Collaborative group work is a popular student-centered method in part because diversity of perspective leads to better solutions (Humes & Reilly, 2008). Studies have shown that heterogeneous teams can outperform homogeneous ones both in the classroom (Cen, Ruta, Powell, Hirsch, & Ng, 2016; Hoffman, 1959; Hoffman & Maier, 1961) and the workplace (Van der Vegt & Janssen, 2003). However, found that, when allowed to self-select, stronger students gravitate to one another, leaving the rest to muddle through together (2004). Furthermore, Tucker (2005) found that, while students preferred self-organized teams and these tended to result in reduced conflict, this came with relatively mundane solutions, while instructor-formed teams exhibited high levels of destructive conflict. They achieved the best results when students were allowed to choose teams while working within diversity-enhancing constraings based on personality test results (Tucker & Reynolds, 2006).The author built upon this work, by developing a method of calculating the differences in student demographics to render a ‘diversity points’ score. The instructor would subsequently require that a minimum diversity point threshold be met by each group. This method was implemented as part of a web-based collaboration support platform and employed in classrooms over the course of a year and a half in conjunction with in-class discussions of the value of group work – with particular attention paid to diversity.
Micah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology & Society, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at State University of New York, Korea. After working as an enterprise software developer, Micah pivoted to education, completing his Masters in instructional design, development and evaluation from Syracuse University while teaching English as a second language. Later, and through the completion of his Ph.D. study of instructional systems technology at Indiana University in Bloomington, he worked as an instructional designer to close performance gaps for clients in the financial services, healthcare and software industries (among others). Micah's research focus is on developing collaborative teamwork skills and he uses his collaboration support platform (http://CoLab.online) to work with methods including gamification and self- and peer-assessment to achieve his research and teaching goals.