#11: Group Investigation

(Sharan & Sharan; Bennett et al., 1991)

Purpose: Group Investigation is a cooperative structure that enables students to plan and carry out a course of study. This structure is complex but students are involved in multifaceted learning tasks that demand greater autonomy and group self-direction. There are 6 main stages: 1 – Grouping, 2 – Planning, 3 – Organizing, 4 – Investigation, 5 – Presenting, 6 – Evaluating.



  1. Present topic and use several key questions to define the scope of inquiry. Students may scan a variety of resources to activate their prior learning and stimulate inquiry.
  2. Clarify the topic: Develop a list of questions that the students would like to investigate. You may guide this or have the entire class brainstorm together.
  3. Classify questions to create sub-topics.
  4. Form investigation groups: Students select subtopics of interest and form cooperative groups. Ensure that the groups have a good mix of contributors.


  1. Clarify the task: Each group explores its subtopic and formulates a research problem. Focus questions are developed to outline the scope of inquiry.
  2. Develop an action plan: The group decides:
    1. Aspects to investigate.
    2. Deadlines for reporting back.
    3. Resources needed.
  3. Assign or have students select jobs and responsibilities.


  1. Prepare a daily plan: Group members complete an action plan for each investigation day.
  2. Research sub-topic: Gather data from resources.
  3. Analyze and evaluate data: Assess the relevance of the data related to the question.
  4. Apply the data: Members share their data to solve the group problem.


  1. Select a reporting method: Determine the presentation format. It may be a presentation, poster, etc.
  2. Plan the report: Members discuss individual roles for the presentation and complete a presentation plan.
  3. Construct the report: Individual assignments are complete to form the report.


  1. Present the reports.
  2. Respond to the report: Other groups may seek clarification or give feedback.


  1. Establish the criteria: Establish the criteria in advance and use a rubric.
  2. Clarify the components: This may include:
    1. Teacher and student evaluations.
    2. Formative and summative evaluation.
    3. Weighting of the process and the product.
    4. Ratio of individual to group marks.
  3. Check for understanding: Be sure that the students understand at the beginning how they will be evaluated. Students may complete a self-evaluation and add it to their portfolios. Teachers may also require an individual report or testing of the material after the final presentation.


Tip: This activity is more complicated than many of the activities included in this resource guide. In order to run this activity effectively with a larger group of students, you would need to ensure that the different parts of the process for the students were clearly outlined. Putting up a slide with directions would not provide students with enough clarity. It would be more effective to give students a handout explaining the different steps, so they could follow along while you described the process and refer back to it while they were participating. In order to have an accurate picture of the individual role in the group, you may want to have students hand in process journals that contribute to their final mark.