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Group Investigations

Active learning

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Facilitating Group Investigations active learning activities in a classroom.

Time and Effort

Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Medium
Instructor Response Time Medium
Complexity of Activity Medium


Group Investigation has student teams plan, conduct, and report on in-depth research projects. These projects provide opportunities for students to study a topic intensely and gain specialized knowledge about a specific area. Students select topics of significance to them, form interest groups, and carry out their research on that topic.


Use it when you want...

  • To have students recognize that research is a logical, well-organized endeavor that differs from one discipline to another,
  • To have students enhance their understanding of the importance of discovery, or
  • To have students gain experience in giving and receiving constructive criticism.

What students will need

  • No special requirements for this approach.


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Group Investigations learning activity within a classroom.


  • Decide how topics will be selected, what resources you will accept, and how students will report their findings.
  • Develop a case study handout with a series of questions to guide students’ analysis using Google Docs and/or create a Zoom session in which students with work collaboratively.


  • Have students brainstorm potential topics that fit within your parameters. From the list generated by students, select the topics for the assignment.
  • Form teams based on topic interest. 
  • Give teams time to organize their efforts. Have them prepare a prospectus in which they formulate their research questions, state the goals of the project, and identify the resources they will need to carry out their investigation. They should choose the method they will use, then divide up, and assign tasks.
  • Ask groups to begin their investigation by gathering and reviewing information, deciding whether more information is needed, and analyzing and interpreting the results.
  • Have groups prepare their final report.


  • Students submit final reports.
  • Review final reports and provide feedback/grades to group participants.
  • Discuss the results of the activity at the next class meeting.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

Technical Documentation


Example 1

An Introduction to Research Methods professor wants to focus his course on an argument, critical reading, research, and documentation.  He decides to use Group Investigation. Students are asked to identify a policy problem and suggest specific action or set of actions that the intended audience was capable of carrying out. Goals for the team included convincing an audience that there was a problem, getting the audience to agree that the proposed solution was the most effective means of solving the problem and motivating the audience to implement the solution. Teams were formed, and students participated in a Round Robin activity to brainstorm ideas for problems. Each team then chose one of the problems to investigate. Teams investigated their problems and worked together to collect resources and develop a solution. Each team made a formal presentation to the class using whatever visual aids they felt would strengthen their proposal and also distributed an annotated bibliography of all the resources it had used. Teams provided students in the audience the chance to ask questions and to complete a brief peer evaluation by ranking various aspects of the group's presentation.

Example 2

In the course Plant Biology, the professor wants to use class time to have students investigate a contemporary issue related to plans, people, and the local environment. He decides to use Group Investigation in lieu of a traditional term paper and gives students several possible general topic areas from which to choose, including invasive weeds in California, fire management in California forests, pesticides in California agriculture, organic farming in California, laws protecting rare and endangered plant species, and native Californians' access to traditionally used plants. Students organized themselves and created groups of three or four. Groups worked outside of class to focus on their topic, identify goals, create an investigation plan, and determine the division of labor. They submitted an outline of their project to the professor and teaching assistant for review and feedback.  Groups determined references (including books, articles, and local experts) and then worked together to conduct the research. Team members were required to submit interim progress reports to the group leader and teaching assistant. Each group wrote a final report and gave a brief oral presentation of its investigation during the last week of classes (Barkley 257-258).


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 255-260.

Keywordsgroup investigations, group work, active learning, classroom, problem-solving psDoc ID104144
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-20 08:51 CSTUpdated2023-07-19 07:51 CST
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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