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The purpose of this paper is to establish the cognitive impact of group work on primary school children and its contribution to the quality of learning in the classroom. The paper will establish if interactions and behaviours observed during group work have any effect on cognitive demand of talk episodes. On the same note, it will establish if peer interactions enhance learning through talk.
Group work can be termed as a pedagogical strategy which facilitates interaction and participation among pupils. Consequently, it exposes children to different ways and approaches of working and thinking with others. Group work promotes a sense of belonging among pupils that can help to combat isolation, anonymity and shyness that always tend to accompany pupils at school. Working in groups gives one an opportunity to learn from one another. It has been argued that pupils tend to learn from one another better than they do from their teachers. Through group work, several learning goals could be achieved through collaboration either in pairs or in small groups. Through this, pupils can summarise their main points, compare their knowledge, review examination problems, solve problems as well as generate comments on class progress or even on their skills and comprehension.
It has been established that pupils working in groups tend to learn ways of compromising and solving petty arguments. At the same time, they make rapid progress in science, mathematics and reading. The study from the Institute of London University argues that teachers are only supposed to act as "guides on the side" of the groups but not to teach children directly in a traditional way. By so doing, the children will become more focused in their class work and at the same time the outcome from the discussions among pupils will be more than doubled. Ed Baines, a project researcher said that: "Group work serves the learning needs of pupils. What teachers should do is encourage pupils to get over their personal difficulties. Teachers shouldn't dominate a group but support it."
Collaborative learning enhances pupils' intellectual levels as well as performance as compared to when they work independently (Vygotsky 1978). He also argues that pupils who learn through group work perform better on the drill-and-practice test. Bruner (1985) argues that group work learning methods help to improve problem-solving strategies. This is because pupils are faced with various interpretations of a given situation. The system of peer support makes the pupil to internalise external knowledge and critical internal skills which are then converted to tools of intellectual functioning.
Collaborative learning provides pupils with opportunities to synthesise and evaluate ideas collectively. The informal setting enhances interaction and discussion. It helps pupils to learn from one another's skills, scholarship and experience. On the same note, pupils go beyond statements of opinions by coming up with reasons for their judgments. Equally, they reflect the criteria employed when making these judgments. Ms Barnes argues that: "The most able teachers get children to work in groups and learn to negotiate their own problems but always with the support of the teacher. A teacher would never walk off, no one would ever do that, but children do learn to be more independent if they work in groups." In this case, teachers are not required to just stand and teach the whole class because it is an old fashioned way of doing things. In circumstances where pupils consistently learn in groups, then they really tend to work and learn together.
It is good to note that primary school organisation should be used so as to support the learning activities that pupils experience. Teachers on the other hand, should not only organise their classrooms strategically but also flexibly in order to enhance learning.
Group seating enhances:
Smaller group teaching
cooperation in education within groups of pupils
'ability grouping' within a class
Access to materials that can be availed to all pupils
Group Seating enhances Small Group Teaching
This strategy of group work was endorsed by the Plowden Committee. By spending time with groups of pupils, the Committee argued that teachers could regulate their teaching to match with the requirement of every individual within a group than when working with the whole class. It also ensures that all pupils have a reasonable amount of direct contact with their teacher.
When teachers work with groups of pupils, they tend to move from group to group. In this sense, there is consistency between what the teacher does and what the pupils are doing. Therefore, group seating is a perfect idea for small group teaching hence primary teachers should make use of small group teaching, as it is a good way of organising classrooms and enhancing learning.
As with the above argument from small group teaching, collaboration in learning within a group is a sound reason for a group seating arrangement.
'Group Seating facilitates Access to Resources'
Routinely seating children in groups allows six or eight children to reach and use centrally placed resources such as pens, glue and so on. If pupils are allowed to sit in separate pairs, for instance, resource sets would either have to increase in number or be passed more frequently among them.