Forming groups

Forming groupsSuccessful group formation allows for an enjoyable and easy group work experience for everyone.

  • Use a transparent process and criteria to form groups.
  • Each group should have a fair representation of skills and abilities in the class.
  • Ideal group size is dependent on task complexity.
  • Groups work better when there are a minimum number of changes in membership over the duration of the group task.
  • Students self-selecting their groups works well in short term group tasks, which are often unassessed.
  • Long term group tasks often benefit from structured allocation into groups.
  • Groups are best formed after enrolment numbers have settled in week 3.


Students often fear being assigned into a group where they need to carry an unfair burden for the completion of the work. Transparent group formation will pave a way for group members to appreciate the skills each brings to the group.

Fairness is important for students. If they perceive the group allocation to favour some students, they will resent the group tasks and a learning opportunity is lost.

Group size is a balance between enough ideas and too many opinions. Shorter and simpler tasks are successfully completed by groups of 3-4, while semester length and more complex group tasks can benefit from as many as 7 group members.


  • Skills and abilities to consider when forming groups include language skills, majors, cultural knowledge, work experience, team skills, personality types (e.g. Myers-Biggs), interests, or gender.
  • Group tasks can be further designed to utilise existing skills in the cohort. Designing tasks to require international experience and understanding can allow international students to shine.
  • Random allocation can work well when the student group is quite homogeneous. You may try it by taking a number from a box, order of entering the room, or alphabetically. For the most up-to-date class list from which to form groups, download your Blackboard Grade Centre.
  • Structured team formation can be done in class with less than 100 students. Start by asking students questions on their experiences and skills with a show of hands and picking a question which gives the greatest diversity. Then ask students to line up in the room according to that criterion and counting them into the teams. This creates great energy and movement, which is helpful for getting the class involved.
  • In larger classes it may be most convenient to use an online questionnaire asking key questions about their skills and abilities and then allocating students to diverse teams based on the captured data. The Faculty eLearning is happy to help in setting up a team selection questionnaire on Blackboard.

Further Resources