Effective group work can make a world of difference in creating learning environments where students feel seen and valued. It can be an expression of the social aspects of learning, where students recognize patterns in each others’ thinking and co-create knowledge together.
Just putting students in groups, though, does not yield instant belonging. There are many pitfalls that can prevent group work from being a positive interpersonal experience for all students. If not implemented thoughtfully, group work can actually hinder students’ feelings of relatedness and belonging.
This article highlights three such issues--unequal participation, engaging introverted students, and fair grading practices--and offers concrete strategies teachers can use to ensure group work does promote positive connections between students and a sense of belonging. It suggests that teachers establish group norms, keep groups small (at least at first), and create specific roles that elevate all voices within the groups. It also offers strategies to engage more reluctant participants, such as giving students more choice over group members, as well as suggestions for formative assessment and group-based feedback.
While there are many different aspects of facilitating effective collaboration, this resource is a great starting point for troubleshooting some of group work’s more common issues.