for meeting deadlines; half was for simple rubric components
    • 7. A closer look at the presentation project… Project Description and Calendar (focus on project calendar with deadlines) D2L course site: (focus on uses of Discussions and DropBox)
    • 8. Five-point Rubric for Assembled Final Group Presentations Content coverage, accuracy, depth Organization, transitions, logical flow Related topic to cell biology concepts covered in class; topics covered in sufficient depth 3 points Intro slide(s) frame presentation; topics follow logically, key point summary and opinions in concluding slide(s) 2 points Strayed into clinical topics but still related coverage to some topics covered in class 1-2 point Intro slides weakly point to the rest of presentation; subtopics adequate but weak transitions; weak end to the presentation 1 point Did not discuss the cellular and molecular relevance of the topic. 0 points Inadequate or no introduction; slides do not to tell a coherent story; no summing up 0 points
    • 9. How this rubric looks in practice (in an Excel Spreadsheet): Presentation Coverage, accuracy, depth Organization, transitions, logical flow, balance Total points (awarded to each student in group) presentation Title 1 3 2 5 presentation Title 2 3 2 5 presentation Title 3 3 1 4 presentation Title 4 3 2 5 presentation Title 5 2 2 4 presentation Title 6 2 2 4 presentation Title 7 2 2 4 presentation Title 8 1 2 3
    • 10. Your turn: Suggest other Group Projects appropriate to your courses…
    • 11. Other Group Project Suggestions:
      • group presentation ( any course )
      • survey tool ( e.g., psych or other research methods course )
      • collaborative art installation or display ( art courses )
      • poster presentation for conference or workshop ( any course )
      • Creation of lesson plan(s) ( education courses )
      • Implementation of activities in a virtual world such as Second Life ( any course )
      • Group activities in social media venues including Wikis, blogs, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. ( any course )
    • 12.
      • To Summarize: the key to making any group project work is attention to detail!
      • Divide the labors.
      • Define/assign student roles.
      • Keep students on task; break the project into timed, graded segments.
      • Provide for communication among group members to enable decision making and consensus building.
      • Have a rubric for each segment and for the final delivered project.
    • 13. END