Grouping Matters

Concurrent Session 5

Brief Abstract

Group work is the bane of most students' experience, yet an integral part of many courses and a unique challenge for those online. Skillful teamwork, highly regarded in the workforce, is an advantage for students in any discipline. This interactive session demonstrates group formation types; discusses group learning, formation, and composition types; and reviews tools for criteria-based, in-person and online grouping. 


Dr. AJ Kelton is the Director of the Center for the Digital Humanities in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He is involved in collaborative learning, reflective teaching, academic and emerging technology, digital humanities, social media, games, and virtual worlds for education and has presented on many topics both in the U.S. and internationally. Dr. Kelton is the Executive Director of Emerging Learning Design (ELD) and Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Emerging Learning Design Journal. He received his PhD from NYU and his research areas include, the impact of group formation and composition on learning, affordances of virtual worlds in education, and helping students and parents of students with attention deficit challenges.

Extended Abstract

Group work is the bane of most students' academic experience, yet it is an integral part of many courses, and a unique challenge for swelling online classrooms.

Working well on a team (read: group) is one of the most highly sought after skills in the modern workforce. In planning an important, long-term project, it would be irresponsible for a manager to create a team from every fourth employee, clump people together based on the nearest five desks, or go through the HR roster alphabetically. And yet this is what often occurs when assigning group work in learning environments.

Although class projects may not rise to the level of multi-million dollar contracts, they can and do impact the students’ grade and potentially their post-academic career.  Learning to excel in a critical workforce skills, such as working well in a group, is an advantage for any student, no matter what field. From humanities to the hard sciences and ballet to business, good group work skills are valuable.

Not all group work assignments are equal, however, and research shows that group membership has a direct impact on student and project success.  Through an understanding of the differences in group formation, student success rates can be impacted.

This interactive session will begin with a demonstration of different group formation types, highlighting some of the affordances of each.  Attendees will take away an understanding of different learning types, group types, and group formation and composition types. The session will close with a discussion on tools that can help with criteria-based grouping, which are useful for both in-person and online courses. Time permitting, attendees will be provided login credentials to experience an online tool originally developed via a FIPSE grant to help with grouping and student-based evaluation of student group work.