PBL Process Grouping Students

Ben Johnson states that “If the purpose of the group learning activity is to help struggling students, then the research shows that heterogeneous groups may help most.” where if “if the purpose of the group learning activity is to encourage medium ability groups to learn at high levels then homogeneous grouping would be better.” If we hold these statements true then we are faced with a problem in comprehensive classroom. How do we organise our PLB groups?

Marzano (2001) states that for groups to be effective the following elements must occur.

  • They must include every member of the group
  • Each person has a valid job to perform with a known standard of completion
  • Each member is invested in completing the task or learning goal
  • Each member is accountable individually and collectively

We’ve all had that high ability student who complains about being in groups. They complain because they are automatically looked at as being the leader in the group, the one that got things done. Yes it’s true that heterogeneous groups help the struggling students but is always placing them in these overall helpful? How can we extended the medium and high ability students? How can we mitigate the the problem of ‘free riders’? I think it is important to place students in homogeneous groups. By doing this you are grouping students in their ability. It forces students to take on different roles within the groups and for different students to show leadership.

Some ways in selecting groups:

Some ideas:

  • Random!
  • Pick a partner, then get assigned another pair
  • By interest
  • By last project’s work ethic score
  • By birthday order
  • Interviews (highest scores on last project are Project Managers, while the rest of students apply for group)
  • Intentionally group those who will raise one another up
  • Varying the types of learners
  • An ongoing rotation, so everyone works with everyone eventually and there are no surprises
  • Write down 3 people you could work with and 3 you’d prefer not to; group students based on this information

For more information on groupings:

Purposeful Grouping

Information the reasons behind group selection.

Cooperative and Collaborative Learning

Information on organizing, assigning roles, and managing collaborative groups

Designing Student Groups

What you need to know about selecting student groups?

Forming Effective Groups

How to ensure there are effective groups in your classroom?

Are Student Selected Groups More Effective?

Do students perform better in self-selected groups or in instructor-formed groups?


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