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Why do we do group assignments?

Assigning group work in higher education isn’t about reducing the grading workload for teachers. When done right, group work can be a powerful teaching tool. 

There are four key benefits of why educators should assign group work: 

  1. Enable students to perform at higher intellectual levels 
  2. Provide exposure to new and different perspectives  
  3. Achieve higher personal satisfaction 
  4. Prepare students for professional life

Let’s explore each of these ideas a bit further…

1: Enabling students to perform at higher intellectual levels 

Group projects allow students to combine their skills to take on more complex problems than they could on their own. In fact, a survey found that 97% of students reported that working in a group helped facilitate their learning and collaborative skills. 

With the right group structure in place, students are more likely to experiment with different problem-solving techniques. It is proven that students learn better by discussing and questioning each other’s opinions. Research has found that discussion during group work can lead to better memory recall and understanding.  

2: Providing exposure to new and different perspectives 

Working with a diverse group of students enables the team to examine topics from the perspectives of others. The right group structure allows team members to collaborate and share their ideas, giving each group member an opportunity to be a teacher. 

When sharing ideas, the group actively has to compare, contrast and even integrate these perspectives, sharpening critical thinking skills. To benefit from different viewpoints, it is important that groups follow a framework that supports and encourages students to provide their opinions.  

3: Achieving higher personal satisfaction 

Research has found that students who work effectively in a group assignment end up feeling satisfied and motivated once a good grade is achieved. 

When students contribute to group discussion and engage with the task, they are therefore more dedicated to finding a solution. Once that solution is found, the research explains that the students report feeling extremely satisfied with their role in making that decision resulting in positive learning outcomes. 

4: Preparing students for professional life 

A 2018 study conducted by Cengage/Morning Consult found nearly 3 in 4 employers have trouble finding graduates with the soft skills that their companies need. 

Research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers weighted the following capabilities as important in the workplace:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Professionalism and work ethic 
  • Oral and written communications 
  • Digital technology
  • Leadership
  • Career management 
  • Global and multi-cultural fluency 

When done correctly, group assignments can help students fine-tune many of these skills.

Students can benefit greatly from group assignments, but it is important that the groups are set up in a way that enhances their chances of succeeding. To learn more about how you can help your students do group work effectively, download our eBook, the definitive reference guide for group assignments and peer assessment.  We have an entire chapter dedicated to answering why, how, and when we use group assignments in higher education.

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