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This resource outlines some of the key considerations to bear in mind when planning inclusive group work. 

In order to ensure that small group work is inclusive, it’s essential to get to know your students as much as possible and to try to anticipate their needs. This includes their preferred ways of working and any reasonable adjustments that you need to make. By ensuring that you plan ahead with as much information as possible, it should be possible to tailor the session to meet the needs of all of the students in your group. 

You should also aim to continually and informally assess students’ learning throughout the session to consider how you need to adapt your teaching and the tasks to ensure that all students gain the maximum benefit from the group work.  

If the students are new to group work, you may need to scaffold the group work itself, e.g. discuss what makes effective group work, which roles are needed etc. to encourage students to work effectively together. 

Best Practice Tips

  • Be aware that students may have specific needs (whether or not they choose to disclose them) and consider how you can support them.
  • Forewarn students that they will be working in a small group in advance to give time to prepare for such a session. 
  • Consider whether you need to sit (rather than stand) to teach small groups to avoid looming over students and help them to feel more relaxed. 
  • Decide whether to allow students to choose their own groups, whether groups will be randomly allocated, or if you will assign students to particular groups based on complementary strengths and knowledge. 
  • If you set up smaller group or pairwork, ensure that groups are changed or mixed regularly for different tasks so that everyone is included and feels that they have the opportunity to work with all of their peers. 
  • Provide information in advance where possible so students have the opportunity to absorb the information and be ready to ask questions. 
  • Don’t expect students to read and then respond to large quantities of text within a session; ideally, this should be provided well in advance, in electronic format. This can then be adapted, e.g. for students who have a visual impairment or students who have English as an Additional Language, so they have the opportunity to check unfamiliar items in advance of the session. 
  • Recognise that not everyone enjoys working in a group/pair. Allow learners some space and time to consider ideas on their own before expecting them to speak. Allowing students time to write notes in response to a question prior to discussion may help with this. 
  • Reorganise the room if possible to allow for special requirements, e.g. move furniture into small groups and to accommodate wheelchair users, turn off equipment such as projectors during group work to eliminate background noise. 
  • Set a clear timetable for the session, i.e. timings for tasks, breaks, etc., and ensure these are adhered to; this helps reduce anxiety for some students. 
  • Set clear classroom ground rules and deal with any conflict as soon as it arises. 
  • Monitor progress of group tasks and ask students for feedback on the tasks to ascertain learning, engagement and ongoing expectations. 


Developing Inclusive Learning Communities

Durham University Disability Support