Importance of group work

Introduction I am Zeeshan Ali; I am working as a Computer teacher for Classes VI-X-M in Canal Side Boys Campus. I have done Masters in Computer Science (MCS) from Punjab University College of Information and Technology (PUCIT) Lahore. The students are the main focus of every teacher and our entire teaching efforts circle round our students to achieve the set targets. Effective Teaching includes many useful teaching strategies that a teacher chooses according to the requirement of his/her respective subject and topic as well. In result of my years of experience and as a Computer teacher I find Group Work as the most effective and fruitful technique at every level. Rationale

Group work is a successful teaching strategy in which small groups, each with students of different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. Each member of a group is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping teammates learn, thus creating an atmosphere of achievement. Students work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it. Research has shown that cooperative learning techniques:

• promote student learning and academic achievement • increase student retention • enhance student satisfaction with their learning experience • help students develop skills in oral communication • develop students' social skills • promote student self-esteem • help to promote positive race relations

Johnson, et al. (1990) identifies five basic elements of collaborative learning including Positive interdependence, Promotive interaction, Individual accountability for the group's work, Social skills, Group self-evaluating. Students learn best when they are actively involved in the process.

Researchers report that, regardless of the subject matter, students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats. Students who work in collaborative groups also appear more satisfied with their classes. ( Beckman, 1990; Chickering and Gamson, 1991; Collier, 1980; Cooper and Associates, 1990; Slavin, 1980, 1983; Whitman, 1988). “Many students have never worked in collaborative learning groups and may need practice in such skills as active and tolerant listening, helping one another in mastering content, giving and receiving constructive criticism, and managing disagreements.” (Fiechtner and Davis, 1992 "Leading a Discussion”)

The students in a group must perceive that they "sink or swim" together, that each member is responsible to and dependent on all the others, and that one cannot succeed unless all in the group succeed. Knowing that peers are relying on you is a powerful motivator for group work (Kohn, 1986).

Strategies for promoting interdependence include specifying common rewards for the group, encouraging students to divide up the labor, and formulating tasks that compel students to reach a consensus. (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991) Walvoord (1986) recommends telling the class that after the group task is completed, each student will submit to the instructor an anonymous assessment of the participation of the other group members: who did extra work and who shirked work. If several people indicate that an individual did less than a fair share, that person could receive a lower grade than the rest of the group.

This system works, says Walvoord, if groups have a chance in the middle of the project to discuss whether any members are not doing their share. Members who are perceived as shirkers then have an opportunity to make amends. Here are some other options for dealing with shirkers. Perhaps the best way to assure comparable effort among all group members is to design activities in which there is a clear division of labor and each student must contribute if the group is to reach its goal. (Connery, 1988; Walvoord, 1986) In short, group work has its undeniable importance if it is implemented with proper planning. Implementation of the Chosen Strategy

Keeping in view the importance of group work I applied the strategy in my comprising of 16 students to teach them ‘Conversion of Hexadecimal into Binary Number System and Conversion of Binary Number System into Hexadecimal Number System’. The objective of my lesson was to make students know how to convert an Octal Number into Binary Number System on the board and its practical implementation. To achieve these objectives I started my lesson with a question answer session to revise their previous concepts. After the recap session I divided my class into groups of 4 students each and said them to identify Hexadecimal and Binary digits.

Then through exposition I explained the current topic how to convert a hexadecimal number into binary on the board. For more detail explanation I solved three related examples on the board interactively. In these examples I involved students to help me in solving these examples. This was their learning towards the application of current topics properties. Later I assigned the conversion task to the groups. Each group did its work and it was the responsibility of the group leader to make sure participation of each member of the group.

The groups prepared their presentation and to give everyone an equal chance presentation was divided into parts. I kept on observing the groups and encourage the participation of reluctant students during discussion time. Then every group got a five minutes time to present the themes and key points of the read scenes. In this way the whole class came to know about each others ideas and got benefit from them the lesson was wrapped up by a single line recap from ever group side to sum up the conversion method. Evaluation of the Implementation

After the conduction of the lesson and applying the group work strategy I evaluated my lesson. During group work students were very excited and sharing their ideas to each other. After the recap times every individual has his own understanding and perception. So they expressed their ideas and those who had valid points, they convinced others with logical points. Another positive point was distribution of the task on equal level. Every group had a writer, a speaker, an encourager and an evaluator.

So everyone got a task to do and finally presentation was a combined effort. Through the use of this strategy the students not only understood the content of the lesson but they also built up their confidence and evolved a critical thinking to evaluate their work and other’s work also. The problems regarding the implementation of the strategy were time management. Two of the groups took more time in discussion and jotting down their ideas.

There were two dependant students as well who were reluctant to express their thoughts. So to motivate them and encouraging them took time and the time of presentation had to be shrunken for other groups. This group work was assessed on the quality of content and presentation. To assess the individuals, later a work sheet consists of question answers about the read topic was distributed and checked. Implications for Future Practice

▪ Keeping in view the evaluation of my lesson I planned few better options to avoid the problems faced during the lesson. In order to manage the time in a better way and to give every student an equal chance I have decided to make work sheets to gather students’ findings. I will prepare a question sheet before hand to distribute among groups so that every group can fill that to the point in equally distributed time. It will be a sort of reflective sheet focusing the important points of reading and each group will fill it after a unanimous consent. Every individual of the group will have an individual task and he will be assessed and evaluated on the quality of his particular target.

Cooperation and respect for each other’s opinion will be ensured and the person or group which did not follow the rules will be disqualified and have some extra work as penalization. I have found out few points which can be followed further to improve the use of group work strategy in my class room. ▪ Assign group work at the beginning of the term so that students develop skills for working in groups. • Use multiple-choice tests that include higher-level questions. To allow time for discussion, present about twenty-five items for a fifty-minute in-class test.

• Have students take the test individually and turn in their responses before they meet with their group. Then ask the groups to arrange themselves in the room and arrive at a group consensus answer for each question. Score the individual and group responses and prepare a chart showing the average individual score of each group's members, the highest individual score in each group, and the group's consensus score. Ninety-five percent of the time, the group consensus scores will be higher than the average individual scores (Toppins, 1989).

Summary of main Findings In general, groups of four or five members work best. Larger groups decrease each member's opportunity to participate actively. The less skillful the group members, the smaller the groups should be. The shorter amount of time available, the smaller the groups should be. (Sources: Cooper, 1990; Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991; Smith, 1986) When a group is not working well, avoid breaking it up, even if the group requests it. The addition of the floundering group's members to ongoing groups may throw off their group process, and the bailed-out troubled group does not learn to cope with its unproductive interactions.

(Source: Wolvoord, 1986) Ask each group to devise a plan of action: who will be doing what and when. Review the groups' written plans or meet with each group to discuss its plan. If the task spans several weeks, you will want to establish checkpoints with the groups. Ask groups to turn in outlines or drafts or to meet with you. In addition, let students know that they can improve the effectiveness of their study teams by making sure each session has a clearly articulated agenda and purpose. They can also work more efficiently if all logistical arrangements are set for the semester: meeting time, length, location. Bibliography

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