CL1 - More Information: Group Size




Group size

It seems prudent to keep groups as small as possible to promote positive interdependence, yet as large as necessary to provide sufficient diversity of opinions and backgrounds as well as resources to get the job done. The size of groups formed is directly dependent on the activity to be pursued and the length of time the group will stay together. Typically, for in-lecture informal activities, group size is often kept small (in the range of two to four students) since larger groups have insufficient time to become cohesive. In contrast, a complex semester long project may require the resources of a larger group (four to six students) and there is enough time for the group to become effective.

Fiechtner and Davis (1992) investigated why groups fail. They surveyed students on a variety of factors related to structure and function of groups. Students in large groups (eight in this case) focused on the difficulties of scheduling meetings. Most authors (Cooper, et al., 1990; Johnson, et al., 1998; Nurrenbern, 1995; Slavin, 1995) favor groups of four to five students because larger groups do not provide an opportunity for all members to participate and enhance their skills. This author's and his colleagues' personal experiences also find that groups of six or more students tend to create a situation where students can "hide" and not participate fully. Further, the smaller the group, the greater the likelihood of positive interdependence.

Cooper, J., Prescott, S., Cook, L., Smith, L., Mueck, R., and Cuseo, J. (1990). Cooperative learning and college instruction: Effective use of student learning teams. California State University Foundation, Long Beach, CA.

Fiechtner, S. B., and Davis, E. A. (1992). "Why Some Groups Fail: A Survey of Students' Experiences with Learning Groups". In Goodsell, A. S., Maher, M. R., and Tinto, V. (Eds.), Collaborative Learning: A Sourcebook for Higher Education. National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning, & Assessment, Syracuse University.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., and Smith, K. A. (1998). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Nurrenbern, S. (1995). Experiences in Cooperative Learning: A Collection for Chemistry Teachers. Institute for Chemical Education, University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Madison, WI.

Slavin, R. E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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