The session opens with the following question: How do you feel about working in groups?
Some possible responses could be:
- Can be very inspiring
- Can be difficult if there is a negative ambience
- Depends a lot on the personailities within the group
If it is a big group it needs to be divided into smaller ones. Always best to work in a circle to ensure inclusion, and also include the teacher so as to eliminate barriers and the sensation of authority. A suitable amount of time is allocated according to the length of the session, so that students can note down everything e.g. in the form of a mindmap. The group is asked to consider the following themes: the objectives of group work; its functions as a pedagogical tool; the roles which can appear within a group, and the importance of the group size. Also to reflect on how the teacher should monitor the process, and which questions he or she should ask in order to facilitate the groupwork.
Some of the OBJECTIVES and FUNCTIONS could be:
- A more participatory process with the students speaking more and the teacher less;
- It changes the rhythm and dynamics of a session;
- The teacher has a chance to reflect and “relax”;
- The students are more active and there is more learning through doing;
- It is a way of accommodating different learning styles;
- An opportunity to put theory into practice
In general, it depends on the size of the group and the length of the course, and if the participants already know each other. The bigger the group, the more probable that shyer people do not participate, however roles can change throughout a course.
Some more specific roles would be:
- The specialist
- The time-keeper
- The people person
- The person who sees clearly in which direction to head
- The details person
- The person who holds the group together
WHAT QUESTIONS THE TEACHER SHOULD PUT TO THE GROUP(S)
It is better to make reminders and rhetorical questions. For example: “Are you staying on topic? Is everybody being heard and participating? Are you keeping track of the time?
MONITORING GROUP WORK
- Circulate round the groups
- Notice who is learning
- Take note of the knowledge level of the group
- Observe not intervene
- Remind of time remaining
- Apply the idea of succession – at the beginning of the course, more work in pairs, then gradually build up to bigger groups
- When in pairs, ensure that both have the chance to speak and to listen (time limits can be set if desired);
- With groups of four or more people, it is necessary to have somebody who fulfills the role of holding the group together;
- Once the groups consist of five or more, all of the aforementioned roles tend/need to be present.