Students working in groups is one of the most effective and efficient teaching strategies for all classrooms. There is a multitude of benefits, and students engage in learning at a higher level. Students learn how to tackle more complex problems than they could on their own. They experience others’ ideas for problem-solving and combine their knowledge and skills. Students see the value in teamwork and share different perspectives.
The world needs them to learn to collaborate and work together to solve problems. Most of what students will need to know in their professional careers involves working in groups or with others. There are also advantages to both teacher- and student-assigned groups. Teachers typically possess autonomy in the classroom, but involving students in creating groups makes them develop a sense of ownership.
Teachers assign students to specific groups based on many different reasons. These purposes may include reading or skill levels, interests, and a multitude of other reasons. Teachers delegate roles and responsibilities and assign every kid a different job such as timekeeper, recorder, speaker, and illustrator. The roles must be meaningful and interdependent. This is an effective way to hold each other accountable and increase productivity. However, it is also important to incorporate time to recharge after group work because some students prefer to work independently.
When assigning groups, it is vital to vary the groups periodically. Teachers incorporate motivating tasks and time for enjoyment. Teachers assign tasks that are just above students’ ability and that they could not figure out on their own. The students focus on relevant topics and information on real-world scenarios. The assignment and expectations must be specific and organized. The teachers ask questions that should elicit varied responses.
During this time of online instruction in education, there are many learning curves and challenges. Utilizing online groups is a great idea and promotes involvement and engagement at a higher level as it does for in-person learning. Teachers may use digital grouping organizers to assign groups to online learning environments. A few examples of digital student organizers are: Random Student Generator, Class Dojo, Random Group Maker, and the Team Shake app (Techie Teacher, 2018.) Group dynamics are different online but can be beneficial in that students are interacting with each other. Utilizing platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet enhances the experience and makes learning more engaging in that students can see and hear each other.
When students have autonomy and choice in the classroom, they inevitably become more involved and interested in the assignment. The students become more fulfilled while working on assignments that are enjoyable to them. They know the expectations and can put their own thoughts and experiences into the learning process. Students become empowered in the learning process, and the sky is the limit!
Another way to group students is to let them develop the questions on assessments or questions they want answered. Traditionally, teachers always ask students the questions. The level of learning in these types of environments is effective but reaches a much higher level of engagement and retention when they are directly involved with asking questions.
This is a common way to group students in elementary classrooms and has many positive benefits. This type of group is heterogeneous and allows students to learn from each other. Students can be placed in ability groups where they are all performing comparably, or they can be placed in a group with a higher-level reader, two average readers, and a lower-level reader. Both types of groups have advantages and allow students to gain a deeper understanding of what they are studying. As they hear each other read and practice skills, they are exposed to more vocabulary, expression, and comprehension.
Math Skills & Projects
Working in groups to study math skills and participate in project-based learning allows students to possess a deeper understanding of the content, reduce math anxiety, and practice social and emotional learning skills. Teachers facilitate practice of skills with multiple math problems, and this makes learning more engaging and manageable. Students learn from each other, and they retain information when they actively participate and assist with solving problems.
Students can also participate in group activities based on their interests. This type of group arrangement can be academic, vocational, sports-related, or any other common interest they share. Students talk to others, increase their interpersonal skills, apply conflict resolution, and perform problem-solving techniques in this type of environment. They may meet new friends and not feel evaluated because they have things in common. This type of grouping encourages active learning, communication, and motivation.
Group work is formatted to fit the students’ curriculum, thus providing a unique experience for critical thinking and consolidation of ideas in a team format. Working in groups allows students to appreciate diversity, become more tolerant, and be exposed to a variety of other experiences that working independently does not provide. Every opportunity to work in a group will reap benefits for students and teachers in all classrooms.