This is the 5th post in a series titled ‘All Things Group Work’. The home page is here.
To strengthen the pedagogy of GME, include a reflective journal as part of the course assessment. As mentioned in an earlier post, one of the central reasons group work skill doesn’t seem to improve as quickly as we want is that students don’t get a chance to act on the feedback before the forgetting curve kicks in. Acting on the feedback soon after it is given would interrupt this forgetting and assist in securing the skills into long-term memory.
The reflection would ask students to write about the feedback given to them by peers. The reflection could focus on multiple elements:
- Focus 1 – how the feedback was given. To do so, you could point students to the advice offered in the writing constructive feedback session you engaged them in. In it, you discuss the need for students to consider the motivation and perspective of the evaluator, the need to make comments objective and not personal, and the need for there to be a solution-based and pro-active approach to the feedback. The real benefit of approaching the reflection in this way is that the student is actually constantly thinking about how constructive feedback should be given, and this then helps secure that knowledge into the long-term memory ready to be applied at the next occasion of group work.
- Focus 2 – areas for improvement. The student should be encouraged to evaluate the degree to which the feedback suggests a gap in skill, and reflect on how it affects and impacts their own as well as the team’s performance and cohesion. Again, the focus here is on looking at the behaviours through the eyes of others. Also, the student would evaluate the relevance of the identified gap – is it a skill that is always a part of group work, or was it an isolated instance?
- Focus 3 – acting on the feedback. If the group work formative assessment advice was followed, the students would already have had a chance to act on the feedback before the reflection is written, and so the reflection could discuss how the change was made and the effect it had. It could also discuss the variation of context that may have necessitated an iteration of the learning as the experience moved from formative to summative, but the point here is the wonderful opportunity for developing self-awareness and self-regulatory behaviours. If the feedback hasn’t been acted on yet, the student could discuss how they will apply the feedback to future group work activities.
- Focus 4 – behaviours identified as strengths. People are typically humble and tend to play down or devalue aspects of themselves that others see as strengths. The benefit of feedback being objective is that it states the facts of the situation, and removes any chance of the feedback being seen as disingenuous, or worse, obsequious. Identification of strengths is extremely important as it effectively identifies future leadership possibilities in those related areas. This could be an enlightening moment for the receiver of the feedback, and it is useful for them to discuss this and potentially explore how they could use the strength to their advantage in future group work activities.
Importantly, it is necessary for you to ensure that there are resources available to students that can help them fill any gaps identified. Otherwise, the feedback may be pointless.
In the next post, I go back to discussing the writing of a group member evaluation rubric.