The NSW Institute of Teachers’ Professional Teaching Standards includes:
Element 4; Aspect 4.1.4 Use student group structures as appropriate to address teaching and learning goals.
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Implementing group work effectively in the classroom can be challenging for many teachers, however if implemented successfully, group work can be extremely beneficial to students in many ways.
Group work is an effective learning tool as students are not passive recipients, prior knowledge is activated, complex and real world tasks can be worked on, communication is encouraged and problem solving, critical thinking, co-operation and team work are involved. Students are also motivated and less reliant on the teacher (constructivism).
As a student teacher I have seen group work used and students asking “why can’t we do this on our own?” and exlaiming “I don’t know why we have to work in groups!”
Teachers need to remember that group work should NOT be used when students can achieve the outcomes working by themselves.
While group work can have limitations, such as unfair distribution of workload, group acceptance, unequal contribution and pace, they can be overcome with some preparation by the teacher.
It is important to plan ahead when using group work. Students need to be prepared for group work, a basis for forming groups will need to be decided upon, resources need to be collected, detailed guidelines need to be given to the students, the issue/problem needs to be introduced and groups, student roles and rules all need to be established.
I have created six group role cards which may be distributed to each group member prior to group work (click on images to enlarge).
Click here for a printable word document of the six group role cards.
It is the responsibility of the teacher to control group dynamics. The teacher needs to ensure that the group sizes are appropriate, all students are encouraged to participate, group cohesion and communication is fostered, disputes are mediated and group leaders are provided with help in order to be effective.
Teachers can encourage maximum attention from each member with various strategies, including; not identifying who will be called upon to answer the next question before it is asked, avoiding focus on one student within the group and also avoiding being predictable.
Teachers need to keep the groups on task by helping them define their position and refocus on the task, prompting students to contemplate a new train of thought, providing students with information, asking students to provide specific information, providing opinions and assisting students record the results of their learning efforts.
Essentially, group work allows the students to learn from each other and exchange their opinions, thoughts and ideas to expand their knowledge and challenge their perceptions, and as a result, creating well rounded individuals.
How do you use group work effectively in your classroom?
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New South Wales Institute of Teachers. (2006). Professional Teaching Standards. Retrieved 4 Februray, 2009, from http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/Main-Professional-Teaching-Standards.html
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