Instructional Grouping

April 2019
teacher helping a student in a classroom

Placing students into small groups for academic purposes can be a powerful approach to stimulate learning. This classic brief on instructional grouping created by Beatrice Ward in 1987 remains a popular download for educators looking to improve classroom instruction by promoting students working toward academic goals in small groups. The brief synthesizes the research available at the time to outline the purposes of instructional grouping that include:

  • Assuring that all students learn
  • Increasing student engagement in learning
  • Teaching students how to work with others
  • Facilitating social interaction among students
  • Motivating students
  • Improving students self-concepts and attitudes toward self and school
  • Teaching students to learn in a variety of ways

The resource also provides lists of research-based teaching practices to support student small group effectiveness as well as a set of cautions to prevent small groups from poor performance.

This brief originally appeared as part of the School Improvement Research Series. We acknowledge that the research and terminology have evolved since original publication and provide it as a foundational piece for educators exploring student learning in instructional groups.

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