Preparing before Class:
Team folders are very helpful for organizing application activity materials. You can pre-load the folders with the application activities worksheets, reporting cards and any other required materials.
Introducing the Task
The session typically begins with the distribution of the worksheets and problems. It is important to set the students properly to task by reminding them of the applicable knowledge they bring to the problem and the length of time they will be given to discuss it within their team before reporting their decisions. If there are any written artifacts that need to be generated then students should be reminded of this.
Once properly tasked the students are given time to discuss the questions and arrive at a team decision.
As a faculty member you should circulate around the room to listen to the conversations. Two important things can be accomplished with this listening: 1) you send the message that what the students are saying is important enough that the instructor will listen, and 2) if mis-conceptions or mis-understanding are preventing student progressing then you can intervene and provide some expert clarification or guidined questioning either at the team level or whole class level. The important part is to encourage student to student discussion.
When you sense that discussion is nearing completion, it is good to check in with the teams and announce that either more time will be allotted for discussions or teams should get ready for report. Asking teams to get ready for report often dramatically increases the amount of student energy in the classroom.
Once the teams are ready, you ask them to hold up their team voting card that indicate their teams answer to a particular question. The interesting thing here is that both you and the students get to see student thinking and contrasts in student thinking. These contrasts provide rich starting points for student discussions.
At Wright State, they use flags that allow teams to indicate when they have completed their worksheet and are ready to report. The flag stands also allow the Voting cards to be attached so they are visible for the duration of the discussion.
The discussion between teams allows students to challenge each other’s decisions, defend their own thinking and thoughtfully examine other teams’ as well as their own decision making process. The discussion often focuses on the thinking behind the decisions, rather than the correctness of a given choice.
The instructor needs to facilitates this discussion to makes sure all voices are heard and the decisions are well examined. When you create a good activity that divides the class the hardest part, for many instructors, is to get out of the way and let the students discuss it. It is important to move around the room and get the discussion to be between students and not student to instructor.
It can be important for the instructor to properly close an activity. Reminding students of the salient points, general rules that may have emerged, point of view that were not considered and any questions that might still be outstanding is important for reinforcing what has been learned. When a rich discussion is not reflected on and properly closed some of the long term value may be lost for the students.
Many schools use team worksheets that allow teams to work through a series of problems and record their decisions and most important supporting rationales before sequentially reporting and discussing. These worksheets are typically collected at the end of the activities. They may or may not be marked.