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Allowing choice over group work

December 13, 2010

At an AST meeting/workshop, Zoe Elder was talking about a session she’d run about sharing educational ideas. Someone at that meeting had put on a post-it note “Why don’t people that run these things ever remember that some people HATE group work?” and that got me thinking: why do we rarely (if ever) let learners choose?

So. I tried setting out my room with desks and chairs so that learners could choose to work on an extended problem in groups of any size they liked. Having tried this with two yr7 classes, I can tell you that they’ve found out for themselves that large groups are unproductive and unmanageable.

Interestingly, the learners that chose to work by themselves weren’t always the ones I anticipated would do. These learners did seem to take the problem further down one track than the groups of learners, but the groups seemed to come up with more divergent thinking.

Strong hints that creativity is generated in groups.



Incidentally, I definitely believe in making learners work by themselves or in group sometimes (whether they like it or not).


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One Comment
  1. LearningSpy permalink

    Thanks for sharing this Dave – I really like the idea of being able to allows learners how they want to work. I do this in my Learning Loop SoL and it has interesting results – as you say, sometimes surprising who choose to work alone. Ian Squire has been doing some interesting stuff on this too: he has some great pics of desk layouts which I don’t have – maybe I’ll ask…I have also been trying to balance the views of @RichardWiseman and @Philbeadle here:

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