Group work is great for discussion between peers and sharing of ideas, especially when you allow the students more autonomy over their work. Through discussion, students typically have to predict and explain their views, drawing upon subject knowledge. We need to be careful that the stronger personalities don’t take over and prevent the less confident students from being able to get involved.
Structuring collaborative working
Think-Pair-Share is a good way of starting collaborative working, as students think independently, then discuss their thoughts as a pair. They then join up with another pair and compare ideas that way. It can develop respect for each other’s thoughts and allows everyone to share their ideas, without stronger personalities taking over.
Allocating roles allows students to work to their strengths when required or develop new skills depending on what role you give them. For example, a student might be a good oral communicator, but struggle with writing. For one task you might ask them to feedback ideas verbally, which builds on their strengths, but in the next task ask them to be a scribe. They might wish to assist another student who has been asked to communicate, which helps with collaboration.
With experiments, once again assigning roles allows students to have a dedicated purpose. Often this will help cut down on unwanted discussion and bring specific tasks more to a focus. For example, asking one student to perform the experiment, one to read results, and one to record these means they have to work collaboratively and with a shared goal.
Over the course we’ve looked at having a purpose to practical work, being inclusive and establishing a positive learning environment. We invite you now to think about when group work has worked well, and where it’s supported the learning aims of the lesson.
When you have asked students to work together, what would be your one top tip that you would share for effective learning through group work?
© National STEM Learning Centre