7 Tips For Using Group Work Effectively in a Diverse Classroom

Image by StockSnap at Pixabay

Written by Jessica Kalra, TCDC Curriculum Consultant & Biology and Health Sciences Instructor

Many faculty/departments at Langara have identified communication and collaboration skills as important learning goals for their students. In order to help our students achieve these goals, we as instructors, may opt to employ group assignments as part of our assessment strategies. However, the value of group work extends beyond just communication. Group work can be an important tool to engage students and help them build negotiation, time management, conflict resolution and organizational skills. In the context of our increasingly diverse classrooms, group work provides students with opportunities to develop and practice intercultural communication skills. Group work also affords instructors the opportunity to assign more complex and authentic tasks that would otherwise be impossible for a student to do alone. Moreover, if students are working in groups, they are learning from each other, which can encourage deep learning (Millis 2002, Weimer, 2011). Perhaps most importantly, employer focus groups have indicated that strong communication skills and the ability to work well in teams are skills that are prioritized when hiring, in some cases, above technical know-how.

Although the myriad of benefits of group work are clear to instructors, many students are resistant to it. The key challenges for students include navigating the different personalities, attitudes, motivation levels, cultural and linguistic backgrounds and schedules of each group member (Vittrup 2015). How can we as instructors, help our students appreciate the importance of group work and relieve some of the apprehension our students face when tasked with a group assignment?

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Transformative Learning Experience for Instructor

Three days at Langara’s Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) can alter teaching philosophy, inspire a new instructional style and create positive impactful results in the classroom. In this testimonial, Manuela Klick, Instructor, Co-Op & Career Development Centre, describes her ISW experience.

“Attending the ISW has been significant for me…

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Active Learning: Much More Than a Fad (Webinar Series)

TCDC is pleased to offer an Innovative Educators series of webinars on active learning.  These webinars will take an active learning approach, so participants can expect to watch and listen and also to share ideas with the presenter and each other. Case studies will be presented, but participants are encouraged to think about and work on a course that is relevant to them during the webinar. A discussion period will follow the webinar for faculty to share thoughts, questions, and effective practices. Faculty are not required to register for all webinars. Each webinar in this series is a stand-alone presentation. Can’t make it to the group webinar session? Please contact tcdc@langara.ca for details on how to access remotely.  Continue reading

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Online Engagement Strategies for Diverse Students

Webinar Recording Available

The recording of the Magna webinar on Online Engagement Strategies is now available on-demand. You can access the presentation and PDF documents through the on-demand seminar recording link. To access, you will need to enter the following password:  engagement27

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20 Minute Mentor Commons Videos

Magna Publications Digital Library of 20 Minute Mentor Videos                                        offers more than seventy 20-minute video presentations related to teaching and administration in post-secondary institutions.  Continue reading

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April 2019 Instructional Skills Workshop

The next Langara College Instructional Skills Workshop will be held on three consecutive days (8:30am-4:30pm) April 24, 25, 26, 2019.

ISW is Your Opportunity to Enhance Your Teaching!

  • Teach more interactive and interesting classes
  • Increase your competence and confidence in the classroom
  • Expand your teaching techniques and strategies
  • Enhance your feedback and evaluative skills
  • Receive a certificate recognized across North America
  • Open to Langara employees only

These workshops fill quickly and have a maximum number of 12-16 participants, so don’t delay. To register, email Teaching and Curriculum Development Centre (TCDC) 

Interested in ISW but can’t make this session? Contact Parisa Zitouni tcdc@langara.ca for possible alternatives. FYI an evening ISW is being considered for Fall 2019. If this would suit your schedule, please let us know.

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Internationalization Strategy Public Forum

Please join us at the public forum on Monday, February 4, 2019.

Since our launch event in November 2017 the Internationalization Strategy Development working group and advisory committee have been consulting Langara’s community to draft an internationalization strategy for the College.

The public forum will be an all-day event for students and employees to come by and learn about the progress that has been made on this initiative. There will be scheduled presentations and opportunities to provide feedback and input.

More information can be found in the Langara Post.

Internationalization Strategy – Public forum
Monday, February 4, 2019
10:30 am – 4:00 pm
Scheduled presentations at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm
T-Building Gallery

We hope you will find time to join us at this important event.

-Daryl Smith

On behalf of the Internationalization Strategy Development Working Committee and Advisory Committee


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Langara Book Club: Indigenous Storywork

Leading up to this year’s APAG conference, join the Langara Book Club to explore keynote speaker Jo-Ann Archibald’s Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit.

Dr. Archibald, also known by her Stó:lō name Q’um Q’um Xiiem, is a member of the Soowahlie and Xaxli’p First Nations. She spent her career helping to advance Indigenous educational programs in Canadian elementary and university curricula. Jo-ann Archibald is a professor emerita at UBC and has been appointed officer of the Order of Canada in 2019 for her substantial work in Indigenous education.

This book unravels the role of stories and storytelling for holistic learning, teaching and healing. Based on traditional knowledge and life experiences of Elders, Archibald’s research and writing develops ways of bringing storytelling into the context of education. The characteristics of stories, the process of storytelling and establishing a receptive learning context, and ways of engaging in holistic meaning-making are considered in this book.

Discussions will revolve around two chapters per meeting, offering enough time for those who have not previously read the book to do so.  The first gathering will be on Thursday, February 14, 2019 in room T228, with following meetings on February, 28, March 14, and April 4.

Register Now

Note: The Teaching and Curriculum Development Centre will have several copies available for participants to borrow on a first come, first served basis. The Langara Library also has the e-book version of Indigenous Storywork.

This book club will be facilitated by Aurelia Kinslow, Indigenous Curriculum Consultant, and faculty from the English department.

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Finding Strength Through Difference – SIETAR BC Unconference:

While difference is often used to polarize people and inspire fear, difference is also a great source of strength and resilience.

Join us for the third annual SIETAR BC Unconference to explore the many ways that we find strength through difference.

This event is sponsored by Langara College

For more information or  to REGISTER: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/sietar-bc-unconference-finding-strength-through-difference-tickets-54499762256

Date: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 11:00am- 4:30 pm

Location: Langara Campus T Gallery  T-Building .

A light lunch will  be provided.


What is an unconference?

An unconference is all about the people in the room. Come prepared for participation in lively, intelligent, and respectful conversation on some important topics.

Tips for Attending an Unconference:

  • http://unconference.net/unconferencing-how-to-prepare-to-attend-an-unconference/
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygmYP3gSsrw
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TCDC Book Club: Make It Stick

Would you like to find out how to help your students (and yourself) learn more effectively and increase knowledge retention? Would you like to discover some new learning and practice strategies that can be applied right away in your class?

In Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, two psychologists and a storyteller, Henry Roediger, Mark McDaniel and Peter Brown, share how recent research in cognitive science can be applied to improve educational practice. Join the TCDC book club this Spring to explore and unpack common myths about learning and discover how information retrieval, varying one’s practice, embracing difficulties, and accurately assessing one’s knowledge can make the information and skills we are learning truly stick.

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This book club will be facilitated by a TCDC curriculum consultant and discussions will focus on ways participants might implement some of the strategies outlined in the book to make learning stick in their own courses. We hope you will join us this semester for thought-provoking reading, delicious snacks, and great conversation about teaching and learning.

We will be discussing one chapter each week, beginning with the first chapter on Wednesday, January 23, 2018 from 4:30pm-5:30pm in TCDC (C210).

Note: The Teaching and Curriculum Development Centre has a few print copies of the book that book club participants are welcome to borrow on a first come first served basis.

We also have available the e-book version of Make it Stick .

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Maximizing Student Engagement through Classroom Configuration

Whenever I walk into a classroom to deliver a class or a workshop, I contemplate what I want the students or participants to do, and as such, will I need to reconfigure the classroom space to be conducive for the learning activities I have planned? Do I want to move the classroom furniture around, and if so, how will I situate the desks and chairs? Or, does the default setting (i.e., rows and columns) actually work best for my planned lesson?

Learn more about how to use classroom configurations to maximize student engagement by joining our upcoming workshop.

Considering that most institutions require furniture to be put back exactly as it was found, many instructors may not want to take time to move desks around if, in 50 minutes, they have to move them back (tip – get your students to help with this task!). While default layouts can certainly be conducive to learning, there are other seating arrangements that may work better for your classroom context, making that bit of time to move things worth the initial effort.

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Langarans Exploring Pedagogy – B means Bold

In Langara’s Advanced Teaching Seminar, Langara instructors write a fictional story in the first person, highlighting, “some kind of ‘problem’, or challenge, or dilemma, or puzzlement” they have experienced in their teaching practice. The “story will, at some level, be a partial description of the landscape of good teaching (even if the teaching in the story itself isn’t – on the face of it – seen as ‘good’). A story is a snapshot of what good-and-improving teachers sometimes experience in their practice.” Woven informally into each story are the concepts and phrases pulled from various assigned course readings (see references).

For more information about the Advanced Teaching Seminar or to inquire about registering, e-mail Carolyn Wing, Educational Development Coordinator at TCDC (tcdc@langara.ca).

      B means Bold

BCAP (Business Computer Applications) is a course that teaches students the functions of Microsoft Office software. The course outline (BCAP course outline 2005) required the students to purchase a $130 Microsoft Office textbook and explore the chapters on Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint tools; the textbook was a good reference though the publication was outdated. Technology plays an important part of education and business; however, current and accurate references online seemed like a better investment than purchasing a $130 textbook.          

While reviewing the course outcomes, evaluation tools and rubrics, I was reminded I want to leave the students with tools and techniques they can apply in the working world, and I want to teach with this in mind.

Having taught the BCAP course once with the textbook, I knew I wanted to explore another way to show how these software tools could be used in the context of business. I knew the students understood that B means Bold and they were ready for answers to why, where and how they could explore uses for Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint software tools.

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TCDC Workshop: The Expert Blind Spot

“Knowing something and teaching something are two different somethings” – Kevin Tumlinson

Following a term of what felt like a teaching rut, I started to examine what was behind this change, and I realized I was falling into the same trap that caught me when I first started teaching. When most of us start as instructors, we are fresh out of graduate school and keen to ignite the passion of our discipline in our students. For myself, before I knew it, I was knee deep into my very first class with 15 years worth of knowledge in my field, but limited training on how to teach it to first year students. In my first few years developing courses, I found myself including too much content that was way above the capacity of my students. It took me a good five years or so before I understood the balance between the content and the instructional strategies to give students enough practice to learn that content. Fast-forward another ten years and add some intentional research into andragogical principles, and I was in the sweet spot. I was no longer focused on teaching content, instead I was teaching students, and to my surprise it was working!

However, this didn’t last. In recent years, I have found myself thinking things like – why don’t my students know this by now? Or, they should already be able to do this type of assignment, and it sure is taking them a long time to finish this in class task. I even found myself adding extra content for fear that the course had become too boring or too easy. On my last course surveys, I was dismayed to hear that students were struggling, and that their main issue was that there was a lot to know, but not enough time to know it. So I was back at square one, with a lot of content and not enough emphasis on learning.

Why was this happening?

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TCDC and EdTech Teaching Innovation Series

Whether you’re new to teaching or have decades of experience, we can help you keep up with the constantly changing field of education.

 Would you like to

  • ensure your materials are accessible to all learners or find ways to make classes more active?
  • learn abut Lynda.com, BrightSpace tools, or embedding videos?
  • find out about supporting intercultural competency in the classroom
  • Indigenize your curriculum but aren’t sure where to start?

Consider taking one of the many TCDC/EdTech offered workshops

Complete 6 sessions before June 2019 and receive a certificate of completion in Teaching Innovation at a celebratory luncheon.

 Register for sessions at: https://iweb.langara.bc.ca/tcdc/calendar/

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Langaran’s Exploring Pedagogy -Registration Open Now

Registration Open Now for the next session of Langara’s Advanced Teaching Seminar!

If you are an experienced Langara instructor interested in exploring the practice of teaching and in reflecting deeply on your own pedagogy, then Langara’s Advanced Teaching Seminar will be of interest to you.

The Advanced Teaching Seminar (ATS) was piloted through 2015-17 as an initiative of the Learning and Teaching APAG. It will be hosted this year by TCDC and is now seeking interested faculty.

What are the benefits? What will you gain by joining the ATS? Here is one participant’s personal reflection:

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