If you have not already watched them, we have a video on the value of group dialogue (Video 15) in our introductory video series as well as a video on coding and rating the quality of small group dialogue (Video 16).
Requirements for effective group work:
- Agree on ground rules for group work.
- Set learning activities that are well suited to collaborative activities. These should not be too easy nor should they be too difficult.
- Allow students enough time to really get involved in the discussion without premature teacher intervention.
- Ask students to evaluate the quality of their discussions, and to feed back from their discussions to the whole-class discussion.
Rules for group work:
One productive form of talking in group work is known as exploratory talk. In exploratory talk:
- All relevant information is shared amongst the group
- Assertions and opinions are backed up by reasons
- Suggestions and opinions can be challenged questioned (respectfully)
- Alternative options are considered before making decisions
- Everyone in the group is encouraged to speak
- The group works towards reaching agreement
- It is important that students within the class feel ownership of and commitment to their set of ground rules.
Intervening in group work:
- It is productive to let students first try to tackle the task together for a while without teacher intervention.
- To ensure students try to solve the task together rather than expect immediate teacher help, set an additional ground rule that a group should try to come to an agreement before they can ask for help from the teacher (even if this agreement is only on the question to ask the teacher).
- When a group is having more problems and needs some help, when intervening try addressing the whole group, rather than any individual within it, to reinforce that they are meant to be working together.
Take a look at this helpful blog post by Christine Howe on group work in primary classrooms.