Line students up according to their familiarity with a concept, then pair nearby students so that students can work together in pairs more comfortably because of similar content competency.

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  • The line of students move from high-familiarity to low-familiarity.
  • Pairing students based on their level of understanding ensures that someone with less understanding doesn't get paired with someone who seems to know everything.
    • Paring where the students have different levels of understanding can make the student with less previous understanding feel uncomfortable working with someone who seemingly knows everything.
  • It’s important to recognize that self-confidence may impact where students self-select.
    • Some students may be over-confident about their knowledge and ability, some less confident.
    • Consider using formative assessment methods such as pre-quizzes to group students.
      • This allows you to group students based on your knowledge of students’ familiarity or ability with the material.
  • Emphasize that prior knowledge of a concept isn’t deterministic.
    • This means that prior experience and not innate ability.
    • Students with less familiarity may feel badly about being lined up at the low-familiarity end of the scale for the whole class to see.
    • Similarly, students at the high-familiarity end of the line may feel pressured to look good, distracting them from developing full mastery of new material.
    • For more info on these ideas, look into Carol Dweck’s Mindset theory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindset#Specific_theories
  • Because students come to introductory classes with various levels of experience, this pairing technique is useful in beginning courses.
  • If students with more familiarity finish the class assignment early, have them walk around the classroom and offer help to students who get stuck or are struggling.
    • Additionally, you can give these teams extra challenges or require their work to be at a higher level of production quality.
  • Another way to pair students is to place students from the middle with students from the lower end of the familiarity scale.
    • This can give students of middling ability the feeling of being "the smart one" in a group and help scaffold their partner throughout the assignment.