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Create Effective Student Groupings

Tags

21st Century Skills Universal Design for Learning Social-Emotional Learning/Growth Mindset All Ages Strategy

Skills

Flexible Thinking Social Awareness Attention Verbal Reasoning Abstract Reasoning Processing Speed

Create Effective Student Groupings

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
— Mark Twain

Try these approaches when forming groups to improve the positive outcomes for cooperative learning, positive interdependence, social skills, and accountability.

How To Apply It!

  1. Small groups of 3 to 6 work better than larger groups, even for large group projects. In larger groups, the challenges of different personalities and organizing a variety of schedules and work habits can overtake the positive aspects of different points of views, strengths and work habits.
  2. Students need variety in group members, as even positive group dynamics can break down over time. Mix up groups throughout the course of the year.
  3. Consider balancing a variety of factors when selecting groups, not just content knowledge: executive function skills, students' pace, personal interests, personality, and social dynamics all play a role in effective group outcomes.
  4. Consider heterogeneous groupings to foster creative problem solving. Mixing up students with different strengths and needs helps students appreciate alternate perspectives, become more self-aware of their own strengths and needs, and develop more empathy for others. However, to be effective, this might require giving the group more structure and support to ensure balanced participation and positive outcomes.
  5. Strategies to support heterogeneous groupings include requiring: use of a project plan with clear responsibilities, having meeting notes which are reviewed at the beginning and end of each meeting, kicking off the project with a brainstorming session. Having clear group roles also helps. These strategies will avoid one person taking control of the group and enabling students with weaker executive functions, memory, or speed to feel comfortable participating.
  6. Homogeneous groups can be better for teaching/learning specific skills. Homogeneous groups might have students who were at the same level on a pre-test. Or they could be students with a similar Mindprint profile. Students with weaker skills might be more comfortable asking questions and be more successful. Students with stronger skills might be able to delve deeper into a subject and challenge each other.
  7. Keep in mind that students' strengths and needs will vary by topic. Even if you choose homogeneous groupings for one topic, generally you should expect your homogeneous groupings will need to change as you progress to different topics based on previous knowledge and/or the most important Mindprint skills for mastery in that topic.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Group learning can have a very positive impact on learning outcomes. Students benefit from learning from peers, teaching peers, and developing the social skills inherent in effective cooperation. However, groups can have sub-optimal results when personalities clash or students have varying levels of interest, motivation and capabilities. Taking the time to identify the specific project goals and the inherent qualities that each member can bring to the group can improve the chances that group work will have positive outcomes.