Today I gave each group 1 small problem to work on that explored acceleration in a few real life, driving scenarios. Before I let everyone work, I explained the group roles that I will have students assume during any full table group work (5-6 students). With my more difficult classes, it took some time to get the class quiet to explain the roles and answer their questions, but once they understood what they had to do, they were surprisingly on task and worked well together. I think this will really help turn my classes around and improve their behavior and understanding. At the end of class, some students who were normally not engaged were saying how much work they did and how on task their were. I think the roles and instructions helped students feel like they could do something positive in class and gave them more confidence.
My group roles were as follows:
While I liked all of the roles that students assumed, I think the leader and questioner made the most difference in how the class atmosphere changed. Having leaders gave students more accountability and gave me help in managing my classroom. Leaders had incentive to make sure their table was focused and working hard, and then they graded the other students. With more people taking an active role to control the class, I was better able to join groups and work with them.
The questioner changed the style of instruction dramatically. Groups could no longer use “I’m confused” as an excuse to not do work. Each table knew that if they didn’t produce results, they needed to have a list of specific questions to help them be able to solve the problem. I did not accept “How do I do this?” or “Is this right?” as valid questions. The process of creating questions was a learning experience and changed how information was transferred in the class. It was hard, and students felt that, but it wasn’t hopeless.
Overall my students were engaged in the material. They were leaning in as they argued over graphs and students who normally did not do work ended up participating. There was still plenty of off task behavior at times, but every student also worked in the class. The pressure to finish on time and present helped focus students, and the different roles prevented one student from doing all of the work. I want to get a video camera in here and start video taping the students as they work so I can present back to them examples of good team work and bad team work. These group roles will stay and hopefully as we get more practice and I give more feedback they will work even better.