Group Processing

Initial Publication Date: December 11, 2006
"Groups need specific time to discuss how well they are achieving their goals and maintaining effective working relationships among members. Instructors structure group processing by assigning tasks as (a) list at least three member actions that helped the group be successful and (b) list one action that could be added to make the group even more successful tomorrow."
Johnson et al. (2006, 1:30)

Group processing in cooperative learning has several purposes:
  • Allow the group to improve its work together continuously over time.
  • Focus attention on group members' contributions in order to increase individual accountability.
  • Make the learning process simpler through streamlining.
  • Reduce or eliminate actions that don't contribute positively to the group's learning.
Instructors set up group processing for their students in a number of ways. First, they choose the skills they want the groups to focus on as a part of setting the objectives for the activity. Second, they explain to their students what actions are expected of them throughout the activity. Then they monitor the different groups during the activity, observing student actions and intervening if necessary to improve a group's learning. This all forms the foundation from which students and groups conduct their own parts of group processing.( Johnson et al. 2006, 2:27)
  1. Feedback: Each student in the group gives and receives positive feedback on their contribution to the group. It's very important that the feedback is positive in order to generate forward momentum towards improving performance.
  2. Reflection: Students analyze and reflect on the feedback they've been given.
  3. Improvement Goals: Individual students and groups set goals for improving their work. Individuals can pick a particular social skill to use more effectively. Groups can decide on a collaborative skills to work on next time.
  4. Celebration: Groups celebrate the hard work and contributions of the members as well as the success of the group. Celebrations provide students with encouragement to continue improving their group work.

Group processing is a very important part of cooperative learning. According to Johnson et al. (1998), "Students do not learn from experiences that they do not reflect on." Making sure that group processing is not shortchanged because time runs out is critical to the groups' success. If class is almost over, you can have students give each other quick feedback, assign the processing questions as homework, or process yesterday's group work at the start of today's class.

Angelo and Cross (1993) provide a wide range of classroom assessment techniques, of which the Group Instructional Feedback Technique (GIFT) is particularly well suited for group processing evaluation. In short, students respond to specific questions such as "what worked?," "what didn't work?," and "what can be changed to improve the group functioning process?"