“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” by Mattie Stepanek


Many times in the classroom when a group of students are collaborating on a project, we see one or maybe two students not pulling their weight or working to their potential. This is called, Social loafing. Social loafing is the tendency to reduce individual efforts when working in groups compared to the individuals effort expended when working alone (Williams & Karau, 1991). Social loafing can also happen within online groups as well. How can educators prevent social loafing in the classroom? Here are my top 5 ideas on how to prevent it.

1. Create rubrics. Set expectations for the project with a rubric but also include a team work component. Have students evaluate themselves as a group before turning in the project, this allows for individual accountability for the group as well.

2. Create reasonable sized groups. Making sure groups sizes are not too large will help with social loafing. Groups sizes should be between 3-5 members, to see the most productivity.

3. Have the students develop rules for the group. Setting rules at the beginning will help all group members achieve the goal. I would give 5-8 minutes for the students to decide on the rules of the group. This allowed them to take ownership of the group along with teaching them real word skills. If you want, the teacher, can also create the rules and assign the jobs for each group member.

4. Model and teach students how to use accountable talk. Accountable talk refers to the ways that educators precisely encourage their students to think deeply, articulate their reasoning, and listen with purpose. There is a great book called, Comprehension through Conversation that helps give you strategies for you to model and teach students to have these rigorous conversations.

5. Highlight individual and group achievements. Everyone wants to feel accepted and highlighting students strengths and achievements will help show that they are a value to the group. I do this by facilitating around the room and making sure each time I go to a group, I make a comment about a different team members progress.

I would love to know any other ideas on how to prevent social loafing in the classroom. Please share your ideas in the comment section.


Comments on: "Preventing Social Loafing in the Classroom" (8)

  1. Language Arts Teacher said:

    excellent post…

  2. At the 2012 Teaching Fellows Symposium the teacher from Charlotte Christian suggested the following for older students-
    If there are four students on the project, the project would be graded on a 400 point scale. If the teacher grades the project as earning 360 total points the group themselves would decide how to divide up the points among the four members of the group. So, for example two group members might earn 80’s while two earn 100’s.

  3. […] Not that anyone has trouble getting all their students to participate in groups…but if you do, this post gives a quick rundown of some practicle steps you can take to increase student participation and decrease “social loafing.” https://insidetheclassroomoutsidethebox.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/preventing-social-loafing-in-the-cla… […]

  4. I think the key is making the time upfront to design learning so that collaborative groups of students are working on projects that are meaningful and have a defined audience. I think we sometimes rush into learning endeavors without the necessary think, conversation time at the start that instills a sense of mission and urgency about the work and efforts. Additionally the coaching along the way can keep the project meaning and investment alive. Thanks for noting an important aspect and challenge of learning today.

  5. […] Preventing Social Loafing in the Classroom | Inside the classroom, outside the box! […]

  6. […] Preventing Social Loafing in the Classroom […]

  7. […] Since I have to work with the same members to carry out more projects throughout the semester, I hope to avoid similar social loafing experiences in the future by ensuring that the instructions provided are thoroughly dissected and understand so we do not have to make extensive last minutes fixes. In essence, the objectives and broader goals must be well-defined, as well as uniformly understood by each group member. If social loafing were to occur again, I will most likely discuss with the group at a professional level the importance of cooperation and commitment, and then brainstorm ideas to motivate group members to fully complete their parts. In essence, I would need to recognize and acknowledge individual effort and strengths. This may be done by frequently commenting and providing both positive and negative feedback on different group member&…. […]

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