Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” I think it is safe to say that he certainly knew something about the importance of teamwork! There is so much to be gained by having students work in groups in the classroom. Studies have shown that students who participate in group work demonstrate greater achievement than those who work alone. Therefore, it is important that teachers understand the benefits of group work and the best ways to use it in the classroom.
What are the Benefits of Group Work?
The benefits of group work for students are vast! First of all, students are able to learn how to plan and manage their time when working. Group work also allows students to be exposed to a wide variety of perspectives and ideas. Most importantly, students learn how to work with other students. This is a critically important skill that will be necessary in any career placement.
Other benefits include:
- Improved social skills including cooperation and conflict resolution skills
- Complex tasks can be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps
- Giving and getting feedback from peers
- Students are able to utilize individual strengths to assume roles and responsibilities for the group
The benefits of group work do not stop with the students. Group work gives teachers a fantastic opportunity to monitor and observe as students collaborate. This enables teachers to see their students’ growth in action as students apply learning and analyze situations and decisions. Teachers can offer guidance and correction as needed.
By observing students working in groups, teachers are able to identify strengths and areas of concern, both academically and socially. Teachers are also able to assign more complex projects when using group work because students are able to combine their efforts.
Group work also provides a more authentic learning experience than teachers are typically able to provide in a traditional learning environment. On a side note, there is also a smaller number of projects to grade when students are working together.
For Classroom Management
Will your classroom be louder when students are participating in group work? Yes! Is louder always a bad thing? No! Always remember, the one doing the talking is the one doing the learning. As long as students’ discussions are on-task, the talking that is going on is very productive and beneficial. Also, students are more likely to be on-task when motivated by a group work project. Students develop responsibility and self-discipline that are beneficial to the class as a whole.
Which Students Benefit from Group Work the Most?
It’s hard to say which students actually benefit the most from group work because there are benefits for so many different groups of students, especially when groups are of varying ability levels.
Above Grade-Level Students
These students benefit from group work because they get to exercise and develop leadership skills. They also get to teach others within their groups, which is one of the best ways to enrich learning.
These students benefit by seeing the modeled academic behaviors of their peers. The discussions that take place during the group work can enrich the learning of struggling students.
On Grade-Level Students
These students, perhaps, benefit the most because they are right in the middle. They can benefit by learning from their above grade-level peers and can also enrich their own learning by peer tutoring the struggling students.
Others that benefit from group work include English language learners that are enriched by being immersed in academic dialogue. Students that lack motivation benefit by being encouraged in observing how motivated students perform and by the shared workload. Socially-challenged students benefit from increased social interaction. The list goes on and on.
Ways to Use Group Work in Your Class
First of all, group work can be done in every grade level, but different grade levels require different procedures and preparation. There are some basics that must be established before implementing group work in your class regardless of the grade level.
It is important that groups for group work include a wide variety of ability levels in order to truly reap the benefits of group work. Also, the teacher must invest time up front in establishing routines, procedures, and behavioral expectations for group work.
Other important steps in preparing for group work:
- Assign roles for each student
- Physically arrange classroom in a way that supports group work
- Design a task that is challenging for students
- Decide on group size
- Allot ample time for the task
- Ask for input from the students
- Establish grading procedures and communicate expectations
Examples of group work projects:
- Class escape room project – This is a great and timely option for utilizing group work. Escape rooms have become so popular, and it is a really fun way to implement group work. Escape rooms can be adapted to any subject area or grade level by applying newly acquired knowledge or skills.
- Debate – Students can be put into groups to debate historical issues. By assigning students to an argument, they can research and work with their group to defend their perspective.
- Complex math problems – Very complex, multi-step math problems can be completed in groups. Again, assigning each student a specific role.
- Economic projects – Students can experiment with economics by setting up virtual economic systems that they will monitor and maintain together.
- Science projects – A wide variety of science skills can be explored in group settings with students assigned to roles like recording data, analyzing data, conducting experiments, etc.
With the amount of benefits that can be reaped from group work, it is very important that teachers know how to do this and give students the opportunity to break from the daily norm to explore this fresh, exciting, and socially-enriching way to learn.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Ben Franklin