3 Developing routines for groupwork

Research has shown that when teachers act as ‘guides’ in classroom groupwork, students are more focused on their work and are better behaved, as well as making more rapid progress (Baines et al., 2007). Obviously, setting up groupwork well is important in making them effective. If you have a large class, groupwork can be very helpful in allowing more students to participate more actively in lessons and share their ideas.

Developing class routines so that students know how to move quickly into groups will help you and them. To do this you need to think about the types of groups you might use, such as, for example, friendship, same ability or mixed ability groups. This is explored further in Case Study 3.

Case Study 3: Routines for organising groupwork

Mr Khan is a strong supporter of using groupwork in his science lessons because of experiences he had whilst training as a teacher.

I liked working in groups as I trained and wanted to use them with my students when appropriate. I think that they give me the opportunity to support student learning more precisely.

Each year I induct my classes into how to form their groups quickly so that we do not waste time in the lesson. This usually takes a couple of lessons. I use three types of groups most often: friendship (A), mixed ability (B) and same ability groups (C). I also sometimes use gender groups (D), but mostly try not to separate boys and girls when they are working as I feel they should respect each other as learners regardless of gender. If I have planned to use groups in my lesson, I say to the class, ‘Please move into your B groups’, and they move into their place without fuss.

Occasionally I move students about, especially if I know that one student understands something better than the rest of their group. It is important to me that the groups are flexible. Students need to be able to work with those students who will support their learning best.

Pause for thought

How could you use any of these group formations in your lessons? Think how you could blend these ideas with the feedback you received from your students in Activity 3.

However, not all lessons and activities lend themselves to groupwork, so the skill is in choosing the most appropriate times to use them for your students’ learning needs. The more you use groups, the more you will be able to see the advantages, noting what works best for your students and for the topic you are teaching. Being confident about the choices you make comes with practice and a sound knowledge of the advantages of using groupwork. Reading the key resource ‘Using groupwork’ will help you to consolidate what you have done in this unit.

2 Methods and benefits of using groupwork