How to Use the Group Resume Activity to Help Students Prepare for Group Work
If your students are working in groups for long-term projects, it’s important to allow the time and space for them to get to know each other. Icebreakers and “getting to know you” activities are fun and can work well to reduce anxiety or uncertainty.
But, many students bring negative “baggage” into the group space due to negative experiences with group work in previous classes. They may not see how valuable others’ contributions can be. And they may not understand how successful groups work.
When a group of strangers is challenged to work together, especially when it involves “high stakes” assignments such as final projects and presentations, it’s helpful to understand the different “stages of group development” which groups go through as they work together (Tuckman, 1965 & 1977). These five stages of group development involve a process of forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.
In this article, let’s focus on the “forming” stage which is when your students are first placed into a group and need to “form” or get to know each other.
What You Can Do To Support Students During the “Forming” Stage: The Group Resume Activity
One strategy to help students start the “forming” process is to encourage them to create a “group resume.” The group resume is designed to help students share their skills, talents, knowledge, and experiences with their group members.
They are building a resume together to highlight their collective experiences, discuss their contributions, and make visible their value to the group.
Benefits of the group resume activity:
Students have the opportunity to meet their group members and focus on positive discussions about what skills, knowledge, and experiences they bring to the group.
Students have the time and space to get to know each other before starting an assignment or project.
Students are introduced to group members in a way that connects to their coursework.
Students can begin thinking about how to divide the group work and align tasks with their strengths. (Or, you have the opportunity to encourage students to choose tasks that are NOT within their strengths so they can grow and learn new skills.)
You show your students how seriously you take group work and how much you are willing to support your students through the process.
You use class time for group work to show the value of collaborative learning and the importance of working together throughout the semester rather than waiting until the last minute.
The activity gives groups a “low stakes” practice assignment to work on together before they begin collaborating on graded assignments.
You can add time for reflection after the activity to help groups analyze how they worked together, discuss how they communicated, and set goals for what they want to improve.
You can share Tuckman’s stages of group development to help students see the process successful groups and teams go through as they work together.
How to do the group resume activity:
Directions for instructors:
Prepare a worksheet for each group that includes a list of statements describing skills, knowledge, and experiences. Place a blank line next to each statement which provides a place for students to write their name. (Note: If you don’t want to create printed worksheets, you can use Google docs or another online tool, as long as students can access the list of statements together as a group.)
Directions for students:
Step 1: Write your group’s name/number at the top of the page. Discuss each of the skills/knowledge/experiences with your group members. Then, write the group member’s (or members’) name(s) in the blank.
Step 2: Once you complete this step, create a “group resume” highlighting the group’s skills, knowledge, and experience which you will all bring to the job (your final project!).
What are some example statements you can use in your course?
Here’s a list of example statements you may want to include on your worksheet:
In your group, who… Name(s)
Is a good speaker?
Is a good listener?
Can manage details?
Likes to lead?
Likes to follow/follow directions?
Thinks fast on his/her feet?
Makes decisions quickly?
Is a thinker, rather than a talker?
Is a talker, rather than a thinker?
Has neat handwriting?
Is good with numbers, stats, data?
Can create effective slides?
Is a strong writer?
Likes to pull ideas together?
Can handle criticism.
Uses social media for work.
You can also add discipline-specific items and/or experiences based on the course you teach, the project they will be working on, or the careers your students are preparing for. Or, you can challenge the groups to create their own skills and them to the list.
Has worked in a research lab.
Can describe [insert theory].
Has experience [in your field].
Has conducted an intake interview with a patient.
Has published something [insert relevant example].
Has had to fire someone.
Has had to hire someone.
Has been on call during an emergency.
Has performed in front of a crowd.
Has helped a client prepare a tax form.
Can speak more than one language.
Has started their own business.
As students reflect on the process and learn more about their group members, they will be able to think carefully about how to delegate tasks and leverage each other’s strengths so they present a final project they are all proud of.
If a group starts to struggle and feels responsibilities are not being upheld, they can re-visit the resume and remind each other what their strengths are and why they are an important part of the group.
Tuckman B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 63(6), Jun 1965, 384-399. Online citation and link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0022100
Tuckman, B. & Jensen, M. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group and Organization Studies. 2(4). pp. 419-427.