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Weekly Tip: Norm Setting for Effective Student Collaboration

Collaboration and peer learning are excellent course strategies. They help foster student understanding and assimilation of course content. Effectively executing these strategies is dependent upon defining acceptable norms. Clearly stated norms support productive communication and accountability as students’ progress through challenging content.

Consider allowing students to generate their own set of group norms to increase a sense of ownership and accountability.

Questions to Consider 

  • What collaborative behaviors will allow students to feel safe about presenting their opinions, and allow them to achieve understanding?
  • How should students present an opposing point of view without appearing contentious?
  • How will norms be enforced?  

Creating Norms 

Deciding how your students will work together to solve problems can be a process. Creating norms can be accomplished in a variety of ways, here are some tips to help get you started (pdf).

Communicating Norms  

  • Include your finalized norms in the course syllabus and encourage students to reflect on the norms if conflict should arise.
  • Review the norms prior to each collaborative activity.
  • Revise norms which may not be effective. Allow the class to approve any changes.

Students are most successful when they know what to expect. By setting norms for collaborative activities, you are creating a path for students to be successful when working with their peers. For more tips on how to structure a collaborative activity, visit our weekly tip: Structured Team Collaboration Strategies.


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For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.