“Small group learning is an effective classroom method by which learning takes place among a limited number of participants, preferably with no more than 5-8 per group.” Facilitating Small Group Learning (Source) A Handbook for Medical Teachers, 4th Edition. 2001
Why Use Small Groups? • Increases students’ learning and achievements through active participation. • Develops higher-level intellectual reasoning and problem-solving skills. • Develops positive attitudes towards others and the subject area. • Reduces students’ isolation through teamwork”.
Students interact and learn from each other. Provides an opportunity for students to give and receive feedback. Provides a safe environment to share ideas. Allows students to be part of a team. Helps students with their communication skills. Give and receive support. Encourages leadership skills. Develops self-confidence and increases motivation. Students learn how to work through misunderstandings and conflict. Provides social interaction with peers. Provides opportunities to learn reasoning and problem-solving skills. Encourages active participation (gives all group members an opportunity to share their expertise, ideas, and concerns). Develops negotiation skills. Learns to respect each others differences. Provides students with a deep understanding not just “surface learning”. Characteristics of Small Group Learning
Advantages + • Encourages active (not passive) learning. • Topics are covered in greater depth if tasks are divided among group members. • Provides a safe environment. • Students learn form each others’ examples, opinions, and mistakes. • Develops skill such as listening, teamwork, and dealing with conflicts. • Allows students to work with students of different genders, backgrounds, learning styles, and cultures. • Lends itself to self-motivation. • Students learn to accept responsibility for their own progress • Helps students develop communication skills.
Limitations - • Personality issues or conflict. • Not all students do equal work. • Some students do not like working in small groups. • Students may feel like the “blind leading the blind”. • Takes away from class instruction.
Introduce the project to the entire class before beginning. Offer both required tasks and student choices. Establish expectations and ground rules in advance. Help students understand what they need to do and need to learn. Make sure the classroom environment is conducive to small group learning. Make sure the group learning tasks coincide with the classroom objectives. Determine the group membership and group leader in advance. Be prepared – success depends on planning ahead. Encourage group members to ask each other questions. Use the pyramid structure. Teacher needs to be moving around the room and monitoring student involvement. Ask for anonymous feedback from the students to help make you aware of any unobserved problems. Expect students to do work outside of class. Require a final product (report, presentation, etc.). Plan a follow up activity. Ideas and Suggestions(For effective small group learning)
Five Stages of Group Development • Stage 1-Forming is where the group gets to know each other. They want to feel safe in the group. They also look to the group leader for guidance and direction. The members within the group look at differences and similarities about themselves and use this information to appoint jobs within the group. This is when they get together to discuss how to handle the task before them. • Stage 2-Storming is when the group personalize of competition and conflict gets in the way of the task function or what the group is suppose to be doing. Students have to bend and mold their feeling, ideas, and beliefs to suit the group. Although these issues may not surface as group issues they do exist. Questions will come up in the group for: who will be responsible for different tasks, what are the rules, and how do we get started? Most of these problems are over leadership, structure, and power, and authority. Usually during this time in the groups some members may remain completely silent while other attempt to dominate.
Five Stages continued… • In Stage 3-Norming, everything is starting to settle down. The members of the group are willing to change their preconceived ideas or opinions on the basis of facts presented by other members. Group members begin to trust each other and ask questions and work cohesion together. • Stage 4-Performing is not reached by all groups. If group members are able to evolve to Stage 4, their capacity range and depth of personal relations expand to true interdependence. In this stage people can work independently in subgroups or as a total unit. Stage 4 is marked by interdependence in personal relations and problem solving in the realm of task functions. By, now the group should be most productive. • Stage Five-Adjourning involves the termination of task. A planned conclusion that provides an opportunity for recognition of participation and achievement and an opportunity for members to say personal good-byes, allows students to terminate the task.
Rotate the responsibility of group facilitation. The purpose /mission of the group must be clear to all members. Ground rules should be established and monitored. Help group understand that conflict in a positive way is a normal and perhaps necessary part of group development. Group must be reminded to listen to each other. Wrap up at the end of each session should be comprise of meaningful and constructive comments relative to group process. Everyone must contribute and work to the group a learning team. Proper Group Development Requires:
Student interaction makes cooperative learning powerful. Students must: • Exchange ideas. • Make plans. • Propose solutions.
What It Looks Like Studies of students in cooperative learning groups indicate that there are two elements that enhance student achievement. • Group Goals- The groups should be interdependent, working together to accomplish a common product. • Element of individual accountability-Assignments should be structured so each member accomplishes a specific task .
Working Together Introducing students to interpersonal skills is the first step to getting the groups to work together. • Making eye contact. • Encouraging fellow group members. • Using quiet voices. • Disagreeing without hostility.
Rules Should be Established For Example: • Contribute your ideas-they may be the key to the question. • Listen to others' ideas. • Give everyone a chance to speak. • Ask all teammates for help before asking the teacher. • Use consensus to settle disputes.
Models that Promote Cooperative Learning • Jigsaw model • Group Investigation • Numbered Heads Together • Think-Pair-Share
How it Impacts Learning • ELL or English Language learners-Children who come from cultures that do not value individual competition will be more comfortable and peers can help each other learn academic task. • General education classes-students work in small mixed-ability groups for reading and content subject and they help each other learn and understand information.
Impact on Gifted Learners For this strategy to be effective requires teachers must present complex, problem based and open- ended tasks. • Pull-Out Program-students leave the general education class for a portion of the school day to attend a special class. Such programs provide services for either several days a week or an hour or so each day.
Cluster Grouping • The general education teacher is supported by an educator of the gifted and delivers special instructional opportunities. • Students might be assigned independent study activities that support and extend topics that are part of the general education curriculum.
Examples of Small Group Activities • Create book float-after completing a novel, students can create a book float representing a scene from the book. • What happened to…-give the students different pieces of evidence that will require them to both infer and draw a conclusion. • Expand on a topic-students can select a topic covered in class and further research some aspect of it. • Multiple Intelligence-students complete an inventory to distinguish their learning style. Form groups of students with the same learning style and they create a product and activity to be presented to explain how they learn.
Final Note • When using Small Group/Cooperative Learning, it takes a mature class. • Students should be allowed to monitor their on success. • The individual teacher's style and the characteristics of a particular class will influence the way cooperative learning works.
Selected References • Facilitating Small Group Learning (Source) A Handbook for Medical Teachers, 4th Edition. 2001 • Reasons for Using Small Groups to Foster Learning (Adapted from Fostering Learning in Small Groups by Jane Westberg and Hilliard Jason), Retrieved June 7, 2005 from http:// med.fsu.edu/education/FacultyDevelopment/small%20group%20skills.asp • Small Group Learning, The University of Western Australia, Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, Retrieved on June 7, 2005 from http://www.catl.uwa.edu.au/publications/ITL/1996/3/small • Small-group learning and teaching, The University of South Wales, Learning and Teaching Unit, Retrieved June 7, 2005 from http://www.ltu.unsw.edu.au/ref3-4-1_smallgroup.cfm • Ideas to Consider in Developing Assignments for Small Group Work, Retrieved June 7, 2005 from http://www.amstat.org/publications/jse/v1n1/garfield.html • Learning in Small Groups, The Higher Medicine, Educational Dentistry and Academy Veterinary Medicine (1996), Retrieved June 7, 2005 from http://www.medev.ac.uk/resources/features/AMEE_summaries/smallgroups