DoingCL - Choosing groups





Choosing groups

In general, groups should be heterogeneous, should not isolate minority students or women, and should be chosen by the instructor. The groups should be large enough to provide sufficient resources for the group to function but not so large that scheduling out-of-class activities or students "hiding" becomes a problem. The specific collaborative learning activity will predicate the group size. Think-pair-share usually involves only 2 students while groups of 3 to 5 seem to work well for more complex tasks. To foster more positive interdependence and to permit group members to become comfortable with one another, groups should not be reformed too quickly. For more information on groups click here.

There are a number of ways to assemble groups.

    Students can be chosen randomly from an attendance roster or they can count off. For a class of 50 students working in teams of 5 students, count off from 1 to 10 and then have each number meet in a specified place in the room.

    The instructor can form heterogeneous groups based on students' responses to a questionnaire.

Care must be taken since these methods do not guarantee balanced groups. It is important to select groups so all students feel comfortable and respected.

The instructor also needs to decide when to form the groups. In general, it is good to do this early because the "tone" of the class is set in the first week of the course. It may be difficult for students to "shift gears" later in the semester: To go from non-group work to a group oriented approach after a third of the course has passed. Groups can be reformed part way through the semester when the instructor knows enough about their students' academic strengths to form academically balanced groups.

Millis, B. J., and Cottell, P. G., Jr. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty, American Council on Education, Series on Higher Education. The Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ.

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