4 Tips for Managing Art Group Work

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Managing art group work can be a challenge and seem like more trouble than it’s worth.  How can you assess a single student when it’s group work? What are you assessing them on?  What do you do if someone is not contributing?

Despite these worries, I am in favour of group art projects. Of course, there are pros and cons.  The pros are that you can plan ambitious pieces of work that would be impossible for one student alone to create.  It can give students the opportunity to learn the skills of teamwork and how teamwork can lead to ambitious outcomes.  Many students enjoy working with their peers.

The cons are that some students prefer to work independently as they really care about their work or are ‘interpersonal learners’. Other students enjoy it as they see it as an opportunity to chat with their friends and not really have to work that hard. It can also be difficult for a teacher to grade students if they don’t plan to monitor students as the work is taking place.

So how do you plan for successful group projects?

1. Planning the Groups.

Planning the groups in advance is essential for successful group work and a smooth start to the project.

One way to plan the groups would be to group them by ability. Place a high ability and a low ability student in a group with two middle ability students. It may not be possible for every group to have this exact ratio of students but this would be what to aim for.

You may already have a seating plan where you simply tell your students that they are working in their table groups.  This could cause minimum disruption, just make sure it aims for maximum outcomes.

You may have a really, really well-behaved group where you allow them to put themselves into groups. Please be aware of friendship issues and the possibility of someone being left out.

Knowing in advance exactly how many groups you are going to have is also going to help you plan what materials you need and what quantities.

2. Assessing Group Work as it Happens.

Trying to remember who did what, how well and who didn’t contribute is very difficult after the event.  Creating an assessment grid that has the students names down one side and the assessment criteria along the top and a pre-planned rating system is the key to easy assessment. A simple 1 – 5 star system can work well.  Sharing the assessment criteria with your students before they start is both essential and fair.

The group assessment sheet below is editable and free to download when you register on The Arty Teacher website. It uses the headings leadership, communication, contribution and practical skill. You can rate each student 1-5. You can add numbers quickly when you see evidence or lack of the required skills. This will probably happen over a series of lessons.  You fill it in during the lesson as students work.

Some students are always going to stand out for good and bad reasons.  As the lessons progress, you can focus on those students that don’t stand out and fill in the assessment grid for them.  You might find some hidden gems!

3. Using the Assessment Criteria to Raise Attainment.

As students work you can remind them of the assessment criteria. For example, you can announce to the whole class that you are looking around the room and making sure that everybody is contributing. Or you could tell the whole class that you are seeing some brilliant communication and listening skills in a particular group.  Use the assessment criteria to raise attainment and motive your class.

4. What to do if a Student isn’t Contributing?

If a student isn’t contributing you can show them that you have given them a one or two star rating on the assessment sheet but that nothing would make you happier than to see that number go higher.  When you see them working you say across the room or quietly to them, ‘Brilliant Liam, I’m adding a star’.

Register on The Arty Teacher to download this free ‘Assessing Group Work’ assessment grid.  When you register you can download 3 of the resources that are categorised as free each month.

assessing group work

The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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