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Building Community  in the Online Classroom  through Group Work A Practical Application of Workshop Knowledge Presented by Lisa Marie Johnson and Kathy Miles TELECOOP 2004
Primary Design Goal #1 - Considerations What must the project achieve in process and outcome to be most effective as a group endeavor? Goal #1:  Design group project to accomplish something  that cannot be done or cannot be done as well by  individuals alone. How to overcome negative prior group experiences? How to overcome competitive training (individualism) inherent to the competitive USAmerican education and show importance of collaboration?
Primary Design Goal #1- Realities Overcoming Individualism / Competition Reality is that competition and individual achievement are emphasized over collaboration in USAmerican  traditional  education, familial and social enculturation. It is beneficial to explain to learners that group work is a favorable strategy for many job or task challenges, but employers report graduates rarely demonstrate preparedness to function in a team capacity. Therefore, learners need to gain experience and skills that enable them to work collectively with others to, “ solve problems that cannot be solved through individual effort alone. ” (Gardner and Korth 1998) Overcoming Negative Prior Group Experiences  Learners are often not receptive to group work based on prior group experiences characterized by a few members or a single member do all the work.  Project design needed to accommodate these fears and allay concerns about evaluation and accountability
Collaborate to Develop Action Plan   Post Action Plan First Self & Group Evaluation Submit Research Abstracts Submit Presentation Draft Second Self & Group Evaluation Constructively Critique Presentation Draft   Write Presentation and Post for Group to Review Submit Presentation for Peer Review & Evaluation Third Self & Group Evaluation Reaction Paper Project Evaluation ( Debriefing ) Survey = Evaluated as a Group  (55pts total) = Evaluated Individually (45pts total Project Overview
Effective Group Endeavor Project design required gathering information on multiple real world and theoretical variables and viewpoints ( Identities ) on the Project focus ( Linguistic Nationalism & English Only Laws ) via construction of group Presentations that were then utilized for constructing individual Reaction Papers.  Contemporaneous and post project observation indicated all students agreed the objective of the “Reaction Paper “was best met by use of group created “Presentations”. “… the project contributed to my learning in a way that working on my own would not. I saw how other groups had different ways of seeing the "English-Only" laws.” “… the group experience contributed to learning I would not have achieved solo...there are so many different viewpoints.” Most students agreed the “Presentation” was best accomplished by collaborative effort as it deepened reflection and consideration on research material more than would have been accomplished individually.  Exception: those groups where only one or two members were active.
Primary Design Goal #2 - Considerations How can the project work with objectives and competencies to be most  authentic ? What  objectives  and  competencies  are best suited to a group project?  Goal #2:  Design authentic assessment of course objectives  and competencies utilizing group work as the  primary delivery method to build community. Should groups be  assigned  or  self-selected ? When is the best  time  to implement the group project?
Primary Design Goal #2- Realities Timing of Group Project Special Consideration: In order to conduct a group project and have it completed before the conference the objectives would need to be drawn from an early unit in the course.  Post project observation confirmed that with a large number of students new to online education a project later in the term or ongoing throughout a majority of the term would be more advantageous.  If successful in building community then earlier is better. If result is alienation or animosity from group experience no time is ‘good’, but later is decidedly better.  Assigned or Self-Selected Groups Contemporaneous and post project observation indicated that assigning groups has the advantage of allowing instructor to match skill levels.  Alternatively, observation also revealed that learners are more active if topic is  interesting  to them in a  significant  way. Learners with academic majors or current occupations aligning with group ‘identities’ showed greater focus, motivation, and general sense of satisfaction with their endeavors and the project as a whole. Construct inventory of learner’s majors, occupations and general interests early on to assists in forecasting self-selection and/or facilitating group construction based on interests.
Which Course Objectives & Competencies?  Discuss academic and applied goals of cultural anthropology. Increase intercultural tolerance and understanding. Demonstrate competency with technology to solve problems or compile information. Write clearly and logically in presentations and essays. Discuss the human language and its intrinsic relationship to culture.  How to Achieve Authenticity? Project design facilitated collaboration among group members for constructing a group level outcome (Presentation) that applied knowledge and skills aligned with course competencies, objectives and skills to real-world challenges.  Focus on perspective of relevant ‘identities’ perspectives regarding rising bilingualism and linguistic nationalism in the US and Colorado made topic particularly effective/authentic.
Primary Design Goal #3 - Considerations How involved should instructor become in the minutia of project? Facilitator or Micromanager? How will individuals and groups be evaluated? Goal #3 Design group project that clearly explains the goals,  process and expected outcomes of collaboration  and clearly defines evaluation criteria to be used.  What kinds of final products should be allowed?  What depth should instructions contain in terms of goals, procedures and outcomes?
Primary Design Goal #3- Realities Instructions Detail Erred originally on the side of too much detail and repetitiveness between steps. Revised version kept the underlying foundation (roles, weekly tasks, evaluation detail, etc) but with much less verbiage.  Revised version also provided better guidelines for accountability of individuals based on roles and group outcomes (Action Plan, Abstracts/Research, Draft, & Presentation).  Will provide an example of finished product in future classes as ‘model’.  According to Homan and Poel (1999),  group work is less effective than it might be due to, “ … a lack of focus and unclear goals for the group work task and a lack of clearly defined roles for the group members.” According to Farren and Maurer (1999), teams in professional labor environments also experience these obstacles, as well as those created by, “…  confusion over chain of command, demands and struggle to balance work and ‘personal’ life obligations, and technology issues.” Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters (1992) note that  " People [students] perform better when the know the goal, see models, know how their performance compares to the standard."
Final Output   Options for Presentation  included Adobe (.pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), MSWord (.doc) or “WebCT Presentation Tool”.  Learner’s expressed satisfaction with options. However, a majority took the path of least resistance and chose .doc or .rtf formats. No student had used the WebCT Presentation Tool before and none thought the option was feasible, after inquiring about the tool and being directed to the ‘Help’ file on creating a presentation in WebCT, due to learning curve.  Project that runs for longer than three weeks might elicit a different reaction.  Course competencies do not include HTML or other related technological outcomes and my personal hesitation to teach these skills (lest they detract from course competencies) were factors in not promoting the WebCT Presentation tool.  Instructor as Facilitator or Micromanager?  Post project observation confirmed that students were very aware of instructor involvement. Freedom to conduct project (within confines of schedule) was well balanced, most felt, with instructor interaction. Frequent grade updates and feedback were highly valued. Micromanagement was essential in only the most poorly motivated groups (characteristic of these learner’s in all areas of the course, not just project).
Evaluation Weekly Self-Evaluations moved beyond gratuitous comments in the first week toward greater reflection on group member’s and self performance and accountability.  Final Project Debriefing Survey achieved goal and proved vital as a project debriefing instrument that allowed learners to comment privately on achievements related to the project goals and total experience with the project.  Weekly emailing of grade-template proved useful for organizing instructor involvement in group and individual progress (or lack thereof), motivating group members to improve participation, and for group member organization (concerning tasks remaining.
Role accountability was an issue in terms of individuals not completing tasks. Clearly defined roles are imperative.  Who gets points when task is finally done?  Revised directions include consideration of this aspect. A role member who neglects their duty will not receive points if other group members are forced to accomplish duty.  Can roles be ‘taken away’ from a group member?  Restructuring of “Action Plan” to reassign roles was allowed and proved beneficial. Can members be removed from the group?  Explained to learners that in the “real world” some of them would have been fired from the project, but here they would have to stick it out and receive the grade they earned. Weekly evaluations were used to gauge how group members felt toward each other and could be used as ‘documentation’ along with actual (lack of) work to justify lower grades than other group members.
Group Name Student Name Role(s):  Step I:  ___ Developing Action Plan (5 pts) ___ Posting Action Plan (5pts) ___ First Self & Group Weekly Evaluation (2pts) Notes: Step II: ___ Individual Research Abstract #1 (10pts) ___ Individual Research Abstract #2 (10pts) ___ Presentation Draft (15pts) ___ Second Self & Group Weekly EvaluationS(2pts) Notes: Step III: ___ First Constructive Draft Comment (5pts) ___ Second Constructive Draft Comment (5pts)  ___ Presentation (25pts) ___ Third Self & Group Weekly Evaluation (2pts) Notes:  Step IV: ___ Third Self & Group Weekly Evaluation (2pts) ___  Project Evaluation Survey (4pts) ___  Reaction Paper (10pts) Notes:  Group Project Grade = /100 Example of Weekly evaluation sent via email to each learner individually.
Final Thoughts Duttweiler (1997) offers the following suggestions for improving facilitation in groups: Guide the group's work agenda so that students are kept on task and clarify the group's goal Monitor discussions to ensure that they remain focused. Challenge the group to initiate equal participation and encourage feedback. To which I would add… Provide a separate space for all groups to convene to ask questions, share resources, and maintain ‘whole’ class sentiment in conjunction with private group activities. Require that the product be shared with the whole class. Elicit regular feedback and reflection on group process and product as well as members’ performance and feelings. (privately & shared with group) Establish behavioral expectations and processes (See “Group Hints” handout). Communicate, Communicate, Communicate with trusted colleagues. Have fellow faculty review the project and be open to constructive criticism.
Selected Resources Authenticity Herman, J.L., Aschbacher, P.R., & Winters, L.  (1992).  A practical guide to alternative assessment . Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  Benefits and Design of Group Work Farren, C., and Maurer, R.  "Eliminating the Generation Gap in Today's Work Teams." Human Resources Professional 12, no. 3 (May-June 1999): 28-32.).  Gardner, B. S., and Korth, S. J.  "A Framework for Learning to Work in Teams." Journal of Education for Business 74, no. 1 (September-October 1998): 28-33. Homan, R. M., and Poel, C. J.  "Developing Interactive Group Skills through Cooperative Learning." In Cooperative Learning. JALT Applied Materials, edited by D. Kluge, S. McGuide, and D. Johnson. Tokyo: Japan Association for Language Teaching, 1999. (ED 437 849).  Facilitation Duttweiler, P. C.   The Fantastic Facilitator: Engaging Activities for Leading Groups .   Clemson, SC: National Dropout Prevention Center, Clemson University, 1997. (ED 430 126)

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Building Community in the Online Classroom through Group Work

  • 1. Building Community in the Online Classroom through Group Work A Practical Application of Workshop Knowledge Presented by Lisa Marie Johnson and Kathy Miles TELECOOP 2004
  • 2. Primary Design Goal #1 - Considerations What must the project achieve in process and outcome to be most effective as a group endeavor? Goal #1: Design group project to accomplish something that cannot be done or cannot be done as well by individuals alone. How to overcome negative prior group experiences? How to overcome competitive training (individualism) inherent to the competitive USAmerican education and show importance of collaboration?
  • 3. Primary Design Goal #1- Realities Overcoming Individualism / Competition Reality is that competition and individual achievement are emphasized over collaboration in USAmerican traditional education, familial and social enculturation. It is beneficial to explain to learners that group work is a favorable strategy for many job or task challenges, but employers report graduates rarely demonstrate preparedness to function in a team capacity. Therefore, learners need to gain experience and skills that enable them to work collectively with others to, “ solve problems that cannot be solved through individual effort alone. ” (Gardner and Korth 1998) Overcoming Negative Prior Group Experiences Learners are often not receptive to group work based on prior group experiences characterized by a few members or a single member do all the work. Project design needed to accommodate these fears and allay concerns about evaluation and accountability
  • 4. Collaborate to Develop Action Plan Post Action Plan First Self & Group Evaluation Submit Research Abstracts Submit Presentation Draft Second Self & Group Evaluation Constructively Critique Presentation Draft Write Presentation and Post for Group to Review Submit Presentation for Peer Review & Evaluation Third Self & Group Evaluation Reaction Paper Project Evaluation ( Debriefing ) Survey = Evaluated as a Group (55pts total) = Evaluated Individually (45pts total Project Overview
  • 5. Effective Group Endeavor Project design required gathering information on multiple real world and theoretical variables and viewpoints ( Identities ) on the Project focus ( Linguistic Nationalism & English Only Laws ) via construction of group Presentations that were then utilized for constructing individual Reaction Papers. Contemporaneous and post project observation indicated all students agreed the objective of the “Reaction Paper “was best met by use of group created “Presentations”. “… the project contributed to my learning in a way that working on my own would not. I saw how other groups had different ways of seeing the "English-Only" laws.” “… the group experience contributed to learning I would not have achieved solo...there are so many different viewpoints.” Most students agreed the “Presentation” was best accomplished by collaborative effort as it deepened reflection and consideration on research material more than would have been accomplished individually. Exception: those groups where only one or two members were active.
  • 6. Primary Design Goal #2 - Considerations How can the project work with objectives and competencies to be most authentic ? What objectives and competencies are best suited to a group project? Goal #2: Design authentic assessment of course objectives and competencies utilizing group work as the primary delivery method to build community. Should groups be assigned or self-selected ? When is the best time to implement the group project?
  • 7. Primary Design Goal #2- Realities Timing of Group Project Special Consideration: In order to conduct a group project and have it completed before the conference the objectives would need to be drawn from an early unit in the course. Post project observation confirmed that with a large number of students new to online education a project later in the term or ongoing throughout a majority of the term would be more advantageous. If successful in building community then earlier is better. If result is alienation or animosity from group experience no time is ‘good’, but later is decidedly better. Assigned or Self-Selected Groups Contemporaneous and post project observation indicated that assigning groups has the advantage of allowing instructor to match skill levels. Alternatively, observation also revealed that learners are more active if topic is interesting to them in a significant way. Learners with academic majors or current occupations aligning with group ‘identities’ showed greater focus, motivation, and general sense of satisfaction with their endeavors and the project as a whole. Construct inventory of learner’s majors, occupations and general interests early on to assists in forecasting self-selection and/or facilitating group construction based on interests.
  • 8. Which Course Objectives & Competencies? Discuss academic and applied goals of cultural anthropology. Increase intercultural tolerance and understanding. Demonstrate competency with technology to solve problems or compile information. Write clearly and logically in presentations and essays. Discuss the human language and its intrinsic relationship to culture. How to Achieve Authenticity? Project design facilitated collaboration among group members for constructing a group level outcome (Presentation) that applied knowledge and skills aligned with course competencies, objectives and skills to real-world challenges. Focus on perspective of relevant ‘identities’ perspectives regarding rising bilingualism and linguistic nationalism in the US and Colorado made topic particularly effective/authentic.
  • 9. Primary Design Goal #3 - Considerations How involved should instructor become in the minutia of project? Facilitator or Micromanager? How will individuals and groups be evaluated? Goal #3 Design group project that clearly explains the goals, process and expected outcomes of collaboration and clearly defines evaluation criteria to be used. What kinds of final products should be allowed? What depth should instructions contain in terms of goals, procedures and outcomes?
  • 10. Primary Design Goal #3- Realities Instructions Detail Erred originally on the side of too much detail and repetitiveness between steps. Revised version kept the underlying foundation (roles, weekly tasks, evaluation detail, etc) but with much less verbiage. Revised version also provided better guidelines for accountability of individuals based on roles and group outcomes (Action Plan, Abstracts/Research, Draft, & Presentation). Will provide an example of finished product in future classes as ‘model’. According to Homan and Poel (1999), group work is less effective than it might be due to, “ … a lack of focus and unclear goals for the group work task and a lack of clearly defined roles for the group members.” According to Farren and Maurer (1999), teams in professional labor environments also experience these obstacles, as well as those created by, “… confusion over chain of command, demands and struggle to balance work and ‘personal’ life obligations, and technology issues.” Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters (1992) note that " People [students] perform better when the know the goal, see models, know how their performance compares to the standard."
  • 11. Final Output Options for Presentation included Adobe (.pdf), Rich Text Format (.rtf), MSWord (.doc) or “WebCT Presentation Tool”. Learner’s expressed satisfaction with options. However, a majority took the path of least resistance and chose .doc or .rtf formats. No student had used the WebCT Presentation Tool before and none thought the option was feasible, after inquiring about the tool and being directed to the ‘Help’ file on creating a presentation in WebCT, due to learning curve. Project that runs for longer than three weeks might elicit a different reaction. Course competencies do not include HTML or other related technological outcomes and my personal hesitation to teach these skills (lest they detract from course competencies) were factors in not promoting the WebCT Presentation tool. Instructor as Facilitator or Micromanager? Post project observation confirmed that students were very aware of instructor involvement. Freedom to conduct project (within confines of schedule) was well balanced, most felt, with instructor interaction. Frequent grade updates and feedback were highly valued. Micromanagement was essential in only the most poorly motivated groups (characteristic of these learner’s in all areas of the course, not just project).
  • 12. Evaluation Weekly Self-Evaluations moved beyond gratuitous comments in the first week toward greater reflection on group member’s and self performance and accountability. Final Project Debriefing Survey achieved goal and proved vital as a project debriefing instrument that allowed learners to comment privately on achievements related to the project goals and total experience with the project. Weekly emailing of grade-template proved useful for organizing instructor involvement in group and individual progress (or lack thereof), motivating group members to improve participation, and for group member organization (concerning tasks remaining.
  • 13. Role accountability was an issue in terms of individuals not completing tasks. Clearly defined roles are imperative. Who gets points when task is finally done? Revised directions include consideration of this aspect. A role member who neglects their duty will not receive points if other group members are forced to accomplish duty. Can roles be ‘taken away’ from a group member? Restructuring of “Action Plan” to reassign roles was allowed and proved beneficial. Can members be removed from the group? Explained to learners that in the “real world” some of them would have been fired from the project, but here they would have to stick it out and receive the grade they earned. Weekly evaluations were used to gauge how group members felt toward each other and could be used as ‘documentation’ along with actual (lack of) work to justify lower grades than other group members.
  • 14. Group Name Student Name Role(s): Step I: ___ Developing Action Plan (5 pts) ___ Posting Action Plan (5pts) ___ First Self & Group Weekly Evaluation (2pts) Notes: Step II: ___ Individual Research Abstract #1 (10pts) ___ Individual Research Abstract #2 (10pts) ___ Presentation Draft (15pts) ___ Second Self & Group Weekly EvaluationS(2pts) Notes: Step III: ___ First Constructive Draft Comment (5pts) ___ Second Constructive Draft Comment (5pts) ___ Presentation (25pts) ___ Third Self & Group Weekly Evaluation (2pts) Notes: Step IV: ___ Third Self & Group Weekly Evaluation (2pts) ___ Project Evaluation Survey (4pts) ___ Reaction Paper (10pts) Notes: Group Project Grade = /100 Example of Weekly evaluation sent via email to each learner individually.
  • 15. Final Thoughts Duttweiler (1997) offers the following suggestions for improving facilitation in groups: Guide the group's work agenda so that students are kept on task and clarify the group's goal Monitor discussions to ensure that they remain focused. Challenge the group to initiate equal participation and encourage feedback. To which I would add… Provide a separate space for all groups to convene to ask questions, share resources, and maintain ‘whole’ class sentiment in conjunction with private group activities. Require that the product be shared with the whole class. Elicit regular feedback and reflection on group process and product as well as members’ performance and feelings. (privately & shared with group) Establish behavioral expectations and processes (See “Group Hints” handout). Communicate, Communicate, Communicate with trusted colleagues. Have fellow faculty review the project and be open to constructive criticism.
  • 16. Selected Resources Authenticity Herman, J.L., Aschbacher, P.R., & Winters, L. (1992). A practical guide to alternative assessment . Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Benefits and Design of Group Work Farren, C., and Maurer, R. "Eliminating the Generation Gap in Today's Work Teams." Human Resources Professional 12, no. 3 (May-June 1999): 28-32.). Gardner, B. S., and Korth, S. J. "A Framework for Learning to Work in Teams." Journal of Education for Business 74, no. 1 (September-October 1998): 28-33. Homan, R. M., and Poel, C. J. "Developing Interactive Group Skills through Cooperative Learning." In Cooperative Learning. JALT Applied Materials, edited by D. Kluge, S. McGuide, and D. Johnson. Tokyo: Japan Association for Language Teaching, 1999. (ED 437 849). Facilitation Duttweiler, P. C. The Fantastic Facilitator: Engaging Activities for Leading Groups . Clemson, SC: National Dropout Prevention Center, Clemson University, 1997. (ED 430 126)