Assessing students’ participation under different group formation strategies Conference Paper uri icon


  • The evolution of technology, the development of several economic sectors and the changes in the production and consumption of products has been changing the way people learn, how organizations work and, consequently, the value of specific, professional and social skills. The challenges people face in the development of their professions requires that they are able to solve complex problems, think critically, be creative, demonstrate emotional intelligence, be able to judge and make decisions, work with others and adapt to new situations. Higher education institutions recognize that to promote the development of these aspects it is necessary to introduce changes in the way students learn and, consequently, in the way teachers teach. Literature highlights that traditional lectures are not able to actively involve students in the learning process. In this context, the use of small groups has been increasingly prevalent to foster students’ interactivity and problem-solving skills. This presupposes that students are selected and integrated in specific teams, according to some group formation strategy. Group formation can be performed by the students, allowing them to select their own teammates, or by the teacher, usually through a random or intentional selection. The intentional selection is guided by the students’ skills to optimize the distribution of skills through the teams. In addition, teams can keep its formation through a significant amount of time, to develop a long-running task, or to develop several independent tasks during the semester, or can change, according to a jigsaw distribution of responsibilities or completely reset to new formations for each new task. This study investigates how the dynamics in group formation, namely maintaining the team members unchanged through a significant amount of time or changing the group members frequently through the semester influences the development of each member’s transversal skills as well as the success in the tasks. The group formation method follows both strategies, namely student-selected and random teacher-assigned in eight moments during the semester. The student participation and the outcome of each group is assessed through a qualitative research approach, based on two open questions questionnaire and one focus group. The questionnaires were developed in the beginning of the semester and in the end of the semester, immediately after the focus group. The focus group was developed in the end of the semester, with a representative set of 8 students in a total of four sessions with different students. The experimental comparison was performed in the classes of Network and System Management (N=32) and Didactics of the Knowledge of the World (N=68). The qualitative data was obtained through students’ written interview and the transcription of the focus group and categories inferred through content analysis. The findings indicated that teacher-assigned groups outperformed student-selected groups in terms of outcome and also in the stimulation of individual student’s participation. Overall, the results suggest that group formation method is a contributing factor to the success of group work.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018