Historically, the conventional method of teaching and conveying information by a teacher has not been much effective. This one-way method of communicating to the pupils is quite ineffective and sometimes quite boring and unintuitive for the students. Students do not get a chance to express their ideas, viewpoints and thoughts; their ability to interact, knowledge sharing, confidence-level gets narrowed-down.
Student tutelage in a group formation is more preferable as compared to being guided individually, at a tender age and being a social animal it is inclined more in learning in groups and interaction with his/her peers. The first five (5) years of a child life have impacts on his/her learning potential for the rest of his life.
This topic covers the Importance of Group Work in Primary Education and the Role of the Teacher to manage it.Through discussion and argument, I will discuss the value and purpose of group work in the light of research on teaching practices conducted by renowned educationists and the role of the teacher in the organization of group work and planning of appropriate tasks for collaborative work since it requires careful planning and for thought for positive outcomes. Then I will analyze my own classroom practice and identify my own strengths to manage the group work strategy effectively in the class.
Finally, I will formulate an action plan to overcome all the problems, which few teachers face while managing group work. In the end, I will conclude the whole study in a way, which will show the importance of group work in the better learning of a child.
Discussion and Analysis
Traditionally, a teacher has always been treated as an indemnified personality who leads the whole class, dictating his/her notes and lectures to the students trying to put everything into the minds of the students, this one-way mode of communication has not been that efficient as compared to the new trend of forming different small study groups among the students and they put across their ideas. Effective teachers do understand the effects and outcomes of promoting team-work in their students. It has been ascertained that the existence of the group in the classroom is not a new phenomena. According to Kutnick and Rogers (1994), “From earliest recorded writing about education (certainly from Platto and Socrates), learning used to take place in a group context. Hence, the importance of social interaction in learning can not be overlooked” (P.2)
The idea of group work carries with it a vision of students talking to each other, sharing, reshaping and refining their ideologies and concepts. It means those children’s enthusiasm and consequently learning opportunities increase with in-group situations, both cooperative and collaborative. Moyles (1992) also cites Cullingford (1991) about children’s preferences for teaching strategies “Of all styles of classroom organization, the possibility of working with some one else seems to them one of the most important, not because they just enjoy working with a friend but because they can receive help, give help and exchange ideas.” (p.124)
Group work provides students within an opportunity to assimilate their knowledge through discussion with their peers, hence supporting each other’s learning.
It has also been observed that young students very often in the classroom do not have the opportunity to develop their listening and speaking skills in whole class situation. This have been stated in hand –out ‘Use of Language: A Common Approach’ issued by School Curriculum and Assessment Authority which says that the amount of time any individual pupil can speak in a whole class situation is limited, so group discussions can increase the opportunities for talk and encourage pupil’s to organize their own discussion. Thus, it is through discussions in a group that students develop a better ability to listen and accept others opinions and develop confidence in expressing their own views by speaking with clarity. Wells (1985) states that al children learn most activities when there are frequent opportunities of collaborative talk with teachers and fellow pupil’s. Therefore, this proved that while engage in-group work, students in a way take charge of their own learning.
Group size and type of group is also a very important factor in a learning process of a child. As far as group size and structure is concerned its teachers ability and competency that how she divides children equally according to the level of the task and their mental ability in this way students support, each other listens to each other and even corporate in finding the solutions of different problem which are given to them for discussion and for writing. According to Kyriacou (1991), “the setting up of group work activities involves a number of decisions about the logistics of their organization. First the size of the group and how groups are to formed, second the nature of the task third the aspect of group work concerns the teacher monitoring, forth the clear time management and the group work activities”. (p.58)
The role of the teacher in this case is, one of directing the students, facilitating and monitoring their learning process. It is commonly seen that the students in a class have different attitudes and strengths. Therefore, the teacher is a person, who shows acceptance of children, praises each child’s strengths and recognizes each child’s uniqueness by planning purposeful task having clarity of goals and way it is presented to groom their abilities. In this regard, Cordon (2000) has outlined the duties of the teacher during group task. He states, that during the tasks the teacher should introduce the activity and establish a collaborative working climate; by clarifying expected outcomes. The teacher should be ensured that children had a clear understanding of the ground rule for the group work, respective rules and interdependency.
Hence, it proves that although group-work is a student-centered approach but the teacher still has to play a lead role in that, the teacher’s role acts as a beacon for his/her pupils. She has, in fact the central role in the whole process of group work. It is her responsibility to plan activities in such a way that children could work effectively in groups under the guidance of their teacher. Cordon (2000) cities Lyle (1993) who points to the importance of teachers encouraging children to see themselves as responsible learners by designing the activities, which ensure children pose questions, make observations and contribute opinions. (p.195)
After knowing the importance of group work, I analyzed my role as a primary teacher to implement effective group work in my class. I have always felt that very young students attain better outcome if we give them opportunity to interact with their peers in their classroom and to discuss the task. Hence, according to the purpose and objectives of the lesson I have tried to make use of group work in my classroom in order to develop the students’ communicative and explorative skills. In the feedback session that followed, I emphasized to see the variety and depth of ideas. The group came up with such brilliant points, which were because of the exchange of different ideas with each other. Therefore, I observed, the outcomes of segregating my students in different small study-groups were more result-oriented and the students did their assigned tasks vigorously and in a better way.
Students of kindergarten were somewhat accustomed to group work strategy since they had been introduced to group work in the previous class. Therefore, I did not face much problem in the organization of group work activities. Initially, I made use of friendship grouping because student felt more secure working with their friends (according to Galton and Williamson (1992) many primary teachers regularly group by friendship, because these groups are more than the seating arrangements. It also fosters collaboration and cooperative learning setup). Once they started enjoying working in groups, then gradually, I started sorting them into mix ability groups with usually high to low or middle ability and high or middle to low ability members. This has worked quiet well since the clever student tends to pull the slow learners along with them as well and therefore providing all students an equal opportunity to extend their ideas.
Suggested Action plan for Teachers to Manage the Effective Group Work:
Therefore, teachers who are still following the conventional methods of teaching should make a habit of creating small study-groups in the primary classes, which is quite evident in light of different researches in the following ways:
- They should plan a task for each group which should be challenging, time-bound and most importantly should have a relevance to the level of the students
- Make sure that the group face across at each other and that they can all hear each other
- For newly formed groups, in order to break the ice among them, we can assign them different roles to play so that they should start interacting with each other quickly
- They should be ready to accept the challenge of the group-refuses, and should proactively plan to cope with such situations
- They should create the groups keeping in mind these things comparable ability, mixed ability, friendship, gender etc.
As a result of my study, I now understand that group work increases pupils’ ability to cooperate and learn from others, thus enable them to take responsibility of their own learning and reducing reliance on the teacher. However, in this casethe role of a teacher is to organize an environment that facilitates cooperative and collaborative learning. This happens by providing all students an opportunity to be equally involved in the social and cognitive activities and to stimulate, realign and invoke the thought-provoking behaviors among students.
- Corden, R. (2000) Literacy and Learning through Talk: Strategies for the primary Classroom. Buckinghyam: Open University Press
- Galton, M. and Williamson, J. (1992) Groupwork in the Primary School. London: Routledge
- Kutnick, P. and Rogers, C. (Eds.) (1994) Groups in Schools. London: Cassell Education
- Kyriacou, C. (1991) Essential Teaching Skills. United Kingdom: Stanley Thornes.
- Moyles, R.J. (1994) Organizing for learning in the Primary Classroom. Philadelphia: Open University Press
- USE OF LANGUAGE: A COMMON APPROACH. (1997) School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. SCAA Publications
- Vygotsky, L. S. (1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
- Wells, G. (1985) Language and Learning: An Interactional Perspective. Brighton: Falmer Press