A Word to the Teacher
Lab Grouping
Students should be assigned to groups when they work together. One of the
main reasons to use grouping is to ensure that each student actively participates
(Johnson et al., 1994). Some decisions that must be made about lab groups include:
Determining the size of the group—
Shorter time periods need small groups.
Available materials or the specific nature of investigation may determine group
Four students in a lab group support 12 interactions and help with role
Principal investigator: leads discussion to maintain group’s focus and brings
group to consensus
Materials manager: obtains and returns materials
Recorder: maintains group’s written record; makes sure others keep
individual records when needed
Reporter: presents group’s work
With fewer than four students, the reporter/recorder roles can merge; with more
than four students, several can serve as recorders.
Assigning students to lab groups—
A decision must be made to group homogeneously or heterogeneously.
Advantages to heterogeneous grouping include:
Multiple perspectives and problem-solving methods
Increased cognitive disequilibrium to stimulate learning
More frequent give-and-take of explanations
Enhanced quality of reasoning and discussion
Increased long-term retention
Heterogeneous groups often are randomly assigned but can be teacher
organized to maximize specific effects to accommodate isolated students, at-risk
learners, disruptive behaviors, etc.
Keeping lab groups together—
Over the course of a semester, students should have the opportunity to work with
different classmates within a lab group.
Groups should remain stable long enough to at least complete the specific lab
tasks and recognize success.
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