We have found that pushing students outside their comfortable friend groups for cooperative projects increases planning time, decreases arguing, and allows everyone to contribute. In a recent project block, guides chose the makeup of the work groups to some considerable complaining. Once the initial complaints subsided, students quickly turned to their group members and began to divide up the tasks. Five of the six groups were able to complete their research, create visual aids and prep for presentations within the time provided with little to no adult help.
As I walked around listening I heard students offering to take on extra jobs and helping peers find needed information. At one point, several students had to leave before presentations began. Their group mates offered to present for them and the absent students made sure to leave complete materials for their group. Afterwards I spoke with the one group that did not communicate effectively. They expressed frustration but were also able to articulate where things went wrong and offered strategies they would try next time the encountered conflict.
Thus, pushing students outside of their comfort zones benefitted the entire group.