Problems With Learning Teams/Group Projects

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by Bruce, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    If you teach for a school that requires group projects, you probably know exactly where this is headed.....

    Does anyone have effective strategies for dealing with "problem children" in groups? For my last course I included a message in my introduction that grading for the team projects would be weighted for each member, depending on their participation. This seemed to work well as I had no problems, although it may have been coincidental.

    Does anyone hate group projects more than me? Or the whiny e-mails, "Why did I get an F for the team assignment when everyone else got an A"?

    Uh, maybe because you disappeared for 2 weeks and contributed nothing towards it? :rolleyes:
  2. Shawn Ambrose

    Shawn Ambrose New Member


    I handle this in two ways.

    1) The students in the group conduct peer evaluation. They grade themselves and the members of the team in four different categories. The grades are then averaged out for each person. Then, I take their project grade and multiply it by their peer evaluation grade, and that is the grade I enter in the gradebook. For instance, the project earns a 90%, and Joe Banana receives an 80% from himself and his peers. Joe earns a 72% (90 x .80 = 72).

    2. Student can fire team members who do not produce anything. I require documentation of an oral and written warning to the team member, and then I schedule a conference to discuss the merits. If the evidence merits dismissal, I permit the termination.

  3. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    Excellent strategies, thanks! I'll have to see if they jive with school policy.

    When someone is "fired" from the team, is it just for that assignment or is it a "death sentence" for the entire course?
  4. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    I give them 50% for individual work and 50% for team work. For example, if the team section is worth 70 points, and they:
    Post the assignment and nothing else - 35 points
    If they make suggestions on others work and nothing more - 35 points
    If they make suggestions working as a team member and post the work - 70 points
  5. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I find it effective to do less, not more.

    Adult teams are very good at self-regulation over time. Someone might slide by in one course, but the team--and at UoP the teams go from class to class--will opt not to work with that person in the next class. After a while, this kind of non-contributor will either shape up or--and I've seen this more than once--will find him/herself unable to find a willing team. Because students can't go it alone--they have to be on a team--this further forces them to straighten up, or get out.

    I only intervened a few times past (5) below. But I watched teams take care of their problems after a little guidance. Here was my approach:

    1. Listen to the complaining team member(s)
    2. Find out what their charter says about conflict resolution.
    3. Find out what they've already done.
    4. Offer ideas regarding dealing with the underperformer, reminding the team that this kind of thing happens in the workplace, too.
    5. Let it go.
    6. Deal with it again only if it comes up again.
    7. If necessary, explain to the underperformer that it is your (the instructor's) prerogative to grade him/her differently, if necessary, from the rest of the team.
    8. Do it.
  6. Shawn Ambrose

    Shawn Ambrose New Member

    It depends on the course. In my Small Business Management course, my students write a business plan which is worth 60% of the course grade. Since the business plan is the main course deliverable, if a student is fired they fail the course.

    In my other courses with team projects - if the team member is fired, the person gets to do his/her own project; but the grading starts at 70%.

    As an aside, the students in my Small Business Management course will form teams this semester and write business plans for our community radio station. The business plans will be evaluated by the General Manager of the radio station, the coordinator of the regional small business development agency, and myself. Members of the winning team will win a $500 scholarship from the radio station - neat stuff :)
  7. scaredrain

    scaredrain Member

    What I normally do for group work is have each group sign a group contract that states that a group has the right to fire a member, if they feel that a member is not contributing to the overall achievement of the group. Firing is a last resort, normally I require the group to contact me first about their problems and then I address it with the student, after the group does the same. If the team member is still not contributing then the group can fire the member. At this point any fired team member has to do the project on their own and the topic has to be totally different than what their team mates were doing and the highest they can make on the project is an 80. I also let the group members grade each others performance at the end of the group project. This method works well in online classes.

    For traditional classroom group work, fired team members can be rehired by another group, but the highest they can receive on any group project is an 70. If a fired team member is not rehired then he or she completes the project on their own and the highest they can receive is an 70. I also use group contracts for traditional classes also.

    I also have group contracts for traditional classes also.
  8. Ron Dotson

    Ron Dotson New Member

    I am quite impressed with the combined experience/knowledge of the contributors to this new forum. All of you can pass on so much to the aspiring instructor and distance learner. Thanks, not only for this but all the tips, facts, and suggestions that all the members have contributed over the years that I have "lurked" on these forums. I couldn't have accomplished what I have without all of you...and I ain't quitin' yet!!

    Ron (The Habitual Lurker)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2008

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