One of the greatest things about teaching is how much I learn from my students. In my Hispanic Civilization class, we write 4 mini-quizzes throughout the semester. This semester, a student suggested that the last mini-quiz should be done as group work. I was very resistant to the idea but the students were so enthusiastic about experimenting with this new format that I agreed to give it a try. This was a fantastic group of students who have worked very hard to make the course successful, so I wanted to do something nice for them.
To my surprise, the collective mini-quiz format worked great. I was afraid that in a group with one smart student and two weaker students, the smart one would be forced to do all the work, while the weaker students would just snooze and update their Facebook pages. However, I was forgetting about how much peer pressure means at that age. Weaker students didn't want their stronger group-mates to know that they were weaker, so they worked hard to make a good impression on their peers. In a collective search for an answer, students shared information that each one of them had and arrived at a result that was often a lot better than they could have produced individually.
Of course, the group format was not obligatory. I remember how much I always suffered as a student when forced to take part in any group activity. I told the students that they could work individually if they preferred, and several of them chose that option.
For me, it was a revelation that collective work on a mini-quiz could produce great results. It's normal to project one's own feelings on everybody else, so I always believed that this kind of an assignment would be a waste of time in a lecture course. (In language courses it is, of course, completely different because almost every assignment is a group one.) Now, I will be experimenting with the collective min-quiz format on a regular basis.