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Group Dynamics 101. Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education. University of Delaware. Workshop at Marymount University April 21, 2003. Session Objective. To explore and discuss strategies an instructor can use to maintain functional groups in the classroom. Not searching for

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group dynamics 101
Group Dynamics 101

Institute for TransformingUndergraduate Education

University of Delaware

Workshop at Marymount University

April 21, 2003


Session Objective

To explore and discuss strategies an instructor can use to maintain functional groups in the classroom

Not searching for

peas in a pod


Collaborative Learning



Short term


Ad hoc



Minute papers

Concept testing

Longer activities

Permanent groups

Instructor assigned


Jigsaw groups

Presentations, debates

Problem-, project-based


the principal idea behind pbl is
The principal idea behind PBL is?

A. PBL challenges students to learn to learn.

B. Learning is initiated by a problem.

C. Students work in permanent groups.




“The principal idea behind PBL is that the starting point for learning should be a problem, a query, or a puzzle that the learner wishes to solve.”

Boud (1985)


Five Elements of

Cooperative Learning

Positive interdependence

Individual accountability

Promotive interaction (face-to-face)

Use of teamwork skills

Group processing

Johnson, Johnson & Smith. “Maximizing Instruction

Through Cooperative Learning.” AAHE Prism. Feb. 1998


Why Use Groups?

Committed to it based on research and observation.*

Simulates the “real world” - use of teams.

High motivation when actively involved.

Learn more fully and with less effort.

Learn in context.

*Springer, Stanne, & Donovan. 1999. Review of Educational

Research 69:21-52.


The Top 5 Ways to Wreck a Group

List 5 behaviors or actions that can undermine good group function

Report out in 5 minutes

dawn s eight o clock
Dawn’s Eight O’Clock

Questions to consider:

What if anything is wrong with this group?

What could be done to help this group work better?

Could this situation have been prevented?


Videotape Credits


“Dawn’s Eight O’Clock” – Harold White

Director:Nancy King

Producers:Deborah Allen and Harold White

Student Actors:Melissa Reddish, Michelle Lyons, Eric Moskal, Crystal Mack, Amanda Simons


Suggestions for Using Groups

Set the stage early.

Form heterogeneous groups.

Use permanent groups.

Rotate roles of responsibility.

Rely on group-selected ground rules.

Conduct peer evaluations.


Suggestions for Getting Started

Explain why learning in groups is a good strategy.

Ask students to report on past experiences.

Talk about support mechanisms.

Use group warm-up activities.

forming groups homogeneous vs heterogeneous
Forming GroupsHomogeneous vs. Heterogeneous







Your Class



Courtesy of Hal White

what aspects of heterogeneity are important for you
What Aspects of Heterogeneity are Important for You?




Personality Type?



Learning Style?

Academic Record?


Forming Groups

Randomly heterogeneous -

“counting off” :

  • - from roster
  • - in class
  • Intentionally heterogeneous, based
  • on information:
    • - from student records
    • - supplied by students
forming heterogeneous groups without prior information
Forming Heterogeneous Groups Without Prior Information
  • If you are in Math, Phys. Sci, or Engineering, add 25 25
  • If you are in Biological or Health Sciences add 50 -
  • If you are in Business or Economics, add 75 -
  • If you are in Humanities, Soc. Sci. or Educ., add 100 -
  • If you are Male, add 100 100
  • If you are Female, add 200 -
  • Sum the digits of your Social Security Number 26
  • Sum the seven digits of your office Phone Number 28
  • GRAND TOTAL (Your Number) 179

When you have calculated Your Number,

line up in numerical order.


Rotating Roles

  • Discussion Leader

Keeps group on track; maintains full participation

  • Recorder

Records assignments, strategies, unresolved issues,

  • data; convenes group outside of class
  • Reporter
  • Reports out during whole class discussion; writes
  • up final draft of assignments
  • Accuracy Coach

Checks group understanding; finds resources


Examples of Ground Rules

Come to class on time every day

Come to class having done the assignment and prepared to discuss it

Must notify members of the group ahead of time if must miss class for any reason

Be willing to share information

Respect the views, values, and ideas of other members of the group

If members of the group violate these ground rules, other members of the group may impose the following consequences:


Peer Evaluation

Some general suggestions:

Use predetermined written criteria that focus primarily on behaviors.

Do at least 2X per semester.

Factor results into students’ grades.

Summarize results and distribute summaries.

Keep the process simple.

Incorporate into group assignments.


Using Groups in Larger Classes, with Inexperienced Students

Use well-defined activities with clearly stated objectives.

Bring the class together for discussion and/or clarification at frequent intervals.

Plan both group and individual assignments.

Look for signs of behaviors that undermine group function.

Use peer group facilitators.


nce upon a time...

A team of students had four members called Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

- Graham Gibbs, “Learning in Teams”


Jigsaw Group Scheme

1 2

3 4

1 2

3 4

1 1

1 1

2 2

2 2


home groups

1 2

3 4

1 2

3 4

3 3

3 3

4 4

4 4

4 home groups,

with 4 members each

4 new expertgroups, with one representative from each home group

(Aronson et al. 1978. The Jigsaw Classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.)