When group activities Go RIGHT….

Today I planned a group activity for my 8am class. Mainly because I have struggled to this point to peak their interest and interaction to the level I prefer (it’s 8am so…. I have thought about providing coffee). HONESTLY….. In general, sometimes it seems students approach the educational experience like a five-course meal and they wait for you to bring them dish after dish. In an attempt to move away from serving up an educational experience, I am shifting to the POTLUCK dinner approach to my classroom. I believe this empowers the students to “bring their knowledge and experience” to the table & I rely on them to contribute to their educational experience. I don’t do interactive group activities every class, but I try to do some type of group activity at least every third class.

I “know” interactive group activities are supposed to enhance the learning experience. I know that it is a great strategy to help students apply knowledge. But what if they don’t bring anything to the table? What if it was a disaster? What if they didn’t work together, or what if they didn’t give a good effort? I was also nervous about letting go of the control I would normally have with directed discussion, lecture, and individual activities. I worried that if the activity is not successful, it will be a waste of time and devalue their experience in the classroom. This activity I planed was 60 minutes… so it was a large portion of class.

This experience taught me that my students (in this class) can cooperate and learn in this environment. Reflecting back on this activity, I wanted to share a few things that I think worked and will plan on doing again. I have learned from past experiences and have adapted my teaching strategies to better serve student’s behavior.

  1. I put them into groups based on their social strengths and weaknesses.
  2. I told them how long the activity would take (45-60 minutes).
  3. I played music & changed the genre every 10 minutes to remind them to stay on task.
  4. I told them that if they were efficient with their time they would get out of class early. They ended up getting out 15 minutes early( 90 min class).
  5. I let groups that finished prior to the allotted time an opportunity to step outside the classroom to socialize, go to the bathroom, or play on their phone. (this was only about 3 -5 minutes but they were over-joyed ….)
  6. I designated different people to complete different parts of the assignment so that everyone had an opportunity to write & present their section to the entire class.
  7. I also created a competition between the groups for the most creative idea. Although no prize is really awarded, I can tell the students give extra effort to impress their peers.

In summary, I gave these students guidelines and provided a favorable environment for them to work together. The students were able to apply the knowledge they had learned from the previous class period. I also believe that this group of students is more mature than some of my other classes. This particular class is a senior level course & their behavior indicates that they are ready for the workplace. I normally would not tell students that we will get out of class early if they cooperate. However, the class was motivated to work together, was efficient with their discussion, and had high interaction amongst the group members.

I don’t know if Potluck style learning a ‘scholarly term’ or if I should really even make that type of comparison. But … I do know that my students gave more interaction, and I could physically see them come alive with learning the material in ways this class has never done. I plan to continue with group activities and provide more opportunities for students to ‘bring knowledge & experience’ to the table.

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Laci McRee

Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at East Texas Baptist University

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One thought on “When group activities Go RIGHT….

  1. Thanks for sharing this class activity. It is always a struggle for me to get my students to participate at the level I want, and you have given some great suggestions. We should talk about this sometime. Great job!

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