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Seminal research from Vygotsky, Bandura, and other learning scientists has demonstrated that learners change their thinking as a result of direction interaction with others. Having students work in groups is one way to achieve this. Group work goes by many names, including cooperative learning, collaborative learning, peer-led team learning, and peer instruction. There are many reasons why group work improves learning - here are just a few:

  • People learn by explaining things because they not only have to generate a correct answer but they have to justify it with a reason. 
  • Interaction with others provides and opportunity for feedback. In group work, this feedback is not only coming from the instructor (who is a very limited commodity in the classroom!) and it is coming from other learners, who are more likely to remember what it is like to not understand the material.
  • When more people are involved in a discussion,  more diverse perspectives and expertise can be brought to bear in answering a question or addressing a problem.
  • Interactions afford opportunities to develop teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills.

Group work allows for students to engage in more complex, interesting, and challenging projects that individual students would have difficulty completing on their own. Having students create group rather than individual products also reduces the grading workload for instructors.