Monday, 30 June 2014

7 strategies for effective group work

In order to ensure excellent learning, teachers need to support their students in developing the skills that they need to work effectively with one another – ‘Work together’ is one of the 16 Habits of Mind of the most successful people! 

You may have heard of Dr Spencer Kagan’s collaborative learning structures. These are a range of approaches to group work that develop students' independent and collaborative learning skills - and make group work worth your while!

In a recent issue of Creative Teaching and Learning, Paul Fleming of Sedgefield Community College (a secondary school in Durham) shared with us his school’s adaptation of Kagan’s work, combining it with ideas from Paul Ginnis’ Teacher’s Toolkit to select 7 group work strategies to use across the whole school. 

Each of their chosen strategies was designed to support learning in a specific way. 

Perhaps you could spice up your group work with some of the strategies outlined below!




What it involves

One Stray

To support the creation of new groups A strategy that involves students discussing an issue in groups. At the end of a specified period of time, we would then ask one student to ‘stray’ from their original group and move to work with a new group in the class.
Round Robin

To support the development of ideas across groups Students work on their own answer initially working in a small group. After a specified period of time, the work would move to the next group and the new group would continue with the answer now in front of them.
Jobs For All

To support effective discussion through consistent roles Students are discussing an issue in groups, but each student has a specific role. For example, one will be the chairperson, one the scribe, one the spokesperson, etc
Talking Chips

To encourage students to think about all contributions All students in a group will have a set number of chips/tokens. In order to speak in a discussion, students need to spend one of their talking chips to get permission to contribute.
Ranking Exercise

To encourage students to negotiate to come to an agreement These tasks all involve students working in groups to take a series of ideas and rank them in order of importance, relevance, etc.
Playing Cards

To encourage group discussions through a series of games A series of strategies that involve students working in small groups answering questions on quiz cards or organising cards into different sequences, order, etc.
Show Down

To initiate peer assessment of learning All students in a group will complete a task individually. When the teacher calls ‘Showdown’, each student will share their response with the others in their group who will then decide which is their favourite response.

Use these consistently across the curriculum and your students will soon be experts - eager to share and show off their ideas! Not only that, but they will be developing many of the key Habits of Mind, such as the ability to work together, communicate clearly and listen and understand.

This blog post is based on the article, 'Strategies for thinking' by Paul Fleming in vol. 4.1 of Creative Teaching and Learning magazine. It's a fab piece, packed full of practical ways to turn your school into a Thinking School. Read it here!

1 comment:

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