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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.

The value of group work

There are a number of reasons for your students to work in groups for practical work. It could be you want the stronger students to help those who struggle, or you get students working in pairs who then combine with another pair to review results. Perhaps you might want each group to look at a specific investigation then feedback to the others to get a bigger picture. Or, at a more pragmatic level, you simply don’t have enough equipment for each individual to undertake their own practical work.

From experience, there are many ways of grouping students such as:

  • mixed gender (two boys, two girls)
  • same gender
  • ability (mixing or grouping based on formative assessment; or by confidence)
  • behaviour (two good students with a more challenging student)

Each of these ways have strengths and drawbacks in terms of encouraging learning, ensuring students are exposed to a range of viewpoints, and progressing learning. This additional video, from our Introducing Assessment for Learning course (available on YouTube, see 14m15s), shares some recent research findings about grouping students. We are not going to look at the decisions for grouping in this course, but what you can do to best facilitate learning through collaborative work in practical work.


Think now about why you include group work within practical lessons. What is the main reason you choose to have group work? Share in the comments below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre