Group work 

Collaboration and group-work are used frequently in traditional, online and blended learning. Therefore my refection in this topic is about group work. 

Educational research has shown that group work has many benefits such as positive impact on long-term material retention, critical thinking, and communication skills (Benson et el., 2019). Research also shows that group work presents many challenges, such as: 

The nature of group work changes as students mature and advance through education programs. Younger students need more structure and accountability in their group environment than upper-division students. Scholars have also identified factors which have effects on the success or failure of groups. How a group is formed is one such factor. 

How groups are formed
The groups can be formed through instructor assignment or student selection. Scholars suggest that self-selected groups may be more appropriate for upper-division 

Assigned groups can be created randomly or using specific criteria such as GPA (grade point average) distribution or level of diversity. Harding (2018) described ‘flocking method’ to reduce free riding by improving student’s motivation and availability to contribute to the group.  In her case flocking means matching students with similar motivation (willingness to contribute) and schedules (availability to contribute).  The students were divided into two groups: motivated students (those who planned to devote more time) and unmotivated students (those who plan to devote less time to the course). The results showed that students in flocked groups both reported less free-riding and performed better on group and individual assignments. 

One of my colleagues at my university is also using a flocking method, where the criterium for dividing students into motivated and unmotivated groups is the GPA (Hans Bjurgren, 2021, personal information). Hans experience is that this flocking method decreases ostracism and increases performance both of motivated and unmotivated students. In line with research results (see Harding for overview) Hans has also experience that low-motivation and low-ability students are better able to contribute because their contribution is not longer blocked by motivated and /or more able members in the group. Still, some  other teachers can feel that flocking by GPA is not ethical. 

Submission of assignments 
The literature mentioned the main ways of submitting group work assignments: a single group submission or individual submissions of assignments. From my own experience, I also want to mention the third, hybrid type of submission: a single group submission with individual contributions. This means that students write together some parts of the text, but the text also consists of individually written parts. For example in an assignment that we have developed in my division the students write together the Introduction, Method, Discussion and Conclusions, but the Results part is built with individual contributions of each group member; where the students name is given. 

Accountability of contributions is one fact that students mentioned as important within group work tasks. The aspect of accountability is related to a submissions form. The design of group work with individual contributions makes accountability more visible. It can be added here that the issue of accountability is not only relevant for the distribution of work but also for the aspects of academic integrity and fear of being accused of plagiarism (Robert Öman, 2021, personal communication). 

Check in to and check out of the group work 
According to research results, student often feel frustration resulting from poorly executed communication and collaboration activities where their progress depended on the contribution of fellow students (Van Ameijde et al., 2016). I have observed this in my teaching experience. We, teachers assigned groups, then students complained that they have difficulties to get in contact with other members. Inspired by the five stage model (Salmon, 2013) I will, in collaboration with others, develop activities for ‘Checking  in’ to  the group work and also for ‘Checking  out’ of the group work. For example checking in to the group work can mean that students need to declare that they will participate in the group work.   


Benson, B., Danowitz, A., Callenes, J., & Hummel, P. (2019, June). Perceived Benefits and Drawbacks of Group Assignment Methods. In 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition.

Bjurgren, H. Lecturer at Mälardalen Universtity,  School of Innovation, Design and Engineering , Division of Networked and Embedded Systems, Personal communication, November 2021

Danowitz , A. (2017). “Group Work Versus Informal Collaborations: Student Perspectives,” in ASEE 2017 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting.

Harding, L. M. (2018). Students of a feather “flocked” together: A group assignment method for reducing free-riding and improving group and individual learning outcomes. Journal of marketing education40(2), 117-127.

Salmon, G. (2013) The Five Stage Model. Homepage 

Van Ameijde, J., Weller, M., & Cross, S. (2016). Designing for student retention: the ICEBERG model and key design tips. Quality enhancement series. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Öman, R. senior lecturer at Mälardalen University, School of Business Society and Engineering, Division Division of Sustainable Environment and Construction, Personal communication, November 2021


Topic 4  Design for online and blended learning