Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Use of Group Work in a Final-Year Course
Originator John Bryson
Department School of Geography, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT
Tel. +44 (0)121 414 5549
Fax. +44 (0)121 414 5528
E-mail j.r.bryson@bham.ac.uk

It is difficult to maintain group work exercises in the final-year of a degree programme given concerns that finalists must achieve their marks as individuals rather than as part of a group.

This final-year project is designed to overcome this difficulty by fulfilling three learning objectives:

  1. To provide an opportunity for student-centred learning.
  2. To relate the literature to the 'real' world.
  3. To encourage critical, debating and team work skills.
The project takes place over four weeks. During week one a lecturer presents seven different ways of thinking about retailing. At the end of this lecture the students divide themselves into groups of five, identifying both a leader and a rapporteur. During week two each group reads a different article on an aspect of retailing. From this each group must identify a way in which to relate their specific reading to some field work. In week three the groups must visit their chosen location, as well as construct a ten minute presentation. During week four, the groups present their findings to the class, as well as providing a one page typed summary of their activities. This two-hour session concludes with a debate.

The final part of this exercise is a report written individually by each student. This consists of an analysis of retailing linked to both the article read by their group, the field work, articles read by other groups, as well as additional reading undertaken by each student.

The advantages of this project are that the lecturer can guide the learning experience by the choice of articles, but during the course of the project control is passed to the students. Final-year students acquire access to all the benefits of group work, and a project which forces them to plan their own field work, and relate this explicitly to a specific article. The individual report avoids the all too frequent complaint that a group member did not contribute to the project.

Keywords:

Critical reading
Group work
Presentation
Projects
Student-centred learning


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Page created 3 February 1997
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