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Group formation based on interests

Brief description

The exercise may be used to divide the students in a course into groups based on their academic interests. This will give the students an opportunity to reflect on and communicate their academic and/or personal interests, and to focus on these in their work throughout the semester.

Motivation for the activity and required outcome

The purpose of the exercise is to divide a class into new study groups based on the students’ academic interests. This provides the students with an opportunity to team up on a project, for instance based on a specific perspective, a curiosity motive or an issue which everyone in the group finds interesting. The exercise simplifies the composition of study groups, making this a less time-consuming element in the course.

Perform the exercise

  • As a teacher, you must introduce and facilitate the exercise.

  • Inform the students that the questions and issues they might present in the exercise are not final and decisive for their exam assignments.

  • Ask the students to reflect individually on the following questions:

    • What specific academic and/or personal interests do you have?

    • Is there a specific empirical context (profession, organisation etc.) that you find particularly interesting?

  • On the basis of the above, each student should write a WH-question on an A4 sheet which they find interesting and wish to examine together with other students.

  • Students should stand in a circle and take turns to step forward, say their names and present their questions to their fellow students. They should then place their questions on the floor in the middle of the circle.

  • In a silent process where no one must speak, the students should now place the questions in groups. The students may only move their own question and place this next to other questions they find to be similar.

  • You or one of the students should read all the questions from the same group of questions aloud, one group at a time. All the students in the class should now assess the questions from each group jointly and move the questions about based on the following criterion: each group must have three to five questions.

  • The students should now get together in the groups where their own questions are located. This will cause the new study groups to be formed.

  • Complete the exercise by summarising the students’ experience of the process in class.


  • The first and individual part of the activity may be carried out by the students as homework.
  • Ask the students to write their questions in Padlet, possibly as part of their preparation. Subsequently you may group the questions together in class, with you as a teacher moving the questions about on the basis of input from the students.

Worth considering

  • How many students are there in the class? It may be difficult to place the questions in categories if the class is too big. In this case, you may split up the class or use a digital service for an overview and mindmapping

  • How much time should be set aside for the exercise?

You will need:

  • A4 sheets and writing tools