Assignment Sample: Postgraduate Group Work

The following group work example was rolled out in a core module for the MA in Digital Arts and Humanities in University College Cork. In my current role as the DARIAH Ireland Postdoctoral Researcher, one of my tasks is to trial new, existing and experimental pedagogical approaches with a  particular emphasis on embedding digital literacies in the curriculum. Group work is often used and often critiqued as an assessment approach. I decided to explore this during the 2017/18 year and trial a streamlined approach that builds various group tasks up over the course of a semester, culminating in a piece of collaborative writing

You can read the module description for DH6032: Communities of Practice in Digital Scholarship HERE. Given that communities of practice is at the heart of the module, some element of group work is fitting. The approach I take in this example relies on collaborative tools like and Google Drive. One of the challenges of group work is accountability. These tools are helpful in that respect because I can view editing histories and individual contributions within group work samples.

The collaborative project occurs alongside other elements of continuous assessment, including individual scholarly blogging, and participating in class discussion boards.

The students are asked to collaboratively write a paper on a communally agreed topic. They must complete a series of smaller assignments in the process of developing, planning, researching, and writing their assignments. Full details of the collaborative assignment can be viewed in this Google Doc. Feel free to comment on it. I am happy to take feedback and answer questions. To summarise:

  • Each group is assigned a scholarly article to collaboratively read and annotate using web annotation platform, This exercise is aimed at warming them up in terms of their interactions with one another as well as getting them into the habit of critically reading and analysing research papers. This also helps them to get to know each other on an intellectual level so they can begin to hash out potential topics for their papers
  • Each group must present a proposal for their research paper to the group. They are encouraged to live tweet each other’s presentations to a hashtag, ask questions, give feedback and generate a culture of scholarly collegiality.
  • Each Group must write their paper into a shared Google Doc. They may include earlier drafts, images and A/V materials that showcase their collaborative work. They must also co-author and sign a contract that sums up what they promise to achieve as a group, including any specific individual tasks. These Docs must be shared with me by the deadline. They are welcome and encouraged to post their collaborative writing projects on their own websites too.
  • During the final lecture, each group must participate in a collaborative Unexam* in which they edit and develop a rubric for grading the kind of work they have collectively produced over the course of the semester.

Samples of collaborative research papers:

Staffless Libraries in Ireland: A Response to Automation” by Victoria Koivisto-Kokko, Fezeka Nzimande, James Shanahan, and Orla Fay

Amplify Their Voices” by Michelle Mangan, Adrian McGearty, Sheelagh Roseno, and Lorraine Leahy

Examples of web annotations:

Ensure you have set up in your web browser in order to view. You can also click HERE to read a piece I wrote about using print-based annotation exercises in the classroom:

Bethany Nowviskie; Digital Humanities in the Anthropocene, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Volume 30, Issue suppl_1, 1 December 2015, Pages i4–i15,

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Unexam Samples:

Click HERE to read the “Exam Paper and Sample Rubric” for the Unexam, and click HERE  and HERE for sample answers.

*I define an Unexam as an in-class assignment in which the traditional principles of an exam are replaced with others, including but not limited to allowing students to talk, collaborate and ask questions, informing students of the task in advance (see HERE for an example involving Wikipedia Editathons), including the lecturer in the assignment task, etc.