What is the Right Amount of Group Work in School?
Group work is part of the learning process in schools. Teachers and educationists regard it as a very effective method to engage and motivate students. Group work encourages active learning. All students get to participate and share their ideas and opinions. They work collectively on a project or assignments or any classroom work given by the teacher. There is also a downside of it as students are not able to express themselves freely. In groups, students are seen as one collective voice. Everyone in the group has to think in the same direction. It makes many students feel alienated as they have to suppress their thoughts if it's different or not in line. Moreover, in group work, teachers don't give individual attention. Thus, the students suffer. They are not able to raise questions. Some child psychologists say that teamwork suppresses creativity and thinking. Students are not able to think freely on their own. They have to believe in a particular direction or manner in a group. If they fail to do so, they feel that they have let the group down. Psychologists say that students have different personalities. Some are able to speak up and some not. There are extroverts and introverts. Teachers should reach out to every student. But teachers say it motivates and encourages students to use their time wisely. Group work boosts confidence and self-esteem.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Group Work for Students
Apart from keeping students engaged, group work brings out the best in everyone. It's a collaborative approach. Teamwork prepares students for the professional job market where they have to work together with all kinds of people. Classroom group work is just a stepping stone. It prepares them and makes them aware what's coming. Here are some advantages of working in a team:
- Students get to learn about planning and time management
- Encourages healthy competition with other groups
- Develops communication skills
- Students get to work with other students
- There's lots of discussions and propagation
- Every student in the group gets to contribute
- Students are allocated different tasks
- Success of the group is the students' collective hard work and effort
A handful of teachers dreads group work. They say that its chaos. Everyone gets talking. The classroom becomes too noisy. Every student wants to be heard. Plus, when it comes to choosing a leader, it's even harder as everyone expects to be chosen! It's heartbreaking! Outlined here are some disadvantages of working in a group:
- Conflict of ideas
- Voices get suppressed
- There is unequal participation
- No space for individual creativity
- Time consuming
- Takes a lot of time to come up with ideas
- Lots of distractions
- Lack of focus or concentration as students are not serious about their work
- Arguments and fights easily break out in groups
Teachers and schools can make group work very effective for students. First, they need to get the task or question across to the students. Teachers must ensure that all students understand what they are required to do. It has been observed that in some group work, many students are not aware what they have to do. It leads to frustration. Teachers need to be clear. They can do so by going to the groups to see whether the students are working accordingly. If the students are not able to understand, teachers should help out through simple explanations and examples. They should avoid group discussions as this leads to nowhere. In group discussions, students easily stray away from the task at hand. They end up talking about irrelevant topics and movies! Teachers should make rounds time and again to check on the work and see the groups' progress. They can keep the students fully engaged through chart work or drawings or mapping out thoughts and ideas. Teachers should rotate the students from group to group. This way, the students will get to work with different personalities. Sometimes, they will enjoy the sweet taste of success and sometimes failure. Teachers should tell the students that it's part of life. And everyone should pitch in with ideas and thoughts as well as sincere hard work. Every student should make an effort to make their group the best. Teachers should observe the time students use, their progress and the noise level. They should discourage the students from straying out of topics. Overall, schools should have a concept of meaningful group activities. Through such, they can disseminate management and communication skills to the students.