Groups of Individuals

By Adrian Gray

I am often asked how group work can be effectively used to stretch students whilst still assessing their contribution as individuals. I am sure we have often been aware that some individuals work hard when in groups whereas others sit back and try and benefit from peers work.

Cross over groups

Ideally you need the same amount of students as topics to research/present. The following is based on a class of 20 which seems pretty average. You can double a few students up to take account of odd numbers.

So, for example, the class need to research the causes of crime in society and the social effects.

TOPIC 1: causes of crime as explained in humanistic theory.

TOPIC 2: causes of crime in terms of behaviourist theory.

TOPIC 3: causes of crime in terms of cognitive theory.

TOPIC 4: causes of crime in terms of psychoanalytical theory.

TOPIC 5: effects of crime on society.

You should have groups as below (shown in different colours for each grouping)

TOPIC 1 2 3 4 5
STUDENTS STUDENT 1A STUDENT

1B

STUDENT

1C

STUDENT 1D STUDENT 1E
STUDENT

2A

STUDENT 2B STUDENT 2C STUDENT 2D STUDENT 2E
STUDENT 3A STUDENT 3B STUDENT 3C STUDENT 3D STUDENT 3E
STUDENT 4A STUDENT 4B STUDENT 4C STUDENT 4D STUDENT

4E

Thus there are five topics for each group to meaningfully research. The topics can be changed according to the lesson. For instance the effect of crime on society could be divided to cover gender, race, income, status and age thereby making the lesson very diversity based.

Having decided the topics to be examined the student profile should be used to compile the groups; group A (that is all the students shown as A in the table) etc. You may decide that some topics are easier than others and thereby put those less confident in those groups, others topics will be more challenging and those that need stretching could be put in that group and so on.

A time restraint should be put on the task. How students manage the task is may be the beginning of learning. Make links to industry; not everyone should do the same things, you need a scribe, IT, researcher, literature researcher, timekeeper and manager to name a few. Indeed having run several assessment centres involving public services this format of group work is regularly used to assess confidence, reliability and other desired character traits.

The students must be informed that they must individually be able to report and explain the group finding. Each student must have their own notes.

Just how well the students follow these instructions will be evident in the next stage. Here the students are put into new groups as below;

TOPIC 1 2 3 4 5
STUDENTS STUDENT 1A STUDENT

1B

STUDENT

1C

STUDENT 1D STUDENT 1E
STUDENT

2A

STUDENT 2B STUDENT 2C STUDENT 2D STUDENT 2E
STUDENT 3A STUDENT 3B STUDENT 3C STUDENT 3D STUDENT 3E
STUDENT 4A STUDENT 4B STUDENT 4C STUDENT 4D STUDENT

4E

This means that you get an ‘expert’ on each topic in a new group of students. Thus, you put all of the number 1s together and so on. Each student in the new group is then made responsible for ‘teaching’ the others about their topic. It will be quickly evident if any student has not correctly understood the topic researched and the tutor must monitor this.

The next stage, once all of the learning has been shared as above, is to evaluate how much the students have learnt. This is carried out by a representative from each of the groups selecting at random a piece of paper on which you have numbered the topics. Thus, if the ‘number 1’ students pick out topic 3 they will be required to present on cognitive theory and so on. By doing this the students have to review their knowledge of the topic selected and display this knowledge/ understanding to the rest of the class. Because the rest of the class should already have a good knowledge of every topic (by going through the stages above) they are expected to question and challenge the presentations.

It will be noted that this evaluation misses one topic; there were 5 at the start and only 4 are being presented. The missing presentation could be covered in a wash-up plenary where students are directly asked questions on that topic.

Each student could then be required to log their learning on a ‘arrow of discovery’. More about that in my next article…

 

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