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I am teaching a class of 16 students aged around 15-16. They are all very social except for one older male student who has a severe kind of social anxiety. In the class there is also a gifted girl, she is really exceptional in that she is a self-learner and extremely curious. I would like to try to make these people work in small groups as research shows that it's a good way to boost question frequency and metacognition. The problem is how should I group these students taking into account these peculiarities? Ideally I would not like to make groups of three, rather couples. Any ideas?

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I don't have any solid suggestions regarding these two students. I would have no concerns about the gifted student, and I might speak with the anxious student to put them with others they are most comfortable with.

But I would recommend groups of 4, mainly because there is lots of information available on how to help them work well together. I blogged about it after attending a workshop on "Complex Instruction", and referenced the 4 roles they suggested you have students take in groups.

I have found Henri Picciotto's work very helpful. Here's what he says about groups.

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I strongly urge you to make groups of three. The third student inproves the resources of the group, breaks deadlocks and generally, in my experience provides a better dynamic. This would also make it possible for the gifted student to be a resource for two other people: that is also to her benefit as explaining and challenging ideas deepens and embeds understanding of complex topics. The socially awkward student should have some say in how he is grouped and the possibility to temporarily withdraw if he becomes overwhelmed.

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