Despite privacy issues and bombing live sessions, Zoom has been integral in implementing some of the pedagogical strategies we like to use in the classroom related to working in groups. In this video, I demonstrate some of those strategies. You can have a look at this tip sheet on how to create and manage breakout rooms on Zoom.

You can use the various audio, video, wand whiteboard functionalities to provide multi-modal forms of expression for your students engaging in group work.

Scaffolding the Process

The intention for your students to work together and build knowledge together starts before the actual class. This means students are expected to be prepared before the class – reading provided resources, completing an assigned task, etc. The preparation is essential for individual thinking and contributes to a greater sense of individual responsibility. Particularly for a jigsaw method, each student is bringing in a different perspective to the classroom; therefore, these expectations must be communicated to students before the class. 

There are various ways you can think about scaffolding the collective thinking process when meeting your students online. You can group students according to a reading they chose to read and synthesize before the class. Alternatively, you can provide questions to scaffold a conversation related to the week’s topic and create groups that each have members who have read a different reading and record their perspectives on a whiteboard. The whiteboard allows students to report back to the larger class on their findings and contributes to the community knowledge and more in-depth conversations. In terms of logistics, it is useful to ask your students to indicate the reading they have read to their Zoom names. If you would like your students to choose how they would like to be grouped, you can quickly use the polling feature in Zoom to have a sense of how your students want to learn and contribute that day.

Group-based Assignments

You may have group course assignments that require students to work together. At the beginning of the course, breaking students into random groups allow students to know each other and their interests better. This process may facilitate students to form their own groups. In classes later in the term, you can create breakout rooms before the class starts based on established groups for group activities. Providing an agenda for the class ahead of time allows group members to know how to plan and manage a task, how to manage their time, and ensure that meeting goals are set. The ability for you to drop-in to each breakout room allows you to connect with each group and answer questions or address concerns they may have with the assignment.

Assigning roles

We may have students who are not comfortable participating in an online setting that may require them to be on webcams or noise-free environments. It may be useful for students to assign roles for themselves – facilitator, summarizer, note-taker, spokesperson, etc. This works well if students are assigned the same group each week as they start building trust within their group and are comfortable to be open with their ideas. Rotating roles ensure equitable participation in the course, and the roles played by each student could be quickly recorded by the instructor each week to see if these roles have been fulfilled by each participant. You may ask the team the roles each member has taken up when you visit each breakout room, or they can report this on their whiteboard that they wish to share with the entire class.

For more on group work strategies, you may want to read – 

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