How to make a game 3: What, Then, Should We Be Doing?

card game solitaire

Picture by: cardgamesolitaire.com

Again, nobody’s having issues with meaningful decisions in multiplayer games — it’s single player games that are proving to be the issue here, so that’s what I’ll be addressing. Firstly, for any single-player game, you simply have to have random elements.

If your game doesn’t have randomness, then it has a correct answer, and if it has a correct answer, then there aren’t meaningful decisions for a player to make (it more closely resembles a puzzle as described above). Further, if you care about having any meaningful decisions, then “losing” has to exist in some form, and having several flavors of winning doesn’t count!

Many of you who know about the dungeon-crawling genre known as “roguelikes” might know that they are one of the last defenders of this sort of play in a single-player game. The internet podcast Roguelike Radio recently had a show topic called “Roguelike Features in Other Genres” (listen to this episode here).

I was a guest on this episode, and I predicted that we were going to start seeing more and more quote-unquote “roguelike” features in all genres of single-player games. Not because of how great roguelikes are, but because roguelikes don’t own concepts like “permadeath” (which just means, losing) and randomization at all — up until the 1990s, all games had these qualities.

Here’re a few examples of single-player games that do, in my view, have meaningful decisions.

Klondike (the solitaire card game that came with Windows, which we often just refer to as “solitaire”) is a solid example of a single-player game that has real meaningful decisions. I’ve been playing the game a long time myself, and while it might not be clear to some who’ve only played a handful of games, I notice these moments where I have a real choice that changes the future challenges and even the outcome of the game.

Many of you who know about the dungeon-crawling genre known as “roguelikes” might know that they are one of the last defenders of this sort of play in a single-player game. The internet podcast Roguelike Radio recently had a show topic called “Roguelike Features in Other Genres” (listen to this episode here).

I was a guest on this episode, and I predicted that we were going to start seeing more and more quote-unquote “roguelike” features in all genres of single-player games. Not because of how great roguelikes are, but because roguelikes don’t own concepts like “permadeath” (which just means, losing) and randomization at all — up until the 1990s, all games had these qualities.

Here’re a few examples of single-player games that do, in my view, have meaningful decisions.

Klondike (the solitaire card game that came with Windows, which we often just refer to as “solitaire”) is a solid example of a single-player game that has real meaningful decisions. I’ve been playing the game a long time myself, and while it might not be clear to some who’ve only played a handful of games, I notice these moments where I have a real choice that changes the future challenges and even the outcome of the game.

More recently, Derek Yu’s Spelunky ran with this concept, literally, and became one of the first well-known platformers to do what I’ve always thought platformers should be doing: randomizing the levels. Because the levels are random each time you play, becoming good at Spelunky has absolutely nothing to do with memorization or any “process of elimination”. It has to do with your skill at making decisions in Spelunky.

Desktop Dungeons is not only game with meaningful decisions, but it does so in a brilliantly innovative way. In the game, you gain bonus experience for defeating a monster that’s higher level than yourself. So, you can choose to use potions early-game (usually reserved for the end-game boss) in order to defeat some mid-level monsters to get that extra experience.

gamasutra1.com

Picture: gamasutra.com

It’s a great example of an “ambiguous decision” — you don’t know for certain if the spent potion will be worth the extra experience or not. No level of experience playing other games will have helped you make this decision, either. This is what’s so exciting about games: the idea that when someone comes up with a game that’s new, it exercises your brain in new ways. It forces you to make new kinds of decisions that work in a way that your brain never had to work before.

If we can agree that meaningful decisions are important, then we can hone in, focus our games down on offering as many interesting, meaningful decisions as possible per moment spent playing the game. I call this “efficiency in game design.”

While Klondike does have some meaningful decisions, it has many no-brainers or false decisions — so I’d say it has a rather low level of efficiency in this way. Spelunky‘s a bit higher since it’s real time and you’re threatened most of the time, but there are still some situations that are no-brainers. Desktop Dungeons is highly efficient, and while it may seem to newcomers that there are no-brainers, better players realize that the most obvious moves are rarely the best ones.

And here’s another way to look at the whole “ambiguous decision” thing — this is what makes games special and interesting: even when you won, there was always room for you to have won by more, and you’re not sure how. In contests, you always know how — hit the moles even faster when they appear next time. There’s no ambiguity about what you should be doing. In puzzles, if it’s solved, it’s solved. There may be different ways to solve the puzzle, but all solutions are equal. This feeling of “I wonder how I could improve” is what’s so magical and amazing about games. In a way, games ask us to rise to our unknown theoretical highest level of ability, and this is really valuable.

I propose this philosophy about games not to be pedantic or controlling about how we look at games. It is my sincere belief that the only way we can improve our games is by looking closely at what makes a game a game. I don’t see many people doing this; instead, I see a lot of people simply echoing safe but conversationally useless ideas like “games are different things to different people.”

Again, I propose that we remember that there is a thing called a game, and even if you don’t agree with my ideas, I hope that you do pursue your truth about what games are so that you can focus your games into the most efficient, fun games they can be. To quote the author Robert McKee in his book Story, We need a rediscovery of the underlying tenets of our art, the guiding principles that liberate talent.”

I am sure that this post will be very interesting for who will want to understand some theory and practice.

Cheers

Julia Echeverria

 

 

How to make a game 2

Article, entirely from gamasutra.com

Interacting

Picture and article from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/167418/what_makes_a_game.php?page=2

A Hierarchy of Interactive Systems

As I said, a lot of different types of media get bunched up together in a giant bracket we refer to as “video games,” but as I also said, I think we all know that games are also their own unique thing when it comes to any non-digital fields. Employees at Toys R Us have no problem separating their puzzles from their board games, each of which usually get their own separate areas, for instance.

I’ve created a chart that illustrates the relationships between some of the different types of interactive systems that we encounter in the world casually known as “games”:

Simulators (Examples: Flight Simulator, Sim City, Dwarf Fortress) — A simulator is a type of interactive system whose primary responsibility it is to simulate something.

In the end, one of the interesting differences between a simulator and a game is that it’s not a valid complaint to say that a simulator isn’t fun. Simulators really have no inherent requirement to be fun — they only need to simulate something.

So, you could have a simulator that simulates something fun and interesting as in Dwarf Fortress, or you could have a plant-growing simulator. It’s worth noting that even in Dwarf Fortress, there’s no guarantee that anything particularly interesting will happen.

I recall one game where my fortress went totally undisturbed, with almost no significant events happening for many hours. Were it a game, I might be disappointed, but given that it’s a simulator, I actually appreciate that this is a real possibility.

To be more precise, the real difference between a simulator and a game is that a simulator is not a type of contest, and a game is. Of course, I suppose you could have a “contest simulator”, but the fact remains that competition is not an inherent part of simulation.

Contests (Examples: a weightlifting contest, Guitar Hero, Simon) — All games are contests, but not all contests are games. The issue is that while contests are competitive, they do not require meaningful decisions. They are often a pure measurement of ability — a simple question of “how much weight can you lift”, or for the example of Guitar Hero or Simon, “how well have you memorized this sequence”. It can be a bit hazy in some situations, but generally I think most of us have a pretty good innate sense of what the difference is between a game and a contest.

One exception to this would be something like Guitar Hero, which I expect that many people would be appalled at the thought that it is a contest, and not a game. Firstly, you should know that calling something “not a game” is not a value judgment, although it’s often mistaken for one. I personally believe that Guitar Hero is a lot more like a contest than a game, because it is a pure measurement of ability, and I would argue that little or no meaningful decisions can be made during play.

Puzzles (Examples: a Portal level, a jigsaw puzzle, a math problem) — A puzzle is another word for “a problem”. A puzzle has a single correct answer — a “solution”.

Some games can also be solved (“perfect information” games, such as chess, where all the information about the game state is known to the player), however if it is common for people to be able to solve a game, it’s considered a knock against that game (Tic-Tac-Toe is solved easily by most people other than very young children, and therefore it is not considered a good game for adults). Puzzles, on the other hand, do not get a knock for having a solution; that’s what they’re all about.

So do puzzles have “decision-making”? I argue that they do not — at least, certainly not at all in the same way that games do. Puzzles are not games, because while some puzzles allow players to make decisions, this is actually rather irrelevant to the outcome. All that matters for a puzzle is whether or not the player gave the correct answer.

If a math problem asks four plus six, if you say 10, you have solved that puzzle. What you did along the way changes nothing about the outcome. So, while you can make decisions while attempting to find the solution, these decisions are actually irrelevant to the puzzle. In games, decisions that are made by the player have effects that change the state of the game, and the outcome of the game. So in games, a player’s decisions really matter in a way that they don’t in puzzles, and this is the way that I draw the line between games and puzzles.

Enemies of the Decision

As I see it, we’ve got three major issues that are most guilty of threatening the meaningful decision in games. These are also examples of problems which would naturally be avoided if game designers adopted my philosophy for games. They are character growth, saved games, and a story-based structure.

Character Growth. Ideally, a game should be increasing in difficulty as a game progresses. However, we’ve now got an expectation that our character — our avatar — will gradually increase in power as the game progresses.

Of course, designers try to make up for this by cranking the late game difficulty further, but this is a very bad position to put yourself in, and it’s one of the reasons why we in video games have such trouble balancing our games.

Essentially, you’re trying to hit a moving target. Assuming that the player can become better at the skill of the game, and the character can also become more powerful, and both of these can happen at somewhat irregular rates, the prospect of balancing late-game difficulty becomes impossible.

Anyone who’s played a Final Fantasy game through to the end can back me up on this (I remember the final boss ofFinal Fantasy VII being pathetically easy for my Cloud to take down.) I think the designers of such games are aware of this issue and prefer to err on the side of “too easy”.

Of course, if your game is too easy, then your decisions are no longer meaningful (as my decisions weren’t meaningful in my Sephiroth battle — I think it was a foregone conclusion just based on character stats alone).

Saved Games. I call the quicksave/quickload (or any similar system) “the most powerful weapon ever wielded” in a video game. This one is so straightforward that I can keep it short: essentially, a player’s job is to try to play his best; to try to make optimal moves. The game allows you to save and load whenever you want. So, when faced with a difficult decision, what is the logical thing to do? Save the game, then make the decision. Well, it looks like that was a bad idea! Re-load the game, and try Door Number Two. Hooray! I’m so good at this game!gamasutra.com

I will end to share with you this excellent article written on gamasutra.com

Julia

How to make an educational or other games

Hi, going on with game designer and my interest is to design and make an an educational video game, so here are some tools and reflexions.

Cheers

Julia

gamefor.com

picture by gamefront.com

[Keith Burgun, founder, and designer at 100 Rogues developer Dinofarm Games argues that some video games are not “games” at all — and posits a way to home in on the precise elements that make games engaging to players.]

In the beginning, Tetris had a much looser system for the random piece (Tetronimo) generation. This meant that when you were playing, you could not be sure of how long it would be until your next line piece would come. This made the decision to “save up for a Tetris, or cash in now” a lot more ambiguous.

Between the new “7-bag” system of piece generation (which puts all seven pieces into a bag and draws them out one at a time, guaranteeing that you will get a line piece every 14 pieces at the latest), the “hold box”, and usually five or six “next” boxes, modern Tetris is largely a matter of execution. Maybe you love what Tetris has become, and think that these changes are purely positive. That’s fine — but I think we can all agree that something has been lost.

The Concept of Games

I propose that games are a specific thing.

What I mean by that is that I think there is a unique concept that I can only call “game”, and this is something different from the large blanket term we use in the digital game world. We video gamers call everything from digital puzzles, interactive fiction, simulators, to even digital crafting tools “games” (or “video games”).

Essentially, anything digital, interactive, and used for amusement gets called a game. And the dictionary will go even further — it calls a game an “amusement or pastime.” So watching TV is a “game.” Hell, eating a can of beans can be a “game” if it amuses you!

The thing is — there exists a special thing, a thing that isn’t a toy, isn’t a puzzle and isn’t any of those other things I mentioned. It’s a thing that’s been around since the dawn of history, and it still thrives today. We have no other word for it, really than “game”, so for this article, that’s the language I’ll be using. To refer to the larger category of “all digital interactive entertainment”, I’ll use the term “video game.”

I define this thing — game — as “a system of rules in which agents compete by making ambiguous decisions.” Note that “agents” don’t necessarily have to both be human, one is often the system (as in a single-player game). But the “ambiguous decisions” part is crucial, and I am here to argue that it’s the single most important aspect of a game.

This is a prescriptive philosophy — a way to look at games that you may not have before — not a description of what exists. In other words, of course, there are video games (I prefer to adopt the mobile-gaming term “apps”) that are puzzles that have elements of games, and there are games that have elements of simulators. I’m here to argue that because of this blurring of the word “game” and its inherent qualities, we are somewhat inadvertently losing this meaningful, ambiguous kind of decision, particularly in the area of single-player digital games.

What Makes a Decision Meaningful?

It’s possible that some of us have forgotten how good it is to make an interesting, difficult decision that we can never take back.

Games have a very special kind of decision-making. In a good game, the decisions have the following qualities: they’re interesting, they’re difficult, and the better answer is ambiguous. Above all else, however, the decisions have to be “meaningful”.

I don’t mean “meaningful” as in personal meaning, such as “they make you think about your relationship with your dad” (although they certainly could). By “meaningful”, I simply mean that your decisions have meaning and repercussions inside the game system; they cause new challenges to emerging, and most importantly of all, they have meaning with regards to the outcome of the game.

Some may be quick to point out that all video games — puzzles, simulators, toys — all involve some form of “decision-making”. That is true, but nothing else forces the player to make decisions in quite the way that a game does. Any decisions you might make in a puzzle, for instance, are either correct or incorrect, and decisions you make in a simulator do not have a larger contest (context) inside which to become meaningful.

See you in the next post.

 

Whan to be a game disigner?

Hi, as you all know by now I am studing at MIT “educational technology, in this moment I am learning how to design a educational game, and I have find this video which ilustrate what designer do, it is easy to understand and the vidio it self is nice.

Hope to can see and enjoy it

Julia Echeverria

Attracting teachers to Ed Tech: Smartphone and learning

SMARTPHONE TABLET AND LEARNING

Introduction proposal

Attracting teachers to the use of technological devices in the classroom as part of the Project: learning challenge in the use of Technology for teachers with MITx and Peeragogy.org, Chapter II

smartphone 1

Image by bsbooklove.blogspot.com

There are many critics of the use of mobile phones in class, probably they are right.

The case is to understand its use in classes can be highly difficult to comprehend, not only for teachers but also for students.

This because none of both participants in this debate knows how to use it, students haven’t had adequate guidance or have not been at all. Teachers have not had time to learn to use to do the same, and the end is a problem somewhat difficult.

THE STUDENTS

  1. The student uses the mobile to play and chat, playfulness.
  2. The student has not been taught its use as a digital citizen.
  3. Students should be taught the correct use as an instrument for learning.

dlp-technology-for-classroom-projectors

Image b
THE TEACHERS
  1. For teaching staff, both technological change so quickly and with an antiquated education system committed to the status quo, it is understandable that the word technical device panic them.
  2. Teachers do not know that the specialized apparatus with which can save time and make their classes more motivating, is nothing more than the phone used as such, to chat, send messages, all tasks that have not required much learning as one might have thought at first.
  3. We should attract teachers to a simple, fun and totally practical learning these skills. Thus, they can pass on their knowledge to their students, promoting a new educational system in which technology has a place. Because we learn, puts us things easier to explain, we can have an immediate feedback if we wish and so much more.

 

“If educators teach the respectful and appropriate use of technology in the classroom and use it to build their skill as well, the future of education technology looks bright.”

By Marcus A. Hennessy

“Learning is natural; another thing is to teach.”

Julia Echeverria

Read more on in the next article

Learning Challenge III

Dear reader, to finish with the Idea and acknowledge about challenge to learn, I am glad to show you two videos:

“The first one features Greg Schwanbeck, a teacher and instructional technology coach at Westwood High School, and the second features Dr. Matthew Schneps, who works on several projects here at MIT and elsewhere. Both videos introduce a thought-provoking and difficult design challenge and your help is needed”.

Watch both videos and then decide which design challenge is most interesting to you.”

Waiting for your comment and ideas, here or in any social media I share with.

Greg Schwanbeck video:

 https://youtu.be/w2Ovgcz95DQ

Dr. Matthew Schnep:

 https://youtu.be/mLFsON1rMF0

Hope you like it

Julia Echeverria Moran

Women, the real power in social media

Dear readers, as I am taking the following post about the digital challenge, I leave this interesting and nice infographic.
” Good for us”
Have a good day, here in Spain, is beautiful with spring coming.
regards
Julia Echeverria Moran

infografia_mujeres_redes_sociales

Vía

Active Learning challenge: auto draft

 

Dear readers, as part of the “Educational Technology” course, given by MITx (Massachuset Institute of Technology), “I’ve been thinking of my own learning challenge needs, in a real scenario. I do not say everything what I think is right, which is why I propose this reflexions, if you have any comment feel free to comment my autodraft. To start with the definition, I invite you to see the below video, very clear and instructive.

Video by: Andrianna Gervais

Abstract
My learning challenge on educational technology right now is: To design
 a course about educational technology for the teachers. The challenge will be to arrive to teacher who maybe want or not to learn some technology, and get in contact with some hight school in order to offer to test the course as an strategic that cover to challenge, if I present the course like a test, I think they will feel less stress, and at the same time, I test the course.
How the course would be used, and how it would benefit the learner.
Background.
All who are dedicated to teaching does want to engage and motivate student for better kownledge understanding using some technological tools
The professionals I know and my selve have understood that it is necessary to go on whith own PLE (personal learning environment), in order to be at the head of education, but the vast majority of teachers and students do notknow how to use educational technology in the classroom or on it.
We can find on the network that any researcher or teacher in these areas say it is necessary to move in that direction, we all agree that teachers andtrainer the need to acquire these skills.
Today we work with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, simulations,app that allow us to not only design customized courses but, also perform many collaborative actions that allow the students to improve their learninghow to properly use the tools found on the network such as educational video game, all this in order to motivate students to create their own PLE making collaborative work.
Here I have an interesting video: Building Connections by Breaking Barriers

https://youtu.be/HHKjDSu1vo0
What do I need? Research and design a course on digital skills for teachers aged over 25 years or either graduates and teachers no age limit in order to acquire the knowledge that is absolutely necessary for the school, in your personal life and with its surroundings. So, We Have to define Who the learner is and on what context They are using technology. For sure our learners will be teacher studying by themselves, or tailored a course for different schools and it's needed for learning. I will like to propose to find different free tool that will work with collaborative learning inside and outside the schools, the context I have say already is, “learning how to design a course with collaborative work”. I preferred to think in term of synchronous and asynchronous collaborative learning, using blended learning, or/ and other different methodology, in the first time we will work thinking on a Moodle platform but we can try another.

Leer más “Active Learning challenge: auto draft”

“Collaborative Learning: Group Work.”

What is collaborative learning?

eschoolsnews.com

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and “doing” are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning.

Collaborative learning can occur peer-to-peer or in larger groups. Peer learning, or peer instruction, is a type of collaborative learning that involves students working in pairs or small groups to discuss concepts, or find solutions to problems. This often occurs in a class session after students are introduced to course material through readings or videos before class, and/or through instructor lectures. Similar to the idea that two or three heads are better than one, many instructors have found that through peer instruction, students teach each other by addressing misunderstandings and clarifying misconceptions. For more on peer learning, visit The Official Peer Instruction Blog.

Group work or collaborative learning can take a variety of forms, such as quick, active learning activities in class or more involved group projects that span the course of a semester.

What is the impact of collaborative learning or group work?

Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills.
  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.
  • Increase in student retention, self-esteem, and responsibility.
  • Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life social and employment situations.

What are some examples of collaborative learning or group work activities?

Stump your partner

  • Students take a minute to create a challenging question based on the lecture content up to that point.
  • Students pose the question to the person sitting next to them.
  • To take this activity a step further, ask students to write down their questions and hand them in. These questions can be used to create tests or exams. They can also be reviewed to gauge student understanding.

Think-pair-share/ Write-pair-share

  • The instructor poses a question that demands analysis, evaluation, or synthesis.
  • Students take a few minutes to think through an appropriate response.
  • Students turn to a partner (or small groups) and share their responses. Take this a step further by asking students to find someone who arrived at an answer different from their own and convince their partner to change their mind.
  • Student responses are shared within larger teams or with the entire class during a follow-up discussion.

Catch-up

  • Stop at a transition point in your lecture.
  • Have students turn to a partner or work in small groups to compare notes and ask clarifying questions.
  • After a few minutes, open the floor to a few questions.

Fishbowl debate

  • Ask students to sit in groups of three.
  • Assign roles. For example, the person on left takes one position on a topic for debate, the person on right takes the opposite position, and the person in the middle takes notes and decides which side is the most convincing and provides an argument for his or her choice.
  • Debrief by calling on a few groups to summarize their discussions.

Case study

  • Create four to five case studies of similar difficulty.
  • Have students work in groups of four or five to work through and analyze their case study.
  • Provide 10-15 minutes (or adequate time to work through the cases).
  • Walk around and address any questions.
  • Call on groups randomly and ask that students share their analysis. Continue until each case study has been addressed.

Team-based learning (adapted from L.K. Michaelsen in Davis, 2009. p.215)

  • Start a course unit by giving students some tasks to complete, such as reading or lab assignments. Consider assigning these to be completed before class.
  • Check students’ comprehension of the material with a quick multiple-choice quiz. Have students submit their answers.
  • Assign students to groups and have them review their answers with group members to reach consensus. Have each group submit one answered quiz.
  • Record both the individual student assessment scores and the final group assessment score (both of which are used toward each student’s course grade).
  • Deliver a lecture that specially targets any misconceptions or gaps in knowledge the assessments reveal.
  • Give groups a challenging assignment, such as solving a problem or applying a theory to a real world situation.
  • For more information on this strategy at teambasedlearning.org.

Group problem solving

There are many instructional strategies that involve students working together to solve a problem, including inquiry based learning, authentic learning, and discovery learning. While they each have their own unique characteristics, they all fundamentally involve:

  • Presenting students with a problem.
  • Providing some structure or guidance toward solving the problem. Note, however, that they are all student-centered activities in which the instructor may have a very minimal role.
  • Reaching a final outcome or solution.


Problem-Based Learning is a collaborative, student-centered approach to learning in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem.

How can you design group work assignments?

First, think about the course learning outcomes and how group work might address them. Then consider how groups will be organized, how student learning and group processes will be supported, and how students will be evaluated, if at all.

Short in-class activities may take less planning, but it is still important to consider how the process will play out in a classroom situation.

How will you introduce the activity? How much time is required? How will you debrief as a group? For in-class collaborative activities, focus on asking effective questions that engage students in the types of learning you are trying to encourage.

For more involved projects that take place over a longer period of time and for which students will be graded, plan each stage of the group work.

How will groups be formed? Allowing students to form their own groups will likely result in uneven groupings. If possible, arrange groups by skills and/or backgrounds. For example, ask students to rate their comfort/ability level on a number of skills (research, background knowledge of course topics, work experience, etc.) and try to arrange groups that include “experts” in different areas. Another possibility is to do a preliminary assessment; and then based on the results, purposefully create groups that blend abilities.

How will you ensure that students are productive? Set aside time early in the semester to allow for icebreakers and team-building activities. Consider using class time for group work to eliminate students having to coordinate meeting times outside of class. Much of the group work can be done collaboratively online, again, lessening the difficulty of coordination. See more onhow to manage groups in the next question.

What technology might assist the group work? If technology use is required (e.g. wikis), you will need to incorporate learning activities around the use of the technology. At the beginning, do a low stakes activity that helps students become familiar with the technology. If other types of technology can facilitate the group work processes, guide students in its use.

What can the students do? Choose assignment topics or tasks that are related to the real world, and can be connected to students’ lives. For example, have students try to analyze and solve a current local or international problem. Have students complete tasks that involve using and developing skills that they will likely use in their future professional lives, such as writing a proposal or collaborating online. Here are some other considerations for creating effective group work activities:

  • Break a larger assignment into smaller pieces and set multiple deadlines to ensure that students work toward reaching milestones throughout the process rather than pulling it all together at the last minute.
  • Incorporate peer review at each milestone to encourage self-awareness and to ensure ongoing feedback.
  • Tie in-class activities and lectures to the group assignment. For example, in class sessions, provide clues that assist students in their group projects.
  • Be sure to explain how students will be evaluated and use a rubric to communicate these expectations. See more onhow to evaluate group work.

How can you manage group work?

Managing shorter in-class collaborative learning activities

This generally involves a 3-step process:

  • Introduce the task. This can be as simple as instructing students to turn to their neighbor to discuss or debate a topic.
  • Provide students with enough time to engage with the task. Walk around and address any questions as needed.
  • Debrief. Call on a few students to share a summary of their conclusions. Address any misconceptions or clarify any confusing points. Open the floor for questions.

This process can be as short at 5 minutes, but can be longer depending on the task at hand.

Managing larger group work projects

Here are some strategies to help ensure productive group dynamics:

  • Provide opportunities for students to develop rapport and group cohesion through icebreakers, team-building, and reflection exercises.
  • Give students time to create a group work plan allowing them to plan for deadlines, and divvy up responsibilities.
  • Have students establish ground rules. Students can create a contract for each member to sign; this contract can include agreed-upon penalties for those who fail to fulfill obligations.
  • Assign roles to members of each group and change the roles periodically. For example, one student can be the coordinator, another the note-taker, another the summarizer, and another the planner of next steps.
  • Allow students to rate each other’s quality and quantity of contributions. Use these evaluations when giving individual grades, but do not let it weigh heavily on a students’ final grade. Communicate clearly how peer assessment will influence grades.
  • Check in with groups intermittently, but encourage students to handle their own issues before coming to you for assistance.

How can you evaluate group work?

Student group work can result in the production of:

  • wikis
  • proposals
  • reports of case studies
  • in-class or video presentations
  • posters

Here are some ways to provide feedback on group productivity throughout the process as well as on the group product.

  • Evaluate students on both their contributions to group processes as well as the final product.
  • Create a detailed explanation of what your expectations are.
  • Provide scores for individuals as well as groups.
  • Use rubrics. Consider asking students for feedback and including some of their ideas to the rubric.
  • Incorporate peer and self-assessment at various milestones. This is a good way to check in on the assignment progress as well as the group dynamics.
  • Communicate clearly to students at the beginning how you will calculate their grades.

What are some general strategies to keep in mind when incorporating group work?

  • Introduce group work early in the semester to set clear student expectations.
  • Plan for each stage of group work.
  • Carefully explain to your students how groups will operate and how students will be graded.
  • Help students develop the skills they need to succeed in doing group activities, such as using team-building exercises or introducing self-reflection techniques.
  • Establish ground rules for participation and contributions.
  • Consider using written contracts.
  • Incorporate self and peer assessments for group members to evaluate their own and others’ contributions.

By

References

Barkely, E.F., Cross, K.P. & Howell Major, C. (2005). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bruffee, K.A. (1998). Collaborative learning: Higher education, interdependence, and the authority of knowledge. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Davis, B.G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed). (pp. 190-221). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Felder, R.M., Felder, G.N. & Dietz, E.J. (1998). A longitudinal study of engineering student performance and retention. V. Comparisons with traditionally-taught students.Journal of Engineering Education, 87(4), 469-480.

Michaelsen, L.K., Knight, A.B. & Fink, L.D. (Eds.) (2004). Team-based learning: A transformative use of small groups in college teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus.eschoolsnews.com

Peer 2 Peer University

Dr. J. Philipp Schmidt, a research scientist here at MIT, talks about Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), an online platform that supports peer learning, a type of collaborative learning. In peer learning, learners are responsible for their own learning trajectory but by working together, they learn about a topic as well as other skills. Principles such as openness and creative learning guide the design of this type of community. Check out the segment where Philipp discusses the four Ps (4:10 in the video).