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Testing study group compositions

Brief description

During the first nine weeks of the semester, the students try working in three different study groups, so that they can experience working in different ways with different people. After this, study groups are composed based on a questionnaire, and students remain in these study groups for the rest of the semester.

The teacher’s motivation

Each year there are a few students who aren’t part of a study group, and it’s usually these students who have a difficult time both academically and socially. It’s a good idea to establish study groups in order to ensure that nobody is left behind.

Description of the activity

  • The course starts with a study group presentation by the degree programme director, in which the following things are emphasised:
    • Purpose of this kind of study group formation
    • Pros and cons
    • Tools for collaboration, e.g. agendas, coordinator/facilitator, aligning expectations during the first meeting
    • A call for openness and tolerance.
  • At the beginning of the semester, study groups are put together randomly. These groups are then changed after three weeks and again after six weeks.
  • After each change of group, students have the opportunity to share their experiences of working in the group in Brightspace. The degree programme director monitors whether any of the groups experience problems. If so, individuals or entire groups are called to a meeting with either a teacher or the degree programme director. · After nine weeks and three different groups, the students receive a questionnaire (Read about the questionnaire here), which aims to clarify their expectations for future study groups. The questionnaire includes questions such as:
    • How often do you want to meet?
    • Do you want the study group to be more socially or academically oriented?
    • Can you name some of the students you would like to work with?
    • What are your experiences/concerns?
  • Based on these answers, the degree programme director establishes the final groups for the rest of the semester. These groups will work together on exam assignments. Based on these answers, the degree programme director establishes the final groups for the rest of the semester. These groups will work together on exam assignments.

At the beginning of the second semester, the degree programme director holds a discussion with both the class and the individual groups about how the study groups are working. Based on these discussions, the degree programme director assesses whether any groups need to be changed.

Resources for students

  • Slides on how to organise study groups and whether to use a coordinator, etc.



Support for students:

  • Presentation of and instructions for the process

  • The option to contact the degree programme director

  • Feedback to the groups based on students’ descriptions of what it was like to work in the different groups.

Applied technology

  • Brightspace was used to inform students about how to hold meetings and organise meetings, etc.

  • The discussion forum in Brightspace was used for feedback exercises to enable study group members to share their experiences.

Outcome of the activity

  • The students like the fact that they are divided into study groups and aren’t required to make the groups themselves.
  • After the course, the second semester year group also requested study groups!


At first, the students didn’t think they had much to talk about in their groups. “We meet, but we don’t really have anything to collaborate on.” They found it difficult to see what they needed to use the groups for. There were many tasks related to student preparation that students could have used their groups for, but this wasn’t always clear to them.

Some students thought that three weeks in each new group wasn’t long enough, but, on the other hand, they were keen to meet new people in new groups. Three weeks is perhaps too short a time to learn how to collaborate.

Some unofficial groups were also established, but this was unproblematic. In the end, the students will work with those they want to work with.

Worth considering

  • Consider whether it could work better to let students try out two different study groups for four weeks at a time – instead of three groups for three weeks at a time.
  • At first, it is important to give the groups specific tasks to work on. For example: reading, exercises and preparation.

Basic information

  • Faculty: NAT
  • Degree programme: Geoscience
  • Course: -
  • Study level: BA
  • Size of class: 32 students
  • Form of instruction: - (Studiegrupper)
  • Extent: Course (longer course)
  • Primary activity type: Collaboration, Discussion & Exercise/Practice
  • Applied technology: Brightspace

Learning objectives

The students should learn how to collaborate, organise meetings and plan group work. In some cases, they may also get the chance to practise giving presentations and holding discussions with their fellow students.