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Volume 11 Number 3, Autumn 2014, Pages 1-156   

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Group Formation and Longevity in the Foreign Language Classroom: Students' Views

    Paul Leeming

Group work has become ubiquitous in general education and within language teaching, but having decided to use groups in the classroom the teacher is faced with a number of decisions, including composition, longevity, and level of freedom given to students in selecting group members. Although there is a limited body of literature in general educational research discussing these issues (Bacon, Stewart, & Silver, 1999), there is no empirical research in SLA addressing this. This article describes a study conducted over one academic year, with students in compulsory English classes in a private university in Japan. Students experienced random group construction, self-selection into groups, and also groups working together for a single week, and for an entire 14-week semester. Interviews and questionnaires were used to determine preferences for group formation and longevity and to discover students' reasons for selecting group members. Results suggest that students have mixed views, but generally prefer selecting their own groups, and also changing groups at some point during a single semester. Students select group members based on friendship. Although studying with friends leads to smooth conversation, there is the possibility of increased social loafing. The implications for teachers are discussed.

Keywords: group formation, longevity, student' preferences, group dynamics