Why do students learn in small groups?
There are many variations of GL, from pairs of students who work together for a few minutes during class to formal teams who do a semester-long project. Between these two, we can find many activities done in many of the ITESM classrooms.
Small groups give the opportunity to exchange ideas with several people at the same time, in an environment free of competition, since discussions with the whole group tend to inhibit shy students from participating (Cooper, 1996). A formal and carefully-constructed group helps students learn how to work hard and in teams, in a safe and stimulating environment. In order to be effective, teams should be created in open, trusting environments so that the students feel motivated to speculate, innovate, ask and compare ideas as they solve problems. In contrast, in a traditional classroom, students listen to what the professor says – it's the vehicle through which all information is transferred – and then they replicate that information in tests.
Apart from developing social and team work skills, small groups should fulfill academic activities associated with solving problems, which include: making analyses, testing comprehension levels, building work flows and graphical organizers, making estimations, explaining written material, asking and creating questions, making lists and predictions, presenting information, reasoning, gathering references to previously-reviewed material, solving problems, summarizing and thinking creatively.