I dread group work as a teacher. This is an awful, possibly heretical offence to admit it, however I have to be honest, I really do.
And I can tell you exactly why – I do not find it is an effective way of learning for my students. It turns out, having had my nose in a few good pedagogical books lately, that this is really all my fault. I was keen to solve this issue to not only spice up my lessons, but also to create a collaborative culture as well as respond to a resounding response to my learning survey of “we want more group work!”
Therefore I started thinking, seriously about how to go about it. Previously I had tried, and failed miserably, to use roles such as “Scribe” and “Leader”, however, it the kids just didn’t seem to get it. Everyone in the teaching world says group work is amazing, it produces fantastic, collaborative, original, student lead work. But I was a bit stuck about how I get that.
De Bono’s little Hats have always worked well for me, so I figured I would magpie his millinery obsession for myself. I created a whole host of roles I thought I would need to have effective group work at different stages throughout the school and also for different tasks. English is very broad, therefore the same 4 roles just weren’t going to cut it.
I printed out little laminate cards with these roles and with explicit details of what each role was expected to do. Now when we do group work, I explain how big the group is and what roles are needed. Students are learning what each role encompasses. This technique is not perfect, and I know for a fact group work effectiveness across my school is patchy at best. I am training students to work in groups in a specific way for me, and hopefully, if I start this in September next year, I will have great group work fairly shortly thereafter.
The key is, finding a way that works well for you, and for the students. I really don’t believe there’s any point in doing anything that is not effective learning for the students. So I changed my mindset and found a solution. I just need to be patient, as I said, it does take time to train students.
If you are interested in this resource, please contact me for a PDF file of all the cards.