Monday, December 21, 2020

Improving Engagement in Virtual Groups

 Many teachers have found students very quiet during Google Meets.  The reticence continues for many during the smaller breakout groups as well.

The following are two strategies that might encourage members of the groups to speak up and work together.

Collaborative Slides/Jamboards

You may have already tried having students work together in slides, in a doc, or on a Jamboard.  This technique tilts that idea on its side a bit.  Instead of focusing on the product (the slide, doc, or Jamboard), it focuses on the communication and collaboration.  

Students are assigned roles, but only certain team members have access to the slide/Jamboard. This encourages the students to work together in order to complete the task.

Esther Park (@MrsParkShine) shares templates linked here which designate a leader, a scribe, and a presenter amongst other roles.  Only the scribe and presenter would have access to the work.  The presenter would share their screen so others can see the work but cannot physically alter it.  The leader would encourage participation, the scribe would make note of what is discussed - guided by the task - and when done, the presenter would present to the rest of the class.

Could one person still complete the task?  Yes, but creating expectations and carefully choosing the roles can provide more structure to engage the group.

Collaborative Forms

A similar strategy can be used using Google Forms.  Instead of roles, the students get slightly different forms which encourage communication and working together.

So, each student wouldn't have all of the directions, information, questions, or answer spaces.  The teacher would divide those amongst several forms so that each group member has only one piece of the whole.  This encourages students to communicate and work together to get the task completed. As shown in Mandi Reinen's (@ReinenPhysics) to the right, you can get the sense that success depends upon the students'' collaboration.

For example, one student could be instructed to read the Pythagorean theorem aloud: a2 +b2 = c2. Another form could instruct a different team member to read the question asking to solve for "c," while the third could have the spot to provide the answer to this question on their form.

Because the work is physically divided, collaboration is necessary for any of the students to complete the task.

Each of these techniques could still encounter the difficulty of a student  refusing to participate.  The teacher  would then need to intervene so as to not hold back the other students who are willing participants. But these structures could increase the interaction amongst your students.

If any FPS staff have questions about either of these strategies or if you try them, please let us know.

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