Group work is one pedagogical strategy that promotes participation and interaction. It fosters a deeper and more active learning process, and it also provides instructors with valuable demonstrations of the degree to which students understand particular topics or concepts. In addition to exposing students to different approaches and ways of thinking, working with other students in groups can promote a sense of belonging that combats the anonymity and isolation that many students experience on a large campus. Some students may initially be reluctant to participate in group work, so sharing the reasons for group work with your students can help to convince the reluctant ones. It might help them to know that research has shown that groups frequently devise more and better solutions than the most advanced individual (Barkley et al., 2004; Cooper et al., 2003). Working together in groups also gives students the opportunity to learn from and teach each other. Classroom research has shown that students often learn better from each other than they do from a teacher (Barkley et al., 2005, 16–20).
From a practical standpoint, group work also fosters interpersonal skills highly valued by employers, not to mention friends, neighbors, and family.
For instructors, group work can save some preparation time. Although preparing for effective group work does take some planning, it is less time-consuming than preparing a lecture.
It is not difficult to incorporate group activities into your lesson plan, but there are some general rules of thumb about structuring group work so that it has useful outcomes for students. This section presents some basic guidelines to consider when designing a group activity, along with several kinds of group work learning techniques.