Active learning approaches often involve students working in groups. The advantage of this pedagogical choice is that students can apply concepts, solve problems, and, in general, engage cognitively with course content with the support of peers. Moreover, if designed thoughtfully, group work can help students develop metacognition, the ability to think about and monitor one’s own thinking and learning, closely related to the idea of critical thinking and a key element in learning. Group work involves complex cognitive and affective elements, however, that embody all the challenges of human social interaction and affect the functioning of the group. In this article, I share 10 research-based practices for using group work productively. Key steps include clarifying and sharing your goals for student learning, proactively addressing common sources of student resistance, prompting and training students in effective group function, forming groups appropriate for the task, designing activities worthy of a group effort, using appropriate grading criteria, and incorporating reflection into the process—both your students’ and your own.
Keywords: active learning, group work, cooperative learning, team-based learning
Download IDEA Paper 65 (PDF)
Linda C. Hodges, University of Maryland, Baltimore County