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In this section, I will be considering different variables with group sizes and how

they relate with conflicts. More specifically, I will look through the lens of students and
how they faced conflict within different sized groups: four, three, and partnerships. I‟d
admit, this wasn‟t originally what I had set out to do all started when began the research
process. It happened when I was interviewing students for my focus group. I had all my
questions thoughtfully planned out to ask my focus students. “What happens when you
are in a conflict? Tell me about when you and a friend disagreed on something. It was a
great conversation, but I had already been down the conflict road. Just to have some sort
of closure to the conversation, I just asked the students: “Anything else you‟d want to
add...Do you even like working in groups?
Keith: Depends on the size.
Me: All right, so then what‟s your ideal group number?
Zane: “Three is always good because they can talk to others if there is a problem”
Me: You don‟t like four?
ALL: NO! (In unison)
Keith: To me four is really hard. There are always one or two people doing the
work and the other students slacking off.
Mary: Depends on what the project is. Like, if it‟s a longer project, sometimes
more people work.
Keith: There are too many names to write in on the line
Zane: Four is a bit too much. Five is unheard of.”
Me: This is has been really enlightening.
It truly was.
I had focused the majority of my exploration on student conflict; hitherto I
neglected to think about the variables in grouping strategies and the imperative role they
played. In project-based learning, the students‟ need to communicate often outweighs the
outcomes of the learning objectives. While endeavoring to make the lines flow more
freely in my classroom, I was struck by the different variables when forming groups and
how this affects communication habits among seventh graders.
The different variables I explore in this chapter are: the number of students in a
group; student choice in grouping versus teacher assigned groups; and importance of
assignments.
I intend to look at this through two different lenses: the teacher perspective and views of
a student, Alyssa.

Case study: Alyssa
Alyssa is a diligent seventh grade student. She had a 504 disability plan for
organization, visual processing and borderline dyslexia. Yet, in spite of the obstacles she
faced in my humanities class, she was an extremely hard worker.
She has a core group of friends. Through my observations, I have noticed she opts
to work more with male students rather than female. For example, when asked to choose
her partners for our Dystopia project, she chose two boys.
On the surface Alyssa appears flexible and easy-going, yet when she is frustrated
she does speak up to her group members or advocate that to the teacher. A clear example
of this occurred while students were in their literature circle groups, they appeared to be
laughing, especially Alyssa. However, later, reading her reflection journal, she wrote:
“my group got off task, it was kind of annoying.”
She never vocalized that point to her group member. It is my understanding that
in certain group situations, Alyssa desired to please her peers and does not want to get off
task.

Part one: Groups of Four
In my classroom, I most frequently grouped students in fours. The assignments
varied. I‟ve used groups of four long term projects, short one-class activities, or table
discussions. I‟ve been accustomed to grouping students based on a number of criteria
dependent on what I would like the students to produce. My thinking surrounding groups
of four was purely task-driven. As a general rule, I‟ve tried to make the groups fit so they
would work well together and get the task done. I justified that there was some magic
recipe to mix up the perfect group. There was little data to support how successful groups
were based on my grouping methods. Generally, I chose the ingredients:
 I ngredient 1:
o Gender. I would always mix two boys and two girls. Sometimes I would
have a group of all girls and sometimes all boys.
o I would never put three boys and one girl and vice versa.
 I ngredient 2:
o Personalities. I would mix some quieter students with some more
outgoing.
 I ngredient 3:
o Academic Ability.
o I grouped students according to academic ability. Often times, I would
mix two high-achieving students with one or two lower achieving
students. It was challenging at times with that mix because the higher
achieving students were more motivated and the responsibilities and stress
would fall on them.
 I ngredient 4: Student interest. If there was a student who was a strong writer,
they would be the editor. If a student was a master carpenter, they became the
builder, and so on.
Frequently this rationale for how I grouped students was successful. Students
were, for the most part, able to complete the work and generally got along. Cohen in her
book, Groupthink believes “groups larger than five present problems for participation.
For group discussion, I have always found that four or five is an optimal size” (Cohen,
1994, 73). In my classroom, however, I disagree with this statement. Students in groups
larger than four have difficulty discussing topics. I have witnessed year after year when I
conduct literature circles, I have struggled with students to comprehend the ways of
involving all students in larger groups. An example of this was literature circles that I
have conducted since the first week of school. There were groups of four reading the
same number of pages. While I have done literature circles for a number of years, I have
always struggled with equal student participation. This also rang true for the first
literature circle this year. In order to combat the forced conversations that were occurring,
I created a step-by-step process for communicating each student‟s thoughts on the week‟s
reading.
The overall feedback varied from group to group. When I asked the students
“How did the discussion go? 82 percent of students wrote their group wrote, “It went
well”. The times the conversations did not go well, were when a member of the group
was ill prepared and they didn‟t read the required amount. This led to, as one student put
it “we were all frustrated with [the student‟s name] because we couldn‟t talk about what
had happened because he didn‟t read where we were supposed to.” Conflicts mostly
emerged because of lack of productivity. When one student did not contribute, the
discussion suffered, and therefore, the students were not able to get a rich discussion from
the protocol. The key was that the students were not ready for a rich discussion. Ensuring
that all students are adequately prepared is a strong point to consider when implementing
groups of four in the classroom. While there are some truths to student participation,
larger groups tend to swallow up quieter students who are unsure of the work or are ill
prepared.
When students are given a structure to communicate in a larger group, they will
cooperate and follow protocol. Unfortunately, when students are unprepared, it creates
conflict for the other members of the group, especially if there are students who are task-
driven sharks. The strongest conversations happened when all of the students were
engaged in the book and when all group members were prepared with all of the materials
to participate in the discussion.
Another time I implemented a group of four was when I had students create their
own government. Unlike the literature circle discussion groups of four, this was a
brainstorming activity and all of the students needed not to prepare for the discussion,
rather I wanted it to occur organically. Furthermore, there was no structure for the
conversations.

Imagine you and the rest of the school were transported to a place with enough
natural resources for you to live well, but where no one had lived before. When
you arrive, you have no means of communicating with people in other of the
world. With this imaginary situation in mind, consider, debate, and answer the
following questions within your group.

Create a visual constitution of your society to share with the rest of the class...
1. Upon arrival, would there be any government or laws to control how you
lived, what rights or freedoms you exercised, or what property you had?
Why?
2. Would anyone have the right to govern you? Would you have the right to
govern anyone else? Why?
3. Would you have any rights? What would they be?
4. What might people who were stronger or smarter than others try to do
Why?
5. What might life be like for everyone?

The students were in a group of four, discussing the answers to these critical
thinking questions. What I uncovered was a polarizing dialogue. When listening in to one
group of students, there were two boys and two girls who each had two divergent ideas
on how to run their land. The two girls in the group would not listen to either of the two
boys at their table. They refused to compromise. In fact, they argued about all of the
questions. It was two-against-two, locked in a stalemate. In this case, they would have
need a fifth party to come in and mediate the compromise. I became that fifth person.
The conflict was unable to be solved because there were equal sides represented.
This could often occur in groups of four because of the nature of even numbers.

Alyssa in a group of four
Alyssa has identified herself as a shark twice and fox once when working with in
a group of four. She often voiced her struggles when she worked with students when they
are not producing. Additionally, she tends to become too social and can get off task when
in a group of students who tend to be more socially focused. This was apparent when she
explained, “I don‟t appreciate when [in my group] people slack off and don't put effort
into things”. I believe that while Alyssa desired to get the work done. She showed her
frustration with her group members because she wanted every group member to equally
contribute. However, she did not say anything to her group member, rather she remained
silent.
Groups of four offer certain benefits. It is clear they can help students motivate
one another to work. They can serve as sharing a variety of perspectives on a particular
theme when in a discussion. Furthermore, in more task-demanding projects, groups of
four help support the division of labor for each in order for each member to complete
their portion of the work.

























Pros Cons
 Strong discussion can
occur, when facilitator
or protocol is present

 More student
contribution of ideas


 Stronger
communication among
small group

 A third party could
settle conflicts. (Group
harmonizer)


 Students can gain a mix
of opinions and weigh
evidence from group
members.
 Could polarize ideas

 Could be difficult to come
to a decision

 Division of labor is
problematic.


 Groupings based on a
variety of criteria is
challenging

 Too many ideas could lead
to conflict

 May need an outside
mediator to resolve
conflicts (teacher)

 Student voices could be
overshadowed

 More voices means more
conflict

Groups of three
From the conversation I had with my student focus group, I decided to group
students in threes for a dystopian video documentary project. The students were to create
a thematic video that incorporated quotes from various dystopian literatures that we were
reading in class. I assigned the roles.
Each group had one editor and two students on filming crew. Students were able
to choose what role they wanted to have. They were required to collectively create a
storyboard, film and act in each scene. Then only one student would focus on the editing.
In the beginning, the students worked rather well creating their storyboard. When they
began filming, there were creative differences; some students had different visions on the
filming and time management.
At the end of the project, students reflected and evaluated each other group
members on their work, productivity, and effort. They filled out a scaled score about each
of their partners, and that would contribute to their final assessment of their grade for the
project. About halfway through the day, I overheard an argument from the students from
one specific group. The project was completed and they had turned in the work.
I followed up with them to find out what had transpired. When the boys assed
each other‟s work during the evaluation processes, one of the students, Joey, marked his
partners much lower. Fearing their grade was going to be lowered, David and Jesus were
upset with Joey. They became aggressive and began to shout at Joey. In this moment, it
made me realize that groups of three, while they can be successful in ensuring
cooperation and participation among all members, can lead to triangulation and unfair
ganging up on a third student. When thinking about utilizing groups of three, another
point to note is that of student peer groups. The three boys in this scenario were from
different social groups. David and Jesus were friends and Joey was not in the same social
group.
It is important to note the role of status that was played in this group dynamic.
Both David and Jesus are considered high peer status students. High status students tend
to have high peer influences or high academics (Cohen, 1994, 22). High status students
have more influence. Through out the project, both boys dominated groups. Additionally,
during the year, I noticed that David and Jesus are group leaders. They tend to take
charge both in the class as well during social situations. I have often witness Jesus
specifically leading basketball games or tag during lunch and break. Conversely, Joey is
to have lower status among his peers. He tends to be on the quieter side and has often
lacked initiative. “Lower status students don‟t talk as much as other students (Cohen,
1994, 36). I had witnessed throughout the project Joey‟s ideas had been pushed aside. For
instance, before recording a scene for their videos, David and Jesus decided that Joey
would be the cameraperson and the two boys would be the actors. Joey did not protest.
When I asked him about it later he said he didn‟t mind. It was only when I had read his
evaluation of his partners, he wrote, “they bossed me around and didn‟t let me act”.

Alyssa in a group of three
Alyssa worked with two other students on the dystopian video project. She was
able to complete the work because she had a voice on which students could work with,
which is important to her. However, through out the project, Alyssa was often not
focused on managing her time and, by default, ended up socializing with her friends.
While she is hard working, sometimes working with your friend group, can pose a
challenge.
When I had talked to her about the project, her insight was remarkable:
Me: How do you think the project went?
Alyssa: I think it went ok. Sometimes [her partners] would ditch me.
Me: Did you say anything to them?
Alyssa: No. I was trying to get my work done and I needed a quiet space.
Me: Oh. What would you do differently next time, if you had to work with them?
Alyssa: Honestly, I don’t think that’d be a good idea.
Me: Oh, why not?
Alyssa: Because we talked too much. I had to leave them alone. They were so
distracting and I didn’t want to do a bad job.

This dialogue with Alyssa proved to be thought provoking on a few accounts. One
phrase that stood out to me was when, after her group members ditched her, Alyssa
decided to focus on the work at hand. This shows a true student who cares about the
integrity of her work. She likewise realized the pitfalls of working with students who get
her off task. Although it was difficult for her during the process, I believe that the conflict
with her peers had taught her a valuable lesson. Lastly, sometimes in a group of three, the
odds could be against one person. In the case of Alyssa, she was able to overcome being
convinced to not do work, and was able to forge her own path.
In both student scenarios, the role of status played a significant position. Alyssa’s
status was much higher than the two other students. She was well liked by her peers and a
high achieving student. Because of this, Alyssa removed herself from her other two peers,
of lower status, and did the remainder of the work on her own. The other students didn’t
argue, rather they worked together and helped complete the work
Pros Cons
 Democratic votes with odd
numbers (two-against-one)

 Work could be divided
evenly

 Hold each other more ac-
 countable for the workload.

 Ease of grouping
academically and by
abilities. e.g. film crew,
editor, and music designer.
 Could have a group
harmonizer (third party to
negotiate)

 Engage in a two-against-
one argument

 Two students could leave out a
third one


 Two students could easily gang
up on the third, and could be
unfair





Partnerships
Partner work is great. I use it in my class virtually every day. I can implement
partnerships during pair share, looking at an article, jigsaw, etc. I habitually apply partner
work for smaller activities, and have rarely done larger-scale projects with two students.
What is noteworthy from the data in relation to partnerships, there were a much larger
number of students who identified themselves as compromising foxes. Because of this
larger number it explained that students were better at compromising and solving
conflicts with one other person, rather than a few others.
The chart below shows how the students identified themselves when they worked
in a group of four and when they worked in a twosome. I believe that this is because the
students have only one student to negotiate with and, therefore, forced students to be
more open in compromising. Partnerships offer valuable collaboration, but keep the
stakes high for students who tend to be more social.





Alyssa in a partnership
Throughout the year, Alyssa has proved to do well in partner work. I have
observed that Alyssa has consistently done a wonderful job of stepping up and stepping
back.
On the exit card from the History‟s Mysteries partner project, she reflected, “this
was a really easy project to finish and learn about the mysteries.” In a follow up
interview, I had asked why it was so easy for her. “I liked my partner that I worked with
and we both knew what to do.” She identified herself as a compromising fox when
working in the pair. She was also paired with a student, Kerri, who had identified herself
as a fox each time she worked in a group. Her feedback from working with Alyssa: “I
think that I was a fox because there were times when I had to be a shark so we could
finish our work. Other times, I was an owl when our product or pictures were falling
apart.” Because two self-identified foxes worked together, the result was beneficial to
each of the parties. They were able to compromise and work together to complete the
task. Alyssa was able to advocate for herself and the same with her partner. In larger
groups, she tended to get more frustrated with stronger personalities and students who
lacked follow through.

Concluding notions about group variables
When implementing, teachers need to consider objectives of the assignments.
They also need to deliberate what they want the students to learn from the work.
Different grouping sizes can foster better communication. Larger groups should use more
of a structured guide in navigating conflict. However, conflict occurs more frequently
when more voices are involved. This is due to the fact that when students have a larger
number of students in a group, the lines of communication become tangled.
On the other hand, partnerships offer a lower stakes way of students learning
basic negotiation and compromising skills. Either way, grouping has undoubtedly shaped
the nature of communication in my classroom.

Student Autonomy in grouping
Whenever I begin a project, I take the time to go through the deliverables, in other
words, what the students need to create and the timeline in how long the project is going
to last. It warrants a twenty-minute explanation of the project. This is commonly known
as a “project launch”. Inevitably, the most popular question students ask when I‟m done
pontificating on how wonderful the project is going to be is “do we get to choose our
group?” Without fail, I‟ve always snapped back, “No!” I never had students solely
choose who they would be paired with because I feared that students would not
accomplish the desired task.
However, I have given students the opportunity to advocate working with one
other person if they gave me a valid enough reason. They are often very specific. One
student wrote “Because on our last project [student‟s name] and I were able to manage
our time and we got all of our work done.” Others are very humorous “I don‟t want to
work with [student‟s name] because in the Egypt project in sixth grade, they did not let
me do anything and then yelled at me for not doing any work.” I try to stay away from
volatile relationships and, up until recently, never really let students work with their
friends. However, when thinking about conflict, I couldn‟t help but wonder if students
were more or less prone to conflict when working with a friend or a group of friends.
The typical aversion of teachers letting students work with their friends is that
they will spend more time talking than getting their work done. But in terms of creating a
classroom that fosters open communication, I took the risk and let them choose. I have
never let students in middle school choose whom they are working with. The experts
agree with me. Cohen‟s (1994) book Groupwork she wrote: “Students should think of
group work in terms of work rather than play, and there is clearly a tendency for the
friends to play rather than work, when assigned to the same group. Furthermore, some
students who are social isolates will not be selected or will actively be rejected for group
memberships. Against my better judgment, and the experts, I faced my trepidation and
wanted to see what would transpire if the students were allowed to work with their
friends.
I started small.
I had the students read and annotate a short story. It was a quick and
straightforward assignment. I gave them the option of choosing one person, two people or
to work alone (mindful of Cohen‟s thoughts about students feeling rejected). Fig. 1 shows
the completion all three parts of the assignment of assignment in three parts:
(1) They needed to read Kurt Vonnegut‟s, short story 2Br02B,
(2) Annotate the text.
(3) Find a quote that stuck out to them and connect that particular quote.
They were given two hours to complete all three tasks. Class A was permitted to choose
their groups or work alone. Class B, I chose the student grouping and they weren‟t given
the option to work alone.
Additionally, I chose the groups based on academic readiness and work ethic.
(These are traditionally how I would group students)




Allowing students to choose their groups finds teachers in precarious territory.
According to the data, I found it was not as I had risky as I had previously anticipated.
My original thought was that students would be counter-productive and completely miss
the learning objectives of the assignment, and thus, wasting class time. However, looking
at the data, I discovered a few surprises.
When students worked with their friends, they offered both support and
hindrances. In terms of support, students were more apt to bring up important issues with
their friends because they feel more comfortable addressing it, as the charts depict below.










I wanted to look at in what way they interacted with their peer groups rather than
teacher assigned groups. Students often spend more time getting off task than completing
an assignment. Some of their responses were:

“Because I got along with my partner
“Because we know when to stop [and get refocused]”
“I work harder with my friends”

There were several revelations that I found when students worked in groups of
their choice. While I had previously, and wrongfully, assumed they would not get the
work accomplished that was on the instance in a few groups. More important to note was
that when students worked with their friends, they were more apt to advocate their needs.
When students choose the groups, there are a few positive they tend to advocate
their feelings because they feel safe. Safety is a key element in having a conflict positive
classroom. Moreover, students were able to encourage one another to accomplish the goal
of the activity. In my experience, when teacher assigns student groups; the students can
potentially be more attentive to their work. However task completion is slightly higher.
What is most notable in letting student autonomy dictate their partnerships, the
most important take away is this: if the teacher‟s goal, as it were in my case, was to create
nm open communication environment, letting students choose their partners for low-
stakes assignments ensured they were able to share their wants and needs. This safe
environment led to fewer conflicts among peers.




The chart below shows the pros and cons of letting students choose their partners.



Part 4 Animal I dentifiers in-group situations
With all this evidence and variables previously presented, one variable remains.
How different students, who fall into various animal identifiers, how do they interact with
the same or different counterparts? There are some patterns that have emerged when
looking through the groups. There are some positive combinations of student‟s animal
identifiers. There are also so volatile and potentially dangerous ones. For example, what
would happen when more than one shark was put in a group?

When Shark Meets Shark
It is interesting to look through any lens how students communicate and handle
conflict. But when you start to uncover how students interact. Lets take Xander from the
previous section. Xander is a self-proclaimed shark. He has strong will to get work done,
but can often times bulldoze over other students to ensure his voice is being heard.
Because of Xander‟s strong personality, he has often alienated himself from his peers.
I put Xander in a group with another self- proclaimed shark, Eric, and two other
owls. My rationale was the owls could help negotiate and problem solve should conflict
arise between Xander and Eric.
Not surprisingly, the two sharks constantly argued, neither of them listened to one
another, and there was little consensus made. After tirelessly attempting to mediate
between the two other students, Monica and Ashley paired off and worked on their
portion of the work. After all, owls care equally about the work and the relationships of
others. The next class, Xander retreated and displayed qualities of a turtle. He removed
himself from the group and completed his work on his own.
It is not ideal to have two students, who are sharks, work together to complete the
same goal because they have little concern over saving relationships. They will not
compromise. In this case, however, each of the shark‟s stubbornness and lack of
communication did not serve them well. Now, this was an extreme case. These two
students have a reputation of being difficult to work with, not because they are hard-
working, but because they struggle with perspective taking and listening to their peers.
When debriefing what had transpired, Xander said in a very agitated voice, “Ms. DeLuca,
How am I supposed to get anything done when students are not listening to me?” When
questioning Eric, he blamed Xander for all of the wrongdoing. “Xander refuses to listen
to anyone‟s ideas and would call me names.” The two girls in the group both asked me to
Pros Cons
 Students will advocate their feelings
and be more honest with friend groups

 Students can encourage one another to
accomplish their goals.
 Productivity is slightly lower, tasks were
incomplete

 Students are more off task

 If student motivation is unbalanced, could
result in conflict.
never put them in that situation again. Ashley wrote in her exit card, “It was too hard to
talk because Xander and Eric were just yelling [at one another]”. Monica responded on
her exit card “I can‟t work with Xander because he doesn‟t listen and always calls people
mortals who disagree with him”. However, this previously mentioned example seems to
be extreme case in which there are other factors involved. What I believed to be
happening was what Elizabeth Cohen refers to a common problem, particularly with
students in middle school. This is referred to in Groupwork as “the physical and social
rejection of some members of the group” (Cohen, 1994, 58). These two particular
students simply did not get along.
More often with the shark and shark combination is not that extreme. More often
what occurred was that two sharks in a group worked diligently to complete tasks and to
get the work completed. They would often be silent and driven to finish the assignment.
For the history‟s mysteries project, two self-described forcing sharks, Mark and Charlie,
were task driven and created work with best quality. In video observations, I noticed that
there was little communication, but they agreed on how to create a finished photo. The
equally divided the workload. What was most thought provoking was that they both
thought the other got off task in their exit card. Charlie stated, “I had to be a shark make
sure Mark was getting his work done.” Mark‟s response nearly paralleled Charlie‟s. “I
was a shark to keep my partner focused”. True to shark character, both of the students
displayed little regard for personal relationships, and focused solely on the getting the
work completed.

Other combinations to avoid: Turtle/Turtle
Turtles, by nature, retreat when conflict arises. I have often found that students
have described themselves as turtles when they are confused on their assignments.
Because the students in my classroom are not tracked, we have students at different
academic abilities. Looking at the data, it seems, more often than not, when students are
confused, and they tend to be lacking self-advocacy skills, they retreat. The chart below
is a perfect example of such a student. Aaron can often communicate his thoughts
verbally, but his writing is much less proficient. I think that he did not understand the
assignment, nor did he not understand the question I asked in the survey. This is typical
turtle behavior. While this is not an external conflict with his peer, Aaron‟s lack of
understanding the assignment poses an internal conflict. This has led him to withdraw
from his partner as well as from the work.

Aaron
Evaluate your partner‟s
work on the project
How would you rate your
cooperation style?
How would you rate your
partner‟s cooperation style?
IDK, what you mean? Turtle Turtle

There were some potential pitfalls when I grouped students based on animal
identifiers. However, in my experience, I found that there are likewise positive
combinations of animal identifiers when students to work well together.

Positive combinations for work efficiency

Shark, Bear, Owl, & Fox
As teachers, we are trained to recognize when group work is successful and when
it goes awry. Out of my observations, the best groups I found were when there was a
shark, bear, owl and fox. What is striking is how the students communicate with one
another. In video observations of the creating your own government activity, the
conversations between bear, Kylie; Shark Keith; Fox Isaac; and Owl Gretchen was
overheard:
Kylie Bear: “What do you want to call our government? How about „hashtag
awesome people‟? We could implement selfies!!!”
Shark Keith: “How about we call it Keith land? I will rule all” (Laughter ensues)
Owl Gretchen “I don‟t think that would work. That doesn‟t seem right, were not
creating a dictatorship”
Shark Keith “I‟m going to create a dictatorship and you will all have to follow
me, minions. Lets move on to question number 2”
Fox Isaac: “I think Gretchen‟s right. Can‟t we make the land‟s a mix of all of our
names?”
Kylie Bear: “How about Hash tag [combines all names]”? Do you think that
could work [gestures towards the rest of the group members, but doesn‟t make
direct eye contact with Keith].
Fox Isaac/Owl Gretchen: [new name] that works for me.
Shark Keith: “I don‟t like the hash tag part
Owl Gretchen: “We have to move on, Keith”.
Shark Keith: Fine.

This conversation showed how each of the students communicated their thoughts
equally ensuring that no one‟s overshadowed. It was well defined that three of them were
in agreement against Keith and they did not want to cause a conflict. Keith did not listen
to their ideas at first, but the fox and the owl jumped in to save the bear. When the shark
was outnumbered, he conceded. What is also noteworthy was the problem solver,
Gretchen, appealed to Keith‟s academic motivation when she said, “We have to move
on”. She was negotiating and, intentionally or not, she was appealing to his sense of
wanting to get the assignment done. I also wanted to highlight Kylie who did not want to
speak her mind, because she values relationships. My suspicion is that if Gretchen and
Isaac did not come to her side, she would have conceded.

Other positive combinations
Fox/Fox:
When looking at the data from when the students worked in partnerships, I had
asked the students not only their animal identifier but also how they would identify their
partners.
The two students below describe their experience. They both had positive
experience, even though; Melissa believes that they both waited until the last minute to
complete the work:

Melissa
Evaluate your partner‟s work on
the project
How would you rate
your cooperation
style?
How would you rate your partner‟s
cooperation style?
I think we did okay, despite the
fact we all both lazy until the
second, third, last [minute].
Fox Fox

Jack
Evaluate Your Partner‟s Work on
the project
How would you rate
your cooperation
style?
How would you rate your partner‟s
cooperation style?
[My partner] worked hard
following the script, and she was
eager to finish it.
Fox Fox

I also attributed some of these positive experiences to the fact that students who
work well together typically are focused and motivated to complete assignments. Even
more note-worthy was that throughout the window of my data collection, students
identified themselves as foxes when there was little conflict, and therefore had nothing to
report. This occurred across the exit cards, no matter what the assignment. Amanda‟s
reflection shows that she and her partner were able to work on the task at hand and were
clear on the objective of the assignment.

Evaluate Your Partner‟s Work on the
project
How would you rate
your cooperation style?
How would you rate your
partner‟s cooperation
style?
My partner during this project were
very focused and doing what they were
supposed to be doing.
Fox Fox



Final Thoughts on grouping strategies
In my experience, and from the data, I conclude that, while there are no magic
formulas for grouping students to ensure little conflict or high work production, it is
important to understand potential pitfalls among students. In order to do that, students
and teachers must be able to identify their strengths and weakness when working in
groups. Furthermore, if teachers are striving to create a classroom that requires open
communication, my experience has taught me that changing the group size often and
varying the types partnerships based on animal identifiers will create a safe and open
communicative classroom.