Group Work/Collaborative Learning S20

Group work/collaborative learning refers to opportunities that a large group of training participants has to divide into smaller groups to work on specific tasks or activities related to the training content.

This promotes higher-order thinking by allowing participants to uncover and address gaps and misconceptions in knowledge for themselves, which in turn helps them develop stronger conceptual frameworks for new information. Public reasoning and team-based skills are also developed and strengthened through this type of work.

When planning collaborative learning experiences, it is important to consider the following so that you can meet your training goals:

  • Group size – when groups are too small, individuals won’t benefit as much from the contributions of others. On the flip side, it can be challenging to facilitate equitable participation among group members in larger groups. A typically desirable group size is 3-4 people.
  • Stable vs. alternating groups – keeping work group membership stable throughout a training allows members to get comfortable with how they all work together.  A stable group that is experiencing dysfunction can cause individuals to feel uncomfortable and the group may be less likely to achieve the goals of the activity.  Changing group membership can help refresh learner expectations and allow people to work with more training participants.  On the other hand, it can also make it more challenging for individuals to form meaningful interpersonal connections.
  • Individual group membership – this can be selected randomly, or with very specific intent, and can be decided by the trainer, or chosen by the participants themselves.
  • Group and individual accountability – group work lends itself to potential conflict regarding accountability, which may become problematic. This can be addressed in advance by being very clear about the task and activity instructions, and including the assignment of specific roles to be taken on by each group member.

Complete the Group Work ?Handout (page 11) and then complete the following ThinkSpot.


Yale: Group Work –