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Working in groups - A note to faculty and a quick guide for students - Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard Univ. - 1997: 1 von 8 Enter Sequence First Previous Next Last

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Students are increasingly asked to work in groups or to collaborate on projects. However many students, especially those from other countries, have had little experience working in groups in an academic setting. While there are many excellent books and articles describing group processes, several faculty members and students have requested tips on assigning group projects, ways to organize groups, and what to do when the process goes awry. This guide is intended to be short and simply written for students who are working in groups, but who may not be very interested in too much detail, or who may not readily understand the particular language associated with describing group processes.




  1. Getting Started
    Organizing the Work
    Understanding and Managing Group Processes
  2. Include Everyone and Their Ideas
    Encouraging Ideas
  3. Group Leadership
    Concerns of Individuals that May Affect Their Participation
  4. Focusing on a Direction
  5. How People Function in Groups Roles That Contribute to the Work
    Roles That Contribute to the Atmosphere of the Group
  6. Some Common Problems (And Some Solutions)


Handout # l is an overview that can be used alone (or together with a copy of the material in "A Note To Faculty" on the reasons and benefits of group work). Handouts #2-6 elaborate different aspects of group processes, and may be distributed separately according to interest. Sources for these handouts, in addition to other selected resources for students and teachers are listed at the bottom of this page. If you have any comments or suggestions about these materials, please call or write:

Ellen Sarkisian
Harvard School of Public Health
Kresge Building, 5th floor
(617) 432-0091

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning
Science Center, 318



Thanks to Iain Aitken and Richard Cannon (Harvard School of Public Health) and Lee Warren (Bok Center for Teaching and Learning) for suggesting the following training materials, parts of which are adapted and quoted:

Heller Hunt and Cunningham. "Advanced Facilitator". Brookline, Mass. 1992

Interaction Associates, "Collaborative Problem Solving." Cambridge, Mass. 1987.

J. Sketchley, A. Mejia, I. Aitken et al.Work Improvement in Health Services. Geneva: World Health Organization, 1986

Other selected resources:

Christensen, C. Roland, David A Garvin, and Ann Sweet.Education for Judgement: thc Artistry of Discussion Leadership.Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 1991.
Chapters 8, 9, and 10.

Fisher, Roger and William Ury.Getting To Yes. Boston, Mass:Houghton Mifflin, 1981

Harlan, Anne, and John J. Gabarro. "Notes on Process Observation" in C Roland Christensen.
Teaching and the Case Method. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School
Publishing Division, 1987, 205-210.

Kasulis, Thomas P. "Questioning" in Margaret Morgonroth Gullette. The Art and
Craft of Teaching.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1984: 38-48.

Kraft, Robert G. "Group Inquiry Turns Passive, Students Active" in College Teaching, 33(4), 149-154, Winter, 1985.

Light, Richard. "A Promising Direction for Future Work: the Value of Small Study Groups to Enhance Students' Learning." The Harvard Assessment Seminars. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Graduate School of Education and Kennedy School of Government, 1990: 70-79.

McKeachie, Wilbert 1., Paul R. Pintrick, Yi-Guang Lin, and David A.F. Smith. Teaching & Learning in the College Classroom: A Review of the Research Literature. National Center for Research to Improve Post-Secondary Teaching and Learning, 1986: 103-109.

Olmstead, Joseph A. Small Group Instruction: Theory and Practice. Alexandria, Virginia: Human Resources Research Organization, 1974.

Sampson, Edward E. and Marthas, Marya. Group Process for the Health Professions, second edition. New York: John "Wiley & Sons, 1981.

Sarkisian, Ellen. "Leading a Discussion: Providing Direction and Continuity." Teaching American Students: A Guide for international Faculty and Teaching Fellows. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Danforth Center for Teaching and Leaming, 1990: 31-35.

Thinking Together Collaborative Learning in Science. (Cambridge, Mass.: Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, 1992. (videotape)

Wallis, Barbara and Kenneth Mitchell. "The teaching of group process skills as a basis for problem-based learning in small task-oriented groups." In Boud, David, ed. Problem-Based Learning in Education for thc Professions. Sydney: HERDSA, 1985: 171-176.

Copyright © 1997 Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Permission is granted to educational institutions to reproduce this document for internal use provided the Bok Center's authorship and copyright are acknowledged.

Derek Bok Center for
Teaching and Learning
Harvard University

Science Center 318
One Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-2901
Voice: (617) 495-4869 * Fax: (617) 495-3739

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