Group size and composition

Group size

In terms of group size the 'ideal' number will be determined by the class size and by the nature of the assessment task you've set them. In general, a group size of four to six is thought to be ideal1.

A small group of students working together in a quad at the University of ReadingTop tip: Bear in mind that as the size of the group increases it can...

  • make it easier for freeloaders to hide;
  • make it more difficult for everyone to participate in discussions;
  • influence the use of peer assessment such that it may not be taken as seriously as within a smaller group;
  • bring additional challenges to the students in terms of organising mutually convenient meeting times and venues.

Group composition

The composition of a group can markedly impact on the quality of the end product that is being assessed. Whether or not groups should be self-selecting raises conflicting views. You may think that allowing students to choose who they work with will be the best option, but this may result in a form of self-selected streaming in which the higher ability students all work together, leaving the low ability students to form their own groups. Alternatively you may decide to allocate students to groups and there is some research evidence to show that it may be fairer to create mixed ability groups as long as high ability students who contribute more are recognised in their final individual mark1. Whichever option you take it's worth remembering that being able to work in a wide range of group situations is an important attribute and encouraging students to work with different people can provide new opportunities for them to develop other knowledge and skills.

  1. Gibbs, G. (2010) The assessment of group work: lessons from the literature.
    [11 October 2011].

Page navigation


Search Form

A-Z lists