Groups types and the Classroom

Groups are an essential part of the classroom and learning experience of students. As teachers, we often form groups and or even disband them. In this post, we will look at the different types of groups that develop in a class and the reasons students join groups.

Types of Groups

The types of groups that develop organizationally can be defined in terms of two dimensions: formal vs. informal and permanent versus temporary. This means that there are four potential types of groups which are listed below.

  • Formal and permanent
  • Formal and temporary
  • Informal and permanent
  • Informal and temporary

Formal groups are usually set up by the teacher, while informal groups develop naturally due to student preference. How long a group lasts often depends on the purpose of the group. We will now go through each of these four group types in detail.

Formal & Permanent 

Formal and permanent groups are called a command or functional groups. The teacher develops this type of group to complete a specific long-term task. Examples of this would include assignments, projects, or even teams for sports competitions.

Formal & Temporary

Formal and temporary groups have the same criteria as formal and permanent groups. The main difference is how long the group is together. Therefore, the difference between the first two groups is how long the group will exist. In addition, what is considered permanent or temporary will vary from teacher to teacher and from student to student.

Informal & Permanent

Informal and permanent groups are also called friendship groups. The purpose of this type of group is for socializing and generally having a good time. This type of group will develop naturally without the influence of the teacher. However, sometimes this type of group’s interest can clash with the teacher’s goals in the classroom when socializing becomes too important.

Informal & Temporary

Informal and temporary groups are also called interest groups. These groups often last as long as the members have a similar interest—for example, a book club or a study group.

Reasons for Group Membership

There are several reasons why people join groups. The teacher creates formal groups, but for informal groups, there are distinct reasons.

Socializing is the main reason for group membership. Students are social creatures like everyone, and they enjoy each other and even the teacher at times. Therefore, students will join groups just to appreciate being around each other.

As mentioned previously, students will join groups to enjoy various shared interests. Some activities require more than one person (i.e., basketball), which provides an opportunity for an informal group to develop to pursue this shared interest.

Sometimes groups are joined because of proximity. Students who may not become members of the same group may do so because of physical proximity. For example, students from foreign countries may socialize together because they share the same foreign experience that local students do not.

Lastly, protection is another driving factor for joining groups. The perils of high school and even college can be filled with experiences of bullying and taunting. Nothing helps to quell such negative experiences, such as having a group of friends who will protect you from such treatment. Of course, some students join groups not so much for protection as for the opportunity to torment other students.

Conclusion

Group types are just ways for teachers to be aware of another unique dynamic of students’ social experience. Some groups are top-down while others are bottom-up. In addition, the motivation behind joining a group can vary from student to student. Either way, understanding this can help teachers to help students.

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