Many times when working on classroom projects, I would divide the students into groups. It was always interesting to watch the group dynamics. There are many ways to group students; here are some I used often:
Some students seem to naturally assume leadership roles. The ability to lead is a good quality, but I felt that these natural leaders also needed to learn to play other roles. By grouping classroom leaders together, they were given the opportunity to learn how to listen to other ideas and to compromise. Often this group couldn’t come to an easy consensus and spent most of their time in debate. This is a good skill in itself, but they soon noticed that the other groups were making more actual progress. Eventually, they had to choose a leader in order to move the project forward. Putting the leaders into one group also gave students in the other groups a chance to develop their own leadership skills.
When I grouped students with mixed talents, they often came to see the value of having an artist, writer, fact finder, and orator in the group. Students learned to respect the diverse skills of others. Mixing the groups often and being sure to put together students who may not have been friends outside the classroom helped each student to view their classmates as fellow members of a community of learners.
I had sign-up sheets so students could sign up for the group they wanted to be in. I expected that friends would group together. Interestingly, after a while, students picked their groups by interests and talents rather than friendships.
I tended to vary the way I grouped the students, so that the grouping itself would be part of the project. I think that there isn’t a right or a wrong way to group students. I believe that varying the grouping enables students to understand the varieties of group dynamics: learning how to present their own skills, to compromise, and to understand and respect the abilities of others.
Posted by Sandy Kemsley, Founder