Structured Groups: Making Group-Work Work

Video: “Structured Groups: Making Group-Work Work” (4.5 minutes)



Group work should teach how to work with others while also being able to teach themselves (meaning teach themselves content for the group assignment). One key thing to do is to create mixed ability groups and assign students to assume particular roles within the group.

The roles the teacher has created in this particular scenario are leader, creative director, art director, and researcher. The leader of the group organizes the group, ensures that deadlines are met, keeps people on task, and helps everyone. The creative director has ideas, develops other peoples’ ideas, and ensures that all work is “innovative.” The art director turns ideas into designs, makes and helps other make, creates and helps others create. Finally, the research finds out, gathers information, and works with others to help them use the information.

Group work should also be structured to ensure success. For example, the group work should have outlined goals for the assignment. The assignment is to create a product about sites in London in order to attract them to visit the city. In this video scenario students are asked to choose a target audience for their product: a group of university friends meeting up for a reunion, a family of 4 with two small children, a family with 2 teenage children, and a retired couple. The teacher expects that these students will think about their target audience in the products that they make.

Students learn better by talking to each other rather than the teacher telling them things. The teacher also makes clear what kinds of products they can create. They have the option to create a poster, a pamphlet, a leaflet, or a slide show presentation.

The most surprising part of the video, for me, was hearing that students graded each other through peer assessment. Not only did this take pressure off of the groups who were doing work, but it also gave ownership of learning to the learners.

Sometimes I think teachers shy away from group activity because it seems to be difficult for certain groups of students. I myself can be blamed for doing that within the classroom. However, the keys to successful group work are clearly talking about tasks, diving tasks among groups, and establishing clear definitions of what should be produced. Group work is not always easy to organize, but, when done effectively, it can be one of the most powerful and important educational strategies within the classroom.

This made me think about group and partnered work in my own classroom placement. Coming up soon, I will have my students work on a significance cards activity in class with partners. I will start out with a quick overview of Turning Points in Islamic history, and then give my students the significance cards and a chart to record what they have organized. After watching this video I plan to model an example and to talk about two roles that students can assume. First, I will ask one of the partners to be the reader. They have to read every card aloud between each other. The second role I envision would be the organizer, who is tasked with organizing the cards on the desk in the “chart” format.

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