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Class Activity on Social Loafing: a Powerful Way to Demonstrate It

Group projects: students hate them.  Here's an activity I found that really drives the point home:


  1. Goal: show students how easy it is for "social loafing" to occur (i.e., students tend to contribute less when they're working in a group).
  2. Work in a Group: I asked some of them to turn around and work with the people behind them as a group. The rest would work individually. Three groups were created consisting of 4 people each, so about half the class worked in groups and the rest individually. 
  3. The task: "List things you would find in a city that begin with the letter T". 
  4. Individuals: Writing Down the Ideas: I told everybody to write each idea on paper and tear off the ideas into tiny pieces of rectangular paper.
  5. Groups: Writing Down the Ideas: Group members should put each piece of paper in a pile in the middle of the group, while individual students just collect them on their desk.
  6. No Talking: nobody can talk during the 2 minutes they'd be allowed to brainstorm ideas.  That's it. Go.

Result: groups came up with an average of about 4 ideas while individuals came up with about 7.


We then talked about the idea of "Social Loafing", why it occurs and what can we do to make sure it doesn't happen.


This activity worked pretty well for me  Let me know how it goes and if there is any need to adjust the directions to make sure it works.



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This activity sounds great. I have one clarifying question: are the group members not to talk to each other?  

Thanks so much for the clarification. 


That's right - students can't talk to each other.  Thanks for pointing out that this wasn't included in my instructions above.  I updated the post so that this is included.