Encouraging Students to Learn From Each Other

When student interaction takes place in well-designed in-class groups, students can learn a great deal from each other. Effective group work helps students achieve an integral part of the course outcomes, and engages them in meaningful tasks that can benefit from different points of view or divisions of labor – not tasks more easily accomplished alone or ones that feel like “busy work”. Many students, however, do not know how to effectively work together in groups, have misconceptions or fears about learning from their peers, or prefer to work alone. It is therefore important to have a compelling reason for students to work together, to articulate your goals for student interactions, and carefully design and vary the group activities.

This page offers some advice for using short term groups within a classroom, for more on group projects see Group Work


  • Outline the knowledge and skills you ideally want students to teach and learn from each other
  • Consider an optimal group size and composition that will help facilitate the student interaction
  • Establish guidelines for how students will communicate with each other, listen, and maintain mutual respect
  • Plan for how the group will share what they have learned from each other in the class

Ways of organizing groups

  • In a buzz group, small discussion groups are given a specific task, such as generating ideas, solving a problem, or establishing a viewpoint on a topic
  • In ke ts’ao, the emphasis of the discussion groups is for every member of the group to say something and for the group to reach consensus on an idea, policy, procedure, etc.
  • In jigsaw projects, each member of a group is asked to complete some discrete part of an assignment so the pieces can be joined together to form a finished project. See more from Cult of Pedagogy.
  • In think-pair-share, students are given time to think about a response to an issue, then turn to their neighbor and share their thoughts, and finally share what they have learned with the larger group
  • Team-Based Learning is a framework for structured small-group learning, adaptable to large and small classes. This technique emphasizes student preparation, in-class assessment, and in-class student collaboration on solving applied problems  see Team Based Learning – Examples & Recommendations (Yale)
  • Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning is a team-based-learning framework which emphasizes process skills.( See Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (Carlton College)

Activities for group interactions

  • Present a common misconception to the class. Ask students in groups to discuss whether or not the idea is a misconception and have them present their reasoning
  • Describe a contemporary social problem that is relevant to the course content and ask students to develop and defend possible solutions
  • Assign different groups to learn about different aspects of a larger topic and teach the material to each other


  • Bacon, D. R., Stewart, K. A., & Silver, W. S. (1999). Lessons from the Best and Worst Student Team Experiences: How a Teacher can make the Difference. Journal of Management Education, 23(5), 467–488. (Access through Tufts libraries)
  • Kaufman, D. B., Felder, R. M., & Fuller, H. (2000). Accounting for Individual Effort in Cooperative Learning Teams. Journal of Engineering Education, 89(2), 133–140. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2000.tb00507.x
  • Oakley, B., Felder, R. M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning Student Groups into Effective Teams. Journal of student centered learning, 2(1), 9–34. (26pg)
  • Williams, R., & Stockdale, S. (2004). Cooperative Learning Groups at the College Level: Differential Effects on High, Average and Low Performers. Educational Psychology & Counseling Publications and Other Works. (Access through Tufts libraries)
  • C. J. Finelli, I. Bergom, and V. Mesa, “Student teams in the engineering classroom and beyond: Setting students up for success.” Online, 2011. Occasional Paper #29 from University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching.  https://crlt.umich.edu/sites/default/files/resource_files/CRLT_no29.pdf

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