One of the strategies she uses, however, is to ask students to create a contract between the group. This includes understanding the task requirements, taking responsibility for learning, communication, co-operation between group members, and group cohesion.
Beverly started using the contracts a while ago, and has now amended the initial version so that it works in a number of disciplines. She begins by starting (a lively discussion) by asking the questions:
- Have you ever signed a contract that you didn’t read?
- Have you ever signed a contract that you didn’t understand?
After this the purpose of the group learning contract is introduced, and pairs are allocated. Break out rooms are provided for discussions, and tutor and student learning advisors assist with the contract discussions. The contracts are collected in and copies given out to the students. Students are able to alter and add to the contract.
The next move is maybe to encourage students to create their own contract … although this may be time-consuming.
Students, Beverly has found, are more engaged, and take the contract seriously. The initial activity helps forge the team, and this results in fewer emails along the lines of ‘who is in my team?’, ‘what are we doing?’. She has found that there needs to be prevention and resolution of group work issues, but this has only occurred on a couple of occasions (in class groups of 45 to 50 students). And after the assignment is complete, the contract works as a reference point to discuss what was, and wasn’t, done by each student.