On Forming Groups… (Please Comment)

One of you brought up a great question on Tuesday, “How are we going to form groups for this project?”

Here’s the answer: for this project, you should form a group that is three or four students in size, and you should work with people you haven’t worked with yet. You may not refuse anyone entry into your group, and the goal is to settle on a group quickly and get right to work as the assignment is due on Tuesday (at the end of class).

Teachers make these kinds of decisions for their students all the time. There are lots of ways to organize groups for working together, and which read as she works best depends on the students, the assignment, the teacher, etc. 

Please quickly comment: What are some of the ways that you have been asked to form groups in your own teaching or experiences as a student? Are there any group strategies that you particularly like or dislike for certain settings?

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35 Comments on “On Forming Groups… (Please Comment)”

  1. jlaw2 Says:

    I have been asked to form groups many different ways, my favorite way is when students get go choose whomever they want to work with

  2. Leslie Goldberg Says:

    I have had groups formed by seating arragement, by teacher assignment, and by ability level, to name a few. In most settings, letting students choose their own groups seems to keep everyone happy.

  3. S_Murray Says:

    I enjoy choosing partners over being assigned to them. That way, there is a much more enjoyable working atmosphere and I believe much greater results can be produced.

  4. meghann_c Says:

    A common way we were formed into groups at school was to number people 1-4, then all the 1s work together, all the 2s etc…this generally seems to work quite well as long as there are the right number of people in total to form equal(-ish) sized groups

  5. danmorrison Says:

    I have seen teachers pass out cards to students and have students group up by suit or by number, I have also seen teachers randomly assign groups. The most common technique I have seen is just for teachers to let students choose their groups. Student choice is my favorite way of making groups.

  6. S_Murray Says:

    aka, I experienced choosing parters, being assigned partners, and luck of the draw.

  7. Jacob Gross Says:

    They have been assigned by the teacher using various criteria, and also the student picked method. While arbitrary assigned groups will bring new people together, it seems to be hit or miss as to whether they will be able to work well to together.

  8. kellyfitz Says:

    I like when you get to work with people that you trust to do work, which is usually friends, or people that you know pretty well. I would turn down working with a friend if I didn’t think that they could finish their part on time. I also think that working in groups that are chosen for the student actually help team-building and encourage good people skills, especially for younger students who have more set ideas about who is “popular” to work with and who is not. I also think that it is a good idea that, if the class has multiple projects, students work with different people for each project.

  9. reclark3 Says:

    we have been able to choose our own groups or we were just asked to work with people we have never worked with before.

  10. sara_m Says:

    In the past, when asked to form groups for small, in class assignments, people in my classes have just joined together with others sitting around them, for convenience. But for large group projects that last over a long period of time, a lot of my teachers have allowed us to choose our own groups so that we know who we’ll be able to work the best with.

  11. marielemke Says:

    Most of the time, my high school teachers have let us pick our own groups. I think that for younger students it can be helpful for the teacher to pick the groups because picking groups at that age can cause conflict. With older students, they work better when working with people they are comfortable with.

  12. Josh Sove Says:

    The only real grouping procedure I can remember was in a combined history/literature class. They put us into “pods” with 4 people. and then switched the groups every few weeks. We had a LOT of group work.

    A lot of people say that they enjoy choosing their own partners in group projects but having the teachers choose randomly isn’t a bad idea in a lot of cases. Rather, it encourages students to meet people they would not normally talk to, and also helps in the situation that someone doesn’t really know anyone in the class.

  13. Brendan Frank Says:

    I’ve had both experiences where I’ve been assigned to work with people or my group has been assigned to me. Personally, I like to work with people that I choose because I feel that we can get more done based on the fact that we all know each other and have similar thoughts and ideas.

  14. Lauren V. Says:

    I have had teachers number students off and have students work with their same “number”, pass out index cards with stickers and have students with similar designs work together, or simply assign groups. I prefer to pick my own group because I hated being stuck with people who didn’t do any work and I ended up doing all of the work.

  15. vabaker2 Says:

    Forming groups is a tricky situation. It def. depends on the age. I think as adults we are capable of forming a group in any setting.

    In high school however i remember when groups were assigned and how stressful it used to be with people I didn’t know or trust and how much work I would get stuck with because not everyone cared. So i feel uneasy as far as group work goes in general….

    However considering the pressure and stress we are all under (esp this time of the year) I think it is appropriate that we pick our groups or work alone that way we are able to accomplish what we need to to in a given period of time (with people we trust and know )will do what it takes to get the credit we want. However outside the box is always a good experience and is necessary. However this class is not the most realistic situation given the time is minimal. It works either way and can be argued about forever.

    Personally, I like to pick my groups because it causes less stress, however as a class of all music education majors we sort of already all know each other so finding other friends to work with is not difficult. Again this can go on and on…

  16. jmrush2 Says:

    I’m used to forming groups on my own. I am a fan of randomly assigned groups, such as the counting method, or drawing straws, but if we’re put in groups based on qualities or ideas, such as in a speech-comm class, I hate it! This never works.

  17. sgritz2 Says:

    Many times, I’ve been able to choose my own group, which is always fun, and tends to work quickly. Sometimes, teachers count off people, or by seating arrangement. Sometimes, it’s just randomly assigned by the teacher, which can either be good or bad, depending on who you get to work with! But it’s usually fun to work with new people.

  18. Nick L Says:

    I have been allowed to pick groups as well as have them assigned. I am in favor of both strategies, so if more than one group project will be done in a course, it would be fair that both be used. I enjoy working with people that I know and probably work better with them. In addition, it is much easier to keep your friends accountable for completing their portions of the work. However, friends tend to be like minded, and much can be learned about the way you interact and who you are by stepping outside of your box sometimes.

  19. geigegirl Says:

    My teachers have usually assigned groups by numbering people off or trying to pair people who don’t usually work together. I like it when we get to choose who is in our group.

  20. rmelend2 Says:

    When forming groups, teachers have counted off by however many groups need to be formed, or by grouping people together by looking at a class list. Some teachers have used computer programs that “randomly” assign people into groups. I believe that all these are good ways of forming groups, however, I believe one of the best ways is by placing students in groups by who will work with each other the best.

  21. Matt O Says:

    More often than not I have my groups assigned to me, unless of course we are doing sports in which case team captains chose players and i am inevitable the one left at the end that gets chosen by default. I honestly don’t know what strategies the teachers use to predetermine groups, if it is done on the spot it is usually base on proximity.

  22. zgeller2 Says:

    i have been allowed to form my own groups quickly like this, but i can understand how this can create problems especially if the same people are in the same groups all the time. Some teachers solve this by randomly assigning groups. Other teachers have given us parameters like mix sexes and work with people you don’t know. I think it is important to work with new people, but it is also important to work with people you are comfortable with, and work well with.

  23. mladror2 Says:

    The teacher often lets everyone decide on groups for themselves, but that’s not always the best way. Sure, its fun for some people, who get to work with their friends, but in grade school some friends shouldn’t work together for the sake of academic progress. Also, there is often a student or two who don’t have any friends in that particular class, and are left out, looking at the floor, while everyone else runs around into groups. The teacher then has to do something his or herself to solve that situation, and it usually isn’t fun for the student left out. When I’m a teacher, I think I will usually make groups for everyone myself.

  24. CarmC Says:

    I ike to work in groups when everyone is productive and organized, I have been asked to form groups where you can pick who you are working with and rather than pick people I am friends with I pick people I know I can work well with. When we have assigned groups it is a little difficult because sometimes you dont get to work with someone who feels the same way as you or has different Ideas on how the project should go. It is good though because you leanr to adapt and get a new perspective on how to delgate and work with people that you might have never had the chance. I think that overall it is good because it makes a person more diverse in their teaching abilites.

  25. Erica C Says:

    If the size of the groups didn’t matter: who ever has a birthday in January, February etc. Another way was who is wearing gym shoes, flip flops etc. Who ever is wearing red, orange, yellow etc.
    If size did matter: counting off usually works best.
    As a teacher, you want to be creative when making groups. Allowing students to chose their own groups usually ends up with someone feeling left out. This is also the time when we begin seeing cliques form. The more creative you are as a teacher, the more excited the students are when they work with people they haven’t worked with before because you found something in common (ex: find a group of people who are wearing gym shoes. Immediatly, the kids find something they have in common with classmates they never worked with).

  26. jimmcguire Says:

    Coming from a student perspective, I have mainly dealt with teachers numbering off and putting groups together in that way. I have never been responsible for grouping people together as a teacher, but I would imagine that because students vary so much in regards to level of ability that random numbering would be less effective than pairing based on skill levels.

  27. mraczki2 Says:

    Most of the time I have been told to just go and form groups. In some situations the teachers will just pick the groups. I have had teacher count students off saying that the ones work here and the twos work and so on or they will just say, “Ok, you 2 work here and you 2 work there.”

  28. Aaron Says:

    I remember in gym way back in grade school, we picked a partner then were assigned to groups with other people by our teacher. It was nice, because we had at least one person we wanted on our team. 🙂

  29. Rebecca Ryan Says:

    In the past, I have been told to form groups by size (pick 2 people), by gender (two boys, two girls), by category (someone in the same month as you)…you name it, I’ve probably had to form a group based on that idea. I’ve also been simply assigned to a group by teachers, which has both pros and cons. I tend to work with people I am familiar with so that I know that they will be willing to do their share of the work.

  30. Jessica C Says:

    I have had been allowed to choose my own group, which usually ends up being the same people every time. Or they have been assigned or randomly selected. When I teach I will probably assign students depending on the activity. If I do not do this I will probably just let the students choose on their own.

  31. pianostars10487 Says:

    Sometimes groups were made alphabetically, sometimes we’d count off (1-5 or something). Working in groups has been kind of hit or miss for me. Sometimes I’m the person that does everything, sometimes everybody does their share. I really think it’s all about how much a person is motivated to contribute to their group.

  32. mus243 Matt Says:

    First off, thanks to everyone for taking the time to reply, as well as suffering through my own strategy for groups this time (work with someone you haven’t worked with before; allow anyone to join your group).

    It is apparent from your posts that you have all been involved in group work in various ways at various times, and that choosing groups falls into two main categories: choose your own group versus random assignment. The posts above point to the main benefits problems with each approach (working with the same people can be a benefit as well as limit your growth, being able to get more done when working with people you know, etc.).

    One of the things that was not talked about much is what happens when you have a hard time finding a group. This can be due to the many reasons, such as not knowing people very well in your class, replicating the cliques that exist in most high schools, having a shy personality, wanting/not wanting to work with someone you have a crush on, etc. Although this wasn’t talked about, in my own teaching I see this as a problem much of the time (particularly when working with middle school and high school students).

    From the teacher’s perspective, there are many goals that can be met through group work: students need to learn to work together, many projects can have a larger scope when a group works on them, and you can have fewer final products which allows for more time for critique (an issue in this case). Random assignment for groups can help in making sure that students learn to work well with others, although this also requires the teacher to ensure that students are actually working well together. This is far from easy, and there is a great book by the researcher Elizabeth Cohen called Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom, which I highly recommend. As a teacher, if I have a class who doesn’t know how to work well together, this makes me want to find ways to include this as part of what I’m teaching; making sure that students know how to work well together is critical and worth teaching. As a teacher, I also know that there is good and bad in having students work together on artistic projects, and I think it is less likely that students will produce personally meaningful artistic works when working with people who they don’t know very well.

    In the case of this assignment, because it was short-term and because it had a clear stimulus (composing a piece in response to the art installation), I felt that it was a good time to try to mix up the groups just a bit. The proof is in the pudding, and we’ll see how the pieces come out and hopefully hear a bit about how your experiences with the group helped or hindered.

    Thanks for reading,

    Matt

  33. cjensen2 Says:

    I don’t like group projects when they are done outside of school, the groups are chosen by the teacher, and the students are too young to drive. In that case I think there should always be an option to do the project alone.

  34. dmig2000 Says:

    Usually the only ways groups are chosen are either by the teacher or the students choose. There are definitely advantages to both. If the teacher chooses, he/she can pair up the brighter students with the ones that might have more trouble to help them. Also, students would be forced to meet new people that they wouldn’t have normally met. If the students choose, they would choose someone they would work well with and probably have an overall better time with the project.

  35. Nina E. Says:

    I’ve found that when students get to choose who they are working with there is more effort put into the project as a whole. Generally when they get to choose who they are working with there is more sense of responsibility and need to contribute to the project from each individual. When the groups are chosen by the teacher often the students dont know eachother well. The group project from the students perspective then becomes more individualized rather than group focused.


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