Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom

Elizabeth Cohen believes that children should learn together—integrated in all ways, but especially across ability levels and styles. Cohen, professor of education and sociology at the School of Education at Stanford University, continues to study and teach about working for equity in heterogeneous classrooms and offers one of the most useful and well-researched books on the topic. First published in 1986, the second edition continues to be one of the best resources for teachers seeking to build communities of learners within their classroom walls.

Detracking students is a moral imperative for many, but there are few guides for the development of democratic learning communities. Cohen begins with a carefully crafted rationale for groupwork and moves through steps in the structures, processes, and challenges teachers and students face as they learn to work together. Cohen makes no assumptions that grouping students in heterogeneous classrooms is easy. She grounds her recommendations with bite-sized pieces of relevant theory while offering a full meal of ideas to create truly productive classrooms. Focusing on both intellectual and social goals, she outlines stages, roles, and problem-solving strategies that support student competence. Designing Groupwork has earned its place in the library of anyone seeking to create high achieving, equitable classrooms.

reviewed by Michelle Collay, a School Coach at the Bay Area Coalition of Equitable Schools