Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Using Group Assignments to Encourage Active Learning
Originator Kenneth Lynch
Department School of Geography, Kingston University, KT1 2EE
Tel. +44 (0)181-547-7507
Fax +44 (0)181-547-7497
E-mail k.lynch@kingston.ac.uk

This innovation assesses students using teamwork, presentation and student-organised learning in a module which focuses on development issues in Africa. The students have to propose a new specialist non-governmental organisation (NGO), which they justify using the existing literature.

The aim is to encourage practical and positive ways of thinking about Africa, while at the same time providing an opportunity to learn teamwork and presentation skills. This innovation has also resulted in a reduced marking load.

The students are randomly divided into teams of between three and five. Each group has to decide the focus, how to assemble the data and seek justification for their approach for their literature. They then have to prepare a 10 minute presentation and a 3-sided written proposal.

Staff input comprises a seminar on presentation techniques, two timetabled consultation sessions, availability through e-mail or appointments and assessment of the presentations at a seminar. However, involvement in team issues is limited as much as possible.

Teams complete a Progress Report form at each meeting, detailing aspects of the meeting. These are submitted to the staff and held on file.

Each team member receives the same mark; this mark accounts for 20% of the total module mark. It comprises a mark for the written report, the presentation and the Progress Report forms (in practice this is a formality to ensure they are submitted). Where an individual is clearly not pulling his/her weight, he/she will be awarded zero. The onus is then on them to come with at least one team-mate to make a case for their marks based on their contribution.

Student response to this programme has been very positive. The seminar on presentation technique was introduced at the request of the students. The students display a high level of motivation, some entering the spirit of the 'role play' with gusto!

Relevant References

Keywords

Active learning
Group assignments
Group work
Presentation
Role play


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