My colleague is a star. She has gotten stellar reviews and enviable performance bonuses. Her kids leap years up the benchmark tests sometimes. She believes in data-driven instruction. She crafts meticulous lesson plans, preparing materials designed to help her students meet targets. She fights for her students. She is among the very best.
That said, we were discussing group work this morning. Neither of us is against appropriate group work, but the fact that this fashion has become an expected part of daily routine concerns us both. Group work for the sake of group work can have significant drawbacks.
Numbers factor heavily into any group work picture. A teacher can only be in one place at one time and, when she is working with group 1, groups 2, 3, and 4 are on their own. In theory, students are helping each other, but in real life a fair amount of discussion may skew towards boyfriends, video games, and other facets of every day life. A teacher can control for this chit-chat by moving around, but roaming interferes with her ability to deliver instruction to the groups.
To quote my colleague: “In a class with 30 kids and one teacher, it’s a joke.”
I know that. At least, the use of daily groups is a joke in an academically-challenged district with large class sizes. Forget the theory. Many of these group-work studies were done with a teacher, a teaching assistant, and additional outside observers. If we really want to evaluate the effectiveness of group-work, we need to covertly watch regular classes with 30 some kids and one teacher.
(My concern with my suggestion: Watchers may end up blaming teachers for essentially untenable and unmanageable situations. Teachers always seem to get the blame. Some of these administrators and legislators ought to try keeping thirty 13-year-olds on task and working when they are put in small, tight clusters scattered around the classroom.)
Eduhonesty: It’s time to stand up for whole-group instruction.