What students need to know and do
First year students need to learn to work effectively in teams to combine their learning of discipline-specific knowledge and approaches with the practical skills that will be of use in the workplace and field.
Student barriers to learning
What students say: “Uni as a whole was hard, especially group work – good luck getting hold of group members. Also you don’t know how they work or whether they’re interested in working.”
Students studying at university often find team work challenging particularly when team members have different class timetables, live some distance from each other, have varying commitments, different personalities, aims and working styles. Together with differing prior conceptions and understandings of the discipline of geography, these challenges can impede geography students’ understanding of the benefits of working in diverse teams to enhance geography outcomes and students’ willingness to actively contribute.
Our teaching strategies
- Create a safe learning environment in tutorials and workshops and use collaborative group tasks to teach group skills in:
- devising a code of conduct for their group
- identifying and recognising peers’ strengths
- assigning roles
- auditing their own skills and those of team members
- acknowledging the positive strong contributions of group members after any group activity;
- Enable a classroom or online place where students can venture half-formed thoughts;
- Devise projects that require multiples skills from across different discipline groups;
- Guiding students to work as a team on a structured research project using existing data, then presenting as a group;
- Structure tasks and activities to identify what each individual student has contributed while still requiring them to work together;
- Review the importance of participatory approaches to problem solving:
- appreciating different viewpoints of team members
- discussing the importance of team approach vs individual approaches.
- Structured group activities in lectures and tutorials;
- Structured complex assignment tasks;
- Simulations and role plays;
Dunne, E. & Rawlins, M. (2000). Bridging the gap between industry and higher education: Training academics to promote student teamwork. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 37(4), 361-371.
Healey, M., Matthews, H., Livingstone, I. & Foster, I. (1996). Learning in small groups in university geography courses: Designing a core module around group projects. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 20(2), 167-180.
Solem, M., Cheung, I. & Schlemper, M. B. (2008). Skills in professional geography: An assessment of workforce needs and expectations. The Professional Geographer, 60(3), 356-373.