The ComPADRE Collections

Group Work with Interactive Lecture Demonstrations

Although Interactive Lecture Demonstrations can be completed by students working individually, group work encourages students to talk about their thinking. As a result, students:

  • Correct each other's mistakes. Research shows that more-skilled students are less likely to make distracting errors if they must explain their work to other students.
  • Verbalize their thinking. Research shows that metacognition--thinking about thinking--is important for learning that will persist beyond the classroom.

Forming groups

Pair work is the simplest way for students to compare predictions and conduct a demonstration.
  • Ask students to work with someone they do not know, or at least do not know well. This will give students permission to not work with a friend, a likely distracting partner but one whom students will choose in order not to insult the friend.
  • If pair work is done often, find ways to move students around the classroom so that the same students don't always work together. For example: ask students in the back of the room to find a partner from the front.
  • Watch out for students who are left without a partner. Connect these students with others in need of a partner.
  • As a last resort, allow three students to work together.
  • The think-pair-share module has more advice for working in pairs.

Small groups may be needed if the demonstration requires more than two students working together. However, small groups should be formed with care.
  • Instructor-created groups are best so that groups are heterogeneous and friends don't work together.
  • If time permits, consider base groups, designated by the instructor, in which students sit together and work together for more than one class session.
  • If such a long-term arrangement is not possible, use a randomizing technique to form groups each class meeting.
  • The cooperative learning module has further advice on small group work.

Managing group work

  • Provide each group with written instructions.
  • Let students know how long they will be given to complete each step in the activity.
  • Structure group work carefully so that all students participate equally. For example, if students are sharing their predictions, ask one student to present first for a designated time, then reverse roles. Similarly, during the demonstration, make certain that all students are involved by rotating roles. Students can take turns using the apparatus, looking up data, or whatever activity the demonstration requires. In addition, roles can be assigned so that students take turns as note taker, timekeeper, or reporting results to the entire class.

Reporting out

  • Make certain that each individual is accountable for each step in the Interactive Lecture Demonstration. For example, after students share predictions, call on individuals at random for their answers or require each individual to submit an answer through a classroom response system.
  • If group work is graded, count it as only a small portion of the total grade. For example, groups may be required to submit a collaborative report on a demonstration. However, after the demonstration, encourage individual accountability by calling on students at random or by requiring a written report from each student.


  • Make certain that students know how they will be assessed during and after the Interactive Lecture Demonstration.
  • Consider a mixture of formative assessment, usually low-stakes feedback that helps students identify shortcomings in their work, and summative assessment, in which students are accountable for extended and correct analysis. Such high-stakes assessment may be a follow-up activity such as a written assignment or test. During the Interactive Lecture Demonstration, most work collected will be formative, counting only a small portion of the total grade and scored based on effort and growth.
  • If small group work is used, make certain that there is equal participation by all group members and count such work only a small portion of an individual's grade.