Student Grouping Tool
The Learning Analytics team have developed a means of creating the groups quickly and efficiently - eliminating a potentially time-consuming process for academic staff. Instead of creating groups manually, academics can now send details of how they would like their groups to be built before the start of each teaching period, including the hierarchy of factors used to assign students to groups.
Among the factors used to create groups so far have been:
- Year level
- Section enrolments
- Repeat enrolments
- Previous assignment marks
Up to three factors are ideal with there being limited room to allocate students to different groups much beyond that. The categories can be anything for which data can be obtained. In some instances, students may have valid reasons for (not) wanting to be placed with certain people and this can also be accommodated without compromising the demographic make-up of the groups.
If you would like assistance to create student groups in your course please email the Learning Analytics team and let us know how you’d like to go about it.
Why use student groups?
It’s well documented that students can derive great benefits from working in groups. From increased individual achievement to enhanced communication and professional development skills, students with experience of Group Learning are likely to find themselves better equipped for whatever path they choose after graduation.
At the University of Adelaide we’ve seen that those active within study groups score about 3% higher than their peers and those extra few percent equate to a higher grade in about a third of cases. With so many students now studying remotely, group work also helps to engender a sense of collegiality. Understanding the advantages that this style of learning can offer it seems prudent to promote its use wherever possible. However, it can take some time to create student groups if the intention is to design them based on a mix of characteristics such as gender, residency or ATAR.
Achievement Benefits Associated with Group Learning
The benefits that students can derive by working together in groups are well documented. From increased individual achievement to enhanced communication and professional development skills, students with experience of Group Learning are likely to find themselves better equipped for whatever path they choose after graduation.
In a meta-analysis of 168 studies of undergraduate students Johnson et al. (2014) found collaborative learning resulted in greater knowledge acquisition, retention of material, and higher-order problem solving and reasoning abilities than students working alone. Since 80% of all employees work in group settings (Attle & Baker 2007), it’s understandable that employers value communication skills and the ability to work effectively within diverse groups (ABET 2016-2017; Finelli et al. 2011).
With this in mind, the Learning Analytics team delved into data from MyUni to seek evidence that students at the University of Adelaide achieved better marks when working in groups.
Enrolments in Semester 1, 2019 courses were categorised either as those who actively participated in groups within MyUni (14%), those who were members of groups but didn’t participate online (18%) and those that were not members of groups at all (68%). It was noted that the average high school ATAR score for these three groups was consistent enough (82.8-83.9, Figure 1) to suggest that none had a conspicuous advantage in ability.
Figure 1. Average Final Mark and ATAR by Group Membership and Activity, Semester 1, 2019.
The findings showed that active group participants achieved an average course mark that was over 3% higher than their peers who either weren’t group members or weren’t active within those groups (Figure 2). This was found in all faculties but most notably in Sciences (5.5% average mark improvement) and Professions (5.4%).
Figure 2. Average Mark by Group Activity, Semester 1, 2019.
The extra few percent resulted in a higher grade in a third of cases (n=3,042) with 441 enrolments (429 unique students) avoiding a potential fail. Seventy-one of these were first year students and previous analysis by the Learning Analytics team found the attrition rate among first year students that failed at least one course was seven times higher than that of those who passed all of theirs (17.5% compared to 2.5%). For 48 of the 71 first year students, the extra 3% helped them to avoid what would have been their only fail of the semester. If their rate of attrition now dropped from 17.5% to 2.5% we can project that an additional seven of these students were retained at the University as a result. To the University, the economic value in retaining those students is approximately $140,000 per year (~$20,000 per student).