Teaching Tips for Week 3 – with a focus on using teams/groups in classes

Hello Faculty,

One of the outcomes of the CTL is to create communities of learners.  We want to create opportunities for faculty to learn together and for faculty to create community within their classrooms.  Research has shown that student-student and student-faculty interactions are important for student retention and persistence.  Using teams/groups in our classes is an excellent way to create community.  This topic came up during the Opening Days All-faculty Session, so this email will focus on how to more effectively use these in our classes.  Groups can be informal (e.g., think-pair-share) or more formal.  The resources below will help for pretty much any type of group activity.  As always, at the end of the email is a list of upcoming faculty-development opportunities (including those from our CTL like Friday’s webinar).

Do you have students who have not been attending? 
See the 9/3 email from Jeanne Maanum for reporting a student’s last date of attendance (LDA).

Do you want to use the Testing Center for Instructor-arranged Testing this semester? See the 9/5 email from Kristy Snyder.

What are your students thinking about your class?  These links refer to first-day activities, but these simple strategies would also work well at this point in the semester

Are you having trouble with students using technology use in your classes? 
Check out these articles


Do you want your student teams/groups to be more effective?
Try adding more structures to your student teams/groups.  Two of the leaders in cooperative learning research, David and Roger Johnson, are at the University of Minnesota, and the resources listed below are based on their work.

How is your group project like the zombie apocalypse?
Check out this new website for students from the U of MN http://teamwork.umn.edu/ and blog posting about the site including recommendations for successful team/group projects http://uminntilt.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/helping-student-teams-perform-well-a-framework-for-using-teamwork-umn-edu/

What is cooperative learning?  “Cooperative Learning involves structuring classes around small groups that work together in such a way that each group member’s success is dependent on the group’s success. There are different kinds of groups for different situations, but they all balance some key elements that distinguish cooperative learning from competitive or individualistic learning.”  From http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/cooperative/index.html

What are the five key elements of cooperative groups?  See http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/cooperative/index.html.  One strategy that is helpful for individual accountability is to assign roles.  These may be specific to a discipline (e.g., shop manager, safety officer, etc.), to a project (e.g., farmer, business owner, taxpayer), or more generic (e.g., timekeeper, recorder, summarizer).  To help students develop group skills, using placards might be helpful (see attached; page 8 includes cards with examples of what students might say).

What is the best way to form teams/groups?
Research has shown that random teams work best.  You could count off in class, use playing cards to place students by numbers or suits, or use D2L to form random groups.  This article suggests other strategies: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/621-how-and-why-to-split-your-students-into-teams?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
How can I assess team/group work?

How can I use D2L to help me include teams/groups in my classes?
Students can be placed into D2L groups either by you or randomly in D2L.  Then, the various tools can be linked to the groups.  For example, discussion forums/topics can be restricted to groups and grades can be entered by groups.  For more information, contact Jennifer Malarski or the Digital Resource Lab (

Also, check out these videos to learn more

Grading Group Discussions in D2L 10.3 (11:09)


Using a Rubric to Grade Group Discussions in D2L 10.3 (8:56)


Where can I learn more about cooperative learning?


Do you want to provide input for faculty-development programming? 
The Faculty Development Committee will meet monthly, and we are asking for at least a semester-long commitment. These hour-long meetings  serve as a “think tank,” and there is minimal (if any) work outside of meetings. If you are interested in joining, please share your availability by completing this scheduling poll. Meetings will be sent as Outlook appointments.  As always, anyone can provide input and suggestions to this email or by contacting one of us.

Do you want more faculty-development activities?


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