Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Grouping Students

Providing students with opportunities to work in groups in the classroom can be successful in producing a wide range of educational outcomes including; improved achievement, and positive interpersonal relationships with other students. These outcomes however, are only achievable when teachers set up conditions that motivate students to prepare and engage in ‘give-and-take discussions’ (Michaelsen 1998). Simply allocating students groups does not mean students will be engaged with one another, thus it is crucial that you thoughtfully plan group work and the types of groups you will be using (BHE 2012). When implementing group work in the classroom your chief role is to plan, manage and monitor the learning environment ‘so that students can collaborate and engage productively in learning’ (Killen 2009 p222).


When forming groups in your classroom you have three choices. You can;
1) allow your students to form their own groups
2) form groups by random
3) place individuals learners in groups for a specific reason

If you choose to take the third approach, the basic choices are to make the groups heterogeneous or homogeneous (Killen 2009).


The first type is heterogeneous grouping. Heterogeneous means to group students of different ability levels together. This definition can also be extended to include grouping together students of different ages and races (BHE 2012).


The second type is homogenous grouping and simply means grouping students who are similar together.

Setting Up Group Work

¨     Start by introduce group work gradually to your class. This can be achieved by progressing from pair work to larger groups; short periods of time to longer periods of time; teacher formulated groups to student formulated groups (Killen 2009). As this will allow students to gradually assume greater responsibility.

¨     The nature of certain tasks you set will ultimately determine the type of grouping strategy that you implement in the classroom. While numeracy groups may be suited best to ability groups, the group for a problem-solving task for example, may be based on student interests (Marsh 2004).

¨     When implementing group work in the classroom be sure to make it clear what the purpose of the task you have set is, as well as the steps required to be complete within the time frame provided. As well as making it clear what you expect of the final product and how you plan to assess it (Killen, 2009).

See De Bono’s six thinking hats (De Bono 1992) for a way of assigning specific roles to students in group work tasks.

Take a look at the following links to find more detailed information on cooperative grouping strategies:

Checkout the following link to find one strategy that a practicing teacher used in her class to allocate roles for students in groups: http://stepintosecondgrade.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/group-work-jobs-and-sale.html


Bright Hub Education (BHE) 2012, ‘The Importance of Group Work in Your Classroom’, URL: http://www.cambridge.org/other_files/downloads/esl/booklets/Jones-Student-Centered.pdf (Accessed 23 October 2012).
De Bono, E., 1992, ‘Six thinking Hats for Schools Book 2. Victoria, Australia: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Killen, R., 2009, ‘Effective Teaching Strategies: lessons from research and practice’ eth edition, Cengage Learning, Victoria: Australia.

Marsh, C., 2004, ‘Becoming a Teacher: knowledge, skills and issues’
(3rd Edition). NSW, Australia: Pearson Education Australia.

Michaelsen, L, K., no date, ‘Three Keys to Using Learning Groups Effectively’, URL: http://www.cambridge.org/other_files/downloads/esl/booklets/Jones-Student-Centered.pdf (Accessed 23 October 2012).

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