Where Teaching and Learning Matter
I had an experience recently of a group that self destructed, the week before the task was due. They had sort of self selected at the start of the course in as much as they were unhappy to join with any other students in the class, and one of their members pulled out of the course 2 weeks before the due date, this student had been driving the group somewhat but in a negative fashion. I told them to get through to the end and work past their difficulties, they did this but argued till the end, which they did actually reach I might add. Mind you they weren't the only group that had issues...
The analysis of this event has me thinking it will be better to assign students to groups next time (the groups were self selected on this occasion), in fact most of the feedback post event indicated that the students favoured appointed groups in the after event debrief, based on their experience. Next time I will also embed progress checks in the assignment as well as getting them to use either a closed Moodle forum or Google docs so I have evidence of their planning and can monitor group dynamics more closely.
I think most of the students in that cohort were negatively disposed to group work and I am still seeking ways to improve their experience.