Facilitating Productive STEM Discourse: Equitable Small Group Work

Educator fosters productive small group work by structuring interdependence among the students in order to allow all students equitable access to the STEM learning objective(s).
Made by Trellis
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Educator facilitates productive small group work by designing group-worthy STEM learning experiences and using structures that address the five key elements of effective group work.

Method Components

What is a group-worthy task?

A group-worthy task is one where an educator:

  • Allows all students to make significant contributions
  • Requires a variety of skills and behaviors (requires many brains)
  • Is challenging/cognitively demanding

The five key elements of effective group work

Educator designs structures that address the five key elements of effective group work:

  1. Positive Interdependence:
    • Students work together in supportive ways and are held accountable for one another. Students have mutual goals and there is a division of labor. Students believe that each person’s efforts benefit the individual as well as the group as a whole.
  1. Individual accountability
    • Each student is responsible for their own learning.  Students are learning together, but they will perform alone to demonstrate their learning. There are clear goals established so students can be measured to see if the individual and group goals have been achieved.
  1. Face to face interaction
    • The learning environment is set-up to facilitate and encourage students to interact with each other.
  1. Interpersonal and small group social skills
    • Students have been taught how to work together.  There are structures in place such as sentence starters to help students interact with each other in supportive ways.
  1. Metacognitive reflection on group and individual academic and social efforts
    • Students are given the opportunity to meta-cognitively reflect on the group’s academic and collaborative efforts.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research


Strategies for Developing Productive, Equitable Discourse about STEM Content in Small Groups

  • Trellis Vision for Ambitious STEM Teaching - Reflection Tools & Checklists This is a collection of tools for supporting and gathering evidence of teachers’ enactment of core STEM teaching practices defined by Trellis Education.

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3 as well as a “Yes” for each component in Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(450 word limit for each response)

Activity Description:

  • What is the STEM learning objective for this lesson? And, please describe the activity students will engage in and why this is a group worthy task.

Group Structures:

  • Please describe what structures you have in place to address each of the five key elements of effective group work.

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Please submit evidence toward your demonstration of competency in facilitating productive small group work. This should include:

  • a lesson plan that describes the group worthy task
  • structures that address the five key elements of effective group work.

Educators can also include other artifacts such as a transcript of one group completing the task, completed student work, or a video of the lesson.

Part 3. Educator Reflection

(300 word limit for each response):

  • Why do you believe the structures you choose were appropriate for this task?
  • What was the impact of having structures in place for your group worthy activity?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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