Over the last twenty years there has been a great push in schools to get students working in groups. Research has shown that group learning has great educational benefits. Nowadays, group learning is very much a regular part of how learning is carried out in the classroom. One main issue that arises with group learning in the classroom is that it’s too hard to manage: a class with thirty students makes too many groups. It becomes very effective when it is done on a small scale, say with just three or four students; that’s when it will have a real impact. In the rest of the article I run through the benefits that learning in groups has.
Group learning allows students to refine their understanding through discussion and explanation
When a student is learning just with a teacher, they are depending on the teacher to convey the information in a way they will understand. If this isn’t achieved, the student may be able to perform the skill that is being taught, but they will lack an understanding of how it works.
When students learn in a group, however, they will discuss the skill that is being taught by the teacher, and their discussion increases the chances of all students understanding. This is because the different explanations of the same skill being offered makes it much more likely that all in the group will end up grasping it. Group learning adds to what’s being offered by the teacher, as those who understand the skill being introduced by the teacher quickly, essentially become teachers themselves.
Group learning allows for effective skills to be emulated
Once students understand the skill, they then have to go about doing it. Let’s say the skill being learnt is a written skill. Students in a group will first go about understanding the skill and next will have to perform the skill. Of course some students will be able to do this better than others. But this isn’t as issue. The work of the successful students can be modelled so that those who are struggling can see examples of the skill done well. This enhances learning because even if the teacher provides a model for the students, the good work done by the successful students simply functions as more examples of the skill, and there is again more of a chance for all to make progress.
Group learning allows for students to be spurred on by the progress made by others
Good work done by the successful group members acts as a form of encouragement. The struggling- or just hesitant- student thinks, ‘if he can do it, so can I’, and ends up rising to the challenge rather than shrinking before it.
Even if there is a range of ability in the group, the students at the lower end will be encouraged and motivated by those at the higher end, and will perform better than they would have done if just alone with a teacher. Those at the higher end will also progress better because of the role and sense of responsibility they have.
Group learning really can foster a very positive and motivational atmosphere for all, and this is particularly useful if the group is learning for an exam and the situation is a stressful one.
Group learning allows for student accountability
If a student is part of a group, they are often more likely to complete homework they are set. This is because they are eager to keep up with the other group members. When the group is working optimally, students will not only do their homework, they will do it well, as the positive atmosphere of the group will stay with them when away from it.
Simon is an English tutor with Newman Tuition as well as being an examiner of AQA English Literature and Language. Last year he ran several group courses for all the GCSE exams. He has made many resources which he shares with his students. To book a lesson with him, or one of our other tutors, please call us on 020 3198 8006 or complete the form on the Contact Us page.