The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

1 Introduction

Course delivery by 'chalk and talk' is still the predominant process favoured by economics university departments, but with an estimated 75 per cent of departments using group projects and presentations it seems that group work can already be designated as significant (Economics LTSN, 2003). An increasing interest in group work has been promoted by higher student-lecturer ratios and rhetoric about learning and teaching.

This chapter on the 'why', 'how' and 'what' of economics group work in higher education is ambitious. It attempts to give relevant justification, explanation and ideas to those who are considering group work options for the first time, while providing details to a conceptual and practical standard that are of use to the more seasoned exponent.

Section 2 addresses some practical issues in using group work, at the same time as exploring potential benefits in terms of learning outcomes. Lecturers who have been hesitant to reduce their reliance on traditional teaching methods may find this particularly useful.

Section 3 acknowledges the critical part that motivation has to play in the success or failure of groups. This section offers some practical measures that aim to improve the effectiveness of group work by achieving high levels of student motivation.

In designing group work, the lecturer selects from so many options that the final design will almost certainly be unique. Whilst accepting this, section 3 offers a tentative template for group work. It aims to:

  • identify the key issues to be considered in designing group work;
  • analyse the implications of the design of group tasks;
  • evaluate the options for assessment.