When student interaction takes place in well-designed in-class group work, students can learn a great deal from each other. Many students, however, do not know how to effectively work together in groups, have misconceptions or fears about learning from their peers, or prefer to work alone. It is therefore important to have a compelling reason for students to work together, to plan the goal for student interaction, and devise and vary group activities.
- Outline the knowledge and skills you ideally want students to teach and learn from each other
- Consider an optimal group size and composition that will help facilitate the student interaction
- Establish guidelines for how students will communicate with each other, listen, and maintain mutual respect
- Plan for how the group will share what they have learned from each other in the class
Ways of organizing groups
- In a buzz group, small discussion groups are given a specific task, such as generating ideas, solving a problem, or establishing a viewpoint on a topic
- In ke ts’ao, the emphasis of the discussion groups is for every member of the group to say something and for the group to reach consensus on an idea, policy, procedure, etc.
- In jigsaw projects, each member of a group is asked to complete some discrete part of an assignment so the pieces can be joined together to form a finished project
- In think-pair-share, students are given time to think about a response to an issue, then turn to their neighbor and share their thoughts, and finally share what they have learned with the larger group
Activities for group interactions
- Present a common misconception to the class. Ask students in groups to discuss whether or not the idea is a misconception and have them present their reasoning
- Describe a contemporary social problem that is relevant to the course content and ask students to develop and defend possible solutions
- Assign different groups to learn about different aspects of a larger topic and teach the material to each other
- Oakley, B., Felder, R. M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning Student Groups into Effective Teams. Journal of student centered learning, 2(1), 9–34. (26pg)
- Setting Ground Rules for Students Working in Groups.
- Working Group Self Assessment Form.
- Bacon, D. R., Stewart, K. A., & Silver, W. S. (1999). Lessons from the Best and Worst Student Team Experiences: How a Teacher can make the Difference. Journal of Management Education, 23(5), 467–488. (Access through Tufts libraries )
- Williams, R., & Stockdale, S. (2004). Cooperative Learning Groups at the College Level: Differential Effects on High, Average and Low Performers. Educational Psychology & Counseling Publications and Other Works. (Access through Tufts libraries)