Use of effective group work inside the classroom

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The definition of the group is an entity made up of a number of individuals , then within the group there will be aspects of identity that are shared among the group members .This diversity within the group is likely to provide a rich source of learning about ideas , views , values , beliefs , prejudices and tolerance among its members

Malekoff , (2004 :2007 ) says that a good group experience can provide adolescents with a unique opportunity to explore the typically taboo areas of race and ethnicity , exposing deeply ingrained or loosely formed beliefs and attitudes .The mature group , through the development of its own history and culture , becomes a special frame of reference for its members , influencing their perceptions and behaviour in the world outside the group .

Good communication and the ability to work as a member of team work are two skills which can be developed through effective use of group work. Students can fully develop a good understanding of an idea as they try to explain it to their colleagues . They also develop social and team-working skills . The benefits of using Group Work are ; students practise and learn from each others , they develop a sense of empathy and a clear understanding of others views . and they develop problem-solving skills . Students from highly disadvantages backgrounds lack the skills necessary to interact positively with their peers, this leads to the unwillingness of such students to work in a group . What should the teacher do to involve these students ? The teacher should provide clear structures in which groups can operate , use strategies that support positive behaviours and develop group-work skills , establish clear rules and procedures , introduce tasks so that outcomes are clear , select groups that suit the task , maintain enthusiasm by effective intervention and set group goals . Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools. Unit 10: Group work techniques, ( 2004 )

When students arrive from primary schools , they are able to ; Speak in turn , listen to others views , participate , respond and make suggestion , co-operate within a small group , take on a given role , take a lead role , help to make sure that the task is completed and finally engage in exploratory talk . One problem may occur here which is how can the teacher make his students speak in turn ? In answering such question , the teacher , from the very beginning of the year , sets his classroom management procedures clear ; he can easily ask pupils to speak in turn every time so that the pupils can acquire such activity very easily .

In the guided learning approach , one of our colleagues suggested that it would be hard for the teacher to spend more time with one group than the other groups . How can the teacher overcomes this situation ? To my point of view the good preparation of the lesson and the good organization are the best ways to avoid such problems inside the classroom .The organization is the key to effective group work . We can organize groups as follow ; Listening Triads as pupils work in a group of three ; the first one ( talker ) explains something or comments or expresses opinions while the second one ( questioner ) seeks clarification and the third one ( recorder ) makes notes . Envoys as once the group finishes a task , one person from each group is selected as an envoy . He can move to another group to give feed back and then carries new ideas to the original group . Rainbow groups ; after finishing a task , each student is given a number and a colour and the students with the same numbers and the same colours form a new group .Jigsaw ; a topic is divided into sections . In home groups of four or five , pupils take a section each and then regroup into expert groups . The experts work together on their areas , then return to their home groups to report on their areas . The home group set a task that requires pupils to use different areas . Pedagogy and Practice: Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools. Unit 10: Group work techniques, ( 2004 ).

Ideally , all members of the group should be involved and interested in what is being discussed in the group .Yalom (1995 ) has called this universalizing a group member's experience . Involving members who have been silent , especially low levels pupils , helps identify commonalities and differences in their life experiences . As members become involved , they realize how particular problems affect them and how a solution to one member's problem can directly or indirectly affect them . Involving is also essential for building group cohesiveness , developing a sense of mutual aid , encouraging shared decision making and helping them to take leadership roles.

Why should the teacher focus on using group work in presenting his lessons ? The answer is very simple as group work is applied in all the pedagogic approaches ; in questioning , in explaining , in guided learning and in active engagement . so the teacher resorts to group work in every approach he uses inside the classroom . The role of the teacher is to facilitate the learning process .

Effective facilitation creates an atmosphere of safety and containment so that children become free to explore , express themselves and gain from the experience . Facilitation involves giving directions and instructions , introducing and organising activities , facilitating discussions , giving support . ( Geldard and Gildard , 2001 : 127 )

Why Study Learning Environment is so important in using group work effectively ? School can vary in quality; and students in high-quality schools generally have higher achievement .

Groupings of Students: Socioeconomic context/Ability context/Sex composition ; Greater learning takes place in heterogeneous settings . Minority students perform better when they are in desegregated schools . Students show higher achievement in settings with more high-ability and high-status students .

Exceptions:

- Students self-evaluations and aspirations may be somewhat lower when they are surrounded by high-ability and high-achieving peers;

- Girls and some boys have higher achievement when they are in single-sex secondary schools;

- Tracking and ability grouping may benefit higher-status students.

School and Classroom Climates: Effective schools and classrooms appear to be characterized by high academic expectations, effective leadership, and orderly atmosphere, and warmth, concern, and respect for others. School and classroom environments are intertwined.

school climates: involve ecology, milieu, social system, and culture.

i.The same individual may behave quite differently in groups with different organizational climates.

ii.School climate can be measured (Haplin and Croft, 1962) and group members tend to agree about the characteristics of their group.

School Environments: involve the shared norms, values, ideologies, and taken-for-granted assumptions within a group . In effective classrooms, teachers express high expectations for themselves and their students, positively reinforce their students' abilities and intelligence, spend quality learning time interacting with their students, and promote positive relationships among class members. Effective classrooms also have orderly environments that emphasize learning and academic activities, a commitment to learning, and the use of effective teaching strategies.

school and classroom size: Smaller classrooms----greater behavioural control, more individualized instruction, and more enriched curriculum. Smaller schools----greater sense of personal efficacy better self-concept, heightened sense of self-control, and better behaviour.

+ Greater opportunities for student involvement

+ More individualized attention, more teacher resources

+More likely to develop consensus among members

Communities environment: The students' achievement would be enhanced if they attended school in a community with a large number of high-achieving peers, whose members are able to interact with each other and with school officials, where community members and parents can be involved with the school, and most important, if in these interactions mutual respect and common values that support achievement could be developed. Johnson , D. W. & Johnson , R. T. (1999 ).

The circumstances in Egypt do not give the teacher the opportunity to make the best use of group work inside the classroom . These circumstances include the curriculum planning , the size of the classroom , the resources available and the teacher's role . As for the curriculum planning ; the teacher is obliged to go through the plan from the first day of the school year .This requires effort from the teacher as the time of the class does not give him the opportunity to use group work effectively . All classes in my school are over forty , so it will not be a good idea to use group work as the teacher will not control his class and there will be a mess inside the class especially from lower level pupils who do not have the desire to participate . Also absence among pupils is another problem ; as some pupils , not the majority , fail to attend classes from the very beginning . The resources available is another problem as if the pupils are put in groups to work with each others this means they should sit face to face and by doing so , many of them will give their backs to the teacher . Even if the teacher is facilitating something , the pupil is asked to look at the teacher and this will cause him a problem . There are not easy moving armchairs inside the school , only desks as one piece . so if the teacher asks the pupil to look at him , the pupil will carry his desk to look at the teacher . One teacher will like to apply the " u " shape to form groups while other teachers especially when the class ends and there is another class , he asks the pupils to move the desks to their normal position , so the pupils get frustrated . Here comes the role of the teacher inside the classroom ; the teacher's role inside the class is doing all everything ; he is the facilitator . His role is more giving speech rather than facilitating ; he speaks all the time , explains and makes sure that pupils understand everything . At last , the head teacher comes as a problem too ; as there are some head teachers who are not well qualified to run a school according to the modern development .If he or she sees the teacher applies something new which he can not recognize , he or she can protest against doing it inside the classroom . for example , if pupils are doing role play and they sing or dance according to the role , if the head teacher sees that , he can prevent the teacher from doing it .Of course not all the head teachers , but still there are some .

Using group work enables the teacher a great deal to fulfil his lesson successfully since the teacher has all everything in his favour , i mean , effective classrooms , resources available , good leadership and good school environment . All of the mentioned above , if available , the teacher especially in Egypt will carry out his tasks effectively . Group work is really a good approach if it is well managed and well prepared by the teacher as it helps in developing problem-solving skills , social skills and communication skills .

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