Group of Students

Being able to collaborate effectively is so important to students’ success in the classroom and life. Working with different people can unlock new ways to problem solve, inspire fresh ideas and encourage perspective-taking 

Educators have also likely seen what happens when kids struggle with a group assignment. If teams are not mindfully managed, discomfort and scratchiness (which are part of the learning process) may grow into unproductive conflict or a breakdown. 

Using Emergenetics®, teachers can enhance learning and open their students’ minds to new points of view. Here are a few insights to improve grouping tactics. 

#1 – Start with Like Pairings

It’s important for learners to first feel accomplished when they collaborate. Through a positive experience, youth recognize the value and fun that can come from working with others. With that in mind, I recommend starting by pairing up individuals with like Thinking preferences.  

When kids approach their schoolwork in similar ways, they are likely to communicate more easily and identify agreeable approaches to problem-solving. To create teams, consider using like-dyads or putting them in spectrum groupings with all of the Group 1s together, the Groups 2s together, etc.  

How to Apply This Tactic 

This approach is a great way to kick off joint assignments by easing kids into teamwork. It’s also useful for activities where educators want to display cognitive diversity in action by comparing each group’s approach to the assignment.  

When I was teaching, we had our fifth graders complete a challenge called the Tallest Tower, where they had to build a tower with spaghetti, marshmallows and tape. We created teams based on spectrum groupings, and it was awesome to see how differently they approached the work. For example, the Group 1s were mindfully calculating, measuring and strategizing, while the Group 6s were experimenting and playing. It allowed us to show how kids approached challenges in distinct ways – and how much they all enjoyed it by working through their strengths. 

#2 – Progress to Mid-Dyads

Once students have had a sense of accomplishment with group work, educators can next focus on mid-dyads. The power of this strategy comes from the fact that they will share one Thinking preference and have others that are not in common. 

Mid-dyads make diversity of thought a little more approachable by allowing youth to have something they can align on (i.e., their shared Thinking preference) while also encouraging them to feel a bit “scratchy” as they navigate their differences.  

How to Apply This Tactic 

The pairing can be used in any project or activity to dial up the level of difficulty in problem-solving. It’s a great way to support peer coaching and strengthen self-awareness.   

No matter how the strategy is applied, be sure to debrief of the experience. Ask kids to reflect on: 

  • What worked and what didn’t work? 
  • What was challenging about it? 
  • Why were they grouped in this way? 
  • What did they learn? 

Pausing for reflection helps each person see the value in the differing methods, which is when the magic of collaboration starts to come to life. 

#3 – Combine Unlike Patterns of Thought 

In this scenario, educators should purposefully bring together teams who approach the world in very dissimilar ways. It’s one of the most powerful and challenging grouping strategies, so be sure to use it after trust has been built among students.  

Once youth recognize the strengths of various Attributes, they will be more inclined to work through the discomfort they are likely to experience to get to a better result. Teachers can use unlike dyads to pair up people with distinct Thinking styles or WEteams for a group project. 

How to Apply This Tactic 

This grouping method is beneficial when educators want kids to experience new perspectives and raise ideas that they may not have thought about on their own. As an example, I often used this tactic for peer editing or feedback on essays or presentations. 

I also encourage teachers to use WEteams for projects that have a longer timeline, where the group will need to work together for a while. By bringing together their diverse points of view and giving them time to connect, youth are likely to produce more well-rounded, well-reasoned deliverables. 

Also, in any event, remember to reflect on the experience! Having kids thoughtfully consider their differences and the brilliance they each bring is golden. 

Interspersing the Behaviors 

Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility also play a role in classroom grouping strategies.  

If educators find that certain like-dyads or like-thought pairings are struggling to connect, be sure to look at the behaviors of students to see if that may be contributing to their challenges. In the early stages of collaboration, try connecting classmates who are in similar thirds. 

Additionally, teachers may use the Behaviors to guide other activities. 


I often used Expressiveness to organize presentations when there were multiple ways that kids could present. It’s also helpful for seating charts. I would often seat students according to like-Expressiveness, putting those with first-third preferences in the front and those with third-third preferences in the back. That way, the learners who prefer a quiet environment could be close to the teacher, while the third-third students – who like to think out loud – can lean over to their classmates without distracting those in front. 


Pairing learners by like-Assertiveness is an excellent way to create teams for games, competitions and debate because youth can move forward in a way that matches their preferred pace. I will never forget the story of a math teacher, who had her class grouped according to Assertiveness while playing a game of Spoons to practice fractions. The first-third kids were calmly passing cards and completing their tasks, while the third-third individuals were throwing cards and diving for spoons across the table. In each scenario, participants were able to play at their preferred pace, without frustration or stress, and still accomplish the goal of the activity.  


Flexibility is particularly useful when changes are introduced in the classroom. When learners need to process modifications that are coming up, combining them by like-Flexibility can give youth the space they need to acknowledge what is happening. An example of this strategy in action could occur if a teacher is going on parental leave. By giving students time to talk through the change with other like-minded classmates, they will feel more seen, heard and supported. 

Taking time to mindfully create grouping strategies promotes greater learning beyond the specific assignment that kids are engaged in. Introducing them to similar and different patterns of thought and behavior will help youth be better equipped to collaborate with others, understand the value of cognitive diversity and use it to drive classroom achievement. 

Learn more about how you can use Emergenetics to support your students. Explore our youth programming or fill out the form below to connect with one of our team members today! 


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