Track 2: Learning Collaboratively

Premiere: Wednesday 21 June, starting at 3pm BST//10am EDT


Get your Econ students to cooperate, here’s how

Sara Avila, University of Colorado Boulder


Economics students are not famous for their cooperative behavior. Yet, according to the literature on pedagogy (Gillies, 2016), cooperation is good for learning. Even more, cooperation is an essential skill in the professional world. In this talk, I share the challenges I faced in implementing cooperative learning in a Managerial Economics course.

Students worked in groups of four, solving case studies. Cooperation was arranged as a jigsaw puzzle; each student was responsible for submitting one part of the puzzle.

While implementing this strategy, three potential challenges must be considered. The first challenge is uneven contributions from group members, which can result in an unfair distribution of work. The second challenge is the possibility of student absences, which can hinder their ability to participate and learn from the experience fully. Finally, econ students may be solely focused on maximizing their gains, leading to a lack of participation and engagement.

To address these challenges, I propose the following strategies for incorporating cooperative learning in the Economics classroom:

Firstly, groups should be formed to ensure a balanced distribution of skills and abilities. This can reduce the likelihood of uneven contributions and ensure that each student has a role in the group. Secondly, clear expectations should be communicated to students regarding their individual and group responsibilities. This can motivate students to contribute equally and hold each other accountable. Lastly, a grading rubric should be established to assess individual and group contributions. This can give students a clear understanding of how their work will be evaluated and incentivize equal participation.

By using these strategies, cooperative learning allows students to practice teamwork, get to know each other and learn more.

Pedagogical implications of group work as assessments

Anastasia Papadopoulou, University of Bristol


Group work is a useful assessment tool. It not only helps students assimilate the course material, but also learn in a cooperative space, equipping them with important transferable skills of communication and negotiation among others (Hammar Chiriac, 2014). As such, it is one of the most used ‘inherently’ authentic assessment tools, though it also invites criticisms of “free riding” and “social loafing” (Mellor, 2012; Tosuntaş, 2020). Contemporary research has primarily investigated group dynamics and methods of reducing issues that may arise in such assessments (Orlov et al, 2021). Moreover, pedagogic literature has examined ways to encourage students in team-based learning and provide effective incentives (Jenkins and Chaudhury, 2015). However, it is also important to study how group work assessments affect learner’s module outcomes. In order to do so, we examine students’ assessment results in modules which include group work components compared to the ones without. Pooling together data across different Economics departments in the UK, our initial aim is to measure whether modules that incorporate various amounts of group work contribute to a differential average in overall assessment grades compared to other modules. Preliminary descriptive data analysis for 2021-2022, involving 83 UG modules, indicate that the ones with group work components have less spread in summative assessment results compared to other modules. Our next steps are to understand how group work assessments have evolved over time, especially pre and post pandemic, analyse these modules’ intended learning outcomes, and understand instructors’ perspectives on using group work as a form of assessment.

Group Challenges

Patricia Ritter, University of Connecticut


Many college students do not know how to study well for exams. They typically go through the lecture notes in a passive manner and erroneously believe that is enough (Karpicke and Blunt, 2011). I tell my students that it is like when you watch a TikTok dance and you think: “I can do that too”. But when you try to do it, you realize it is so much harder than it looks! It is the same with mathematical and economic exercises.

With the objective of mitigating this problem, I developed a type of assignment I call Group Challenges (GCH). These assignments are tests with few but challenging questions that students need to answer in groups. By making the GCH challenging, I encourage students to think deeply. It also helps them to identify the areas that they need to study in more depth for the exam. Working in groups reduces the anxiety of solving a difficult test and allows them to collaborate and learn from each other. The GCHs are graded, so that the stakes are high, but they weigh less than the midterm and final exams. This means they have a second chance to perform better on the actual exams.

Anonymous student evaluations report that GCH are significantly useful in preparing them better for exams and learning the material.

Watch via our YouTube channel on Wednesday 21 June, starting at 3pm BST//10am EDT