In a classroom setting, group work consists of small or large groups of students working on the same problem, experiment or project. Most classrooms use group work at one time or another to engage students and encourage student participation. There are both advantages and disadvantages to using group work in a classroom setting.

Peer Support

An advantage of classroom group work is the peer support for students. In some cases, students that work in groups are likely to teach each other, which often results in solidifying the students learning while remediating other students misconceptions, misunderstandings and weaknesses. Some classroom groups also provide peer support, encouragement and motivation between students.

Competition

A disadvantage of classroom group work is the conscious or unconscious perception of competition between students in the group. In some cases, a student may offer his opinion or solution regarding the project of the group. If that opinion or solution is ill-received, the student may react by sabotaging all ideas that are not in line with his own idea. Students may also ignore the suggestions of others and work to become the leader, or alpha, of the group.

Assessment of Students

An advantage of classroom group work is the additional opportunity teachers have to assess students. In a group setting, a teacher can determine a student’s understanding and knowledge or misconceptions and lack of understanding of a certain subject. In some cases, a group setting allows for transparency, as teachers expect all students to participate in the group. This form of assessment is beneficial for teachers that are able to tailor classroom instruction to the needs of the students.

Conformity

An disadvantage of classroom group work is the tendency for student conformity. In this type of setting, a student may choose to conform with the consensus of the group even when the student knows that the consensus is incorrect. Conformity occurs for several reasons, including the need to fit in and feel liked. Students may also want to avoid attention or avoid appearing uneducated if the answer or solution the student offers is incorrect. Conformity within a group generally results in quick agreements without exploring all of the available possibilities.

Tips for Forming a Group

When using a classroom group, make the most out of the group by following a few tips. Form each group carefully, taking into consideration the personality, level of learning and communication style of each student. Set clear expectations and require mutual participation from all students in the group. Offer support and encouragement when needed.