Group Work

As a beginning teacher Caitlin, you need to be able to effectively construct group work within your class. If the class grouping is not suitable and tailored for your students needs and abilities, the scope and sequence of your whole program can be affected.

There are various ways to determine group within a class they include:

  • Ability – for individual curriculum areas
  • Friendship – students select who they work with
  • Interest – students with common interests are grouped together for particular activities
  • Student selected – students decide who they work with which may or may not reflect friendships
  • Cross-Ability – groups are based upon a range of abilities and skill levels
  • Cross-Age  – can be formed across stages
  • Random – where the teacher allocates students to a group with no concern for ability, age, friendship or genre


With each type of group there are positive and negative connotations. The table below allows you to contrast the positive and negative aspects of each of the various forms of groups and select which structure is best for the specific concept being taught (Whitton et al. 2004).


Type of Group




- Like minds work together

- Challenge each other

- Work is targeted at their level

- Need to assure students are assessed correctly

- Need to assure students are placed in the right group

- Reassessment needs to take place, focus on student progress


- Students find it appealing

- Support each other socially as well as academically

- some students may be left out

- friendships can change quickly


- Students have a wide range of interests

- If a student is interested, they are also motivated to do more work in that area

- Interests can change quickly

- Some students may have no one to work with

-need to record student interests

Student Selected

- feel that they are in control of the learning

- keep to participate if chosen

- students may be left out

- groups can become more social then academic

Cross Ability

- Develop an awareness of the needs of others

- work with individual strengths

- certain students may not be challenged

- students may not be supportive of each other

Cross Age

- Develop an awareness and ability to help others or be helped by others

- Different characteristics of the students emerge

- Older students do all the work and can baby the younger students


- keeps the students challenged and not complacent

- join some different students and ‘spark’ their minds

- may not become cohesive and be able to work together effectively

(Table 15.1 from Whitton et al. 2004, p155)


Explicit teaching of group work skills need to take place before you can implement effective group work with your class. Students need to identify and learn how to participate within a team. Caitlin, if you begin by creating a list of ‘successful group member’ characteristics the students within your class are able to dicsuss what they believe is important in a group setting, as well as illustrating poor group behaviour (McBurney-Fry 2002). This explanation allows for all students, regardless of their ability levels to develop foundation group work skills, which will always be beneficial to each individual. By remembering to set high expectations and to tell each student what is to be achieved in the group work time, Caitlin you will set your students up for success in their education.


Further Readings:

McLeod, J, & Reynolds, R, 2003, Planning for learning, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.

McBurney-Fry, G, 2002, Improving your practicum: A guide to better teaching practice, Social Science Press, Katoomba, NSW.