Small Group Teaching in Higher Education


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A 3 hour session for the PCTHE at Oxford Brookes University

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Small Group Teaching in Higher Education

  1. 1. Small groups 20 March November 2009 George Roberts Directorate of Human Resources
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Do you teach (or have you ever taught) small groups? </li></ul><ul><li>Identify small-group teaching situations </li></ul>
  3. 3. Feedback <ul><li>Small group teaching situations include: </li></ul>
  4. 4. Feedback <ul><li>Small group teaching situations include: </li></ul><ul><li>75 => 15 => pairs </li></ul><ul><li>on the wards </li></ul><ul><li>practicals </li></ul><ul><li>role play </li></ul><ul><li>field work </li></ul><ul><li>aggregate/disaggregate </li></ul><ul><li>seminars </li></ul>
  5. 5. Activity <ul><li>In pairs for about 3 minutes </li></ul><ul><li>What are the most rewarding features of small group teaching? </li></ul>
  6. 6. Feedback <ul><li>Rewards of small-group teaching include: </li></ul>
  7. 7. Feedback <ul><li>Rewards of small-group teaching include: </li></ul><ul><li>students can take risk </li></ul><ul><li>involvement </li></ul><ul><li>immediate feedback </li></ul><ul><li>levelling of relationship/informality </li></ul><ul><li>students can be responsible/no hiding </li></ul><ul><li>opportunity for f2f interaction, everyone has a voice </li></ul><ul><li>diagnostic </li></ul><ul><li>equal opportunity to have a go </li></ul><ul><li>space to think and give an opinion, explore own thinking and ideas </li></ul><ul><li>get to know students better </li></ul><ul><li>motivation, works two ways </li></ul><ul><li>encouragement can build confidence </li></ul><ul><li>co-construction of group knowledge & identity </li></ul><ul><li>student-centred/led learning </li></ul>
  8. 8. Small Group Structures
  9. 9. Rounds <ul><li>Encourages everybody to contribute </li></ul><ul><li>Circle </li></ul><ul><li>Trigger sentence </li></ul><ul><li>‘ a question I would like answered today is … ‘ </li></ul><ul><li>each person takes it in turn to offer a short comment </li></ul>
  10. 10. Buzz groups
  11. 11. Circular interviewing <ul><li>Each person takes it in turn to interview the person opposite them in the circle </li></ul><ul><li>The role of interviewer and interviewee is passed round the circle until everybody has had a turn at each role </li></ul><ul><li>‘ what have you read ..’ </li></ul>
  12. 12. Fish Bowl <ul><li>Members in the inner circle are involved in discussion /role-play/ group activity </li></ul><ul><li>Members on the outside have the role of observer </li></ul>
  13. 13. Other Small Group Structures <ul><li>How else can you organise small groups? </li></ul>
  14. 14. Activity <ul><li>double pairs (= 4) for about 3 minutes </li></ul><ul><li>What are the environments in which small group teaching takes place? </li></ul><ul><li>How do time scales affect small group work? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Feedback <ul><li>What are the environments for small group teaching? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Feedback <ul><li>What are the environments and time scales for small group teaching? </li></ul><ul><li>seminar </li></ul><ul><li>lecture theatre </li></ul><ul><li>online </li></ul><ul><li>small room with moveable furniture </li></ul><ul><li>construction site </li></ul><ul><li>breakout rooms </li></ul><ul><li>canteens </li></ul><ul><li>work sites </li></ul><ul><li>laboratories </li></ul><ul><li>art room </li></ul><ul><li>Barcelona </li></ul><ul><li>office </li></ul><ul><li>book shops </li></ul><ul><li>malls </li></ul><ul><li>library </li></ul><ul><li>reinvention centre/ASKE building </li></ul><ul><li>conference centre </li></ul>
  17. 17. Feedback <ul><li>How do time scales affect small group work? </li></ul>
  18. 18. Feedback <ul><li>How do time scales affect small group work? </li></ul><ul><li>initial awkwardness, students need clear briefs </li></ul><ul><li>time needs to be managed </li></ul><ul><li>staff schedules may constrain small group activity </li></ul><ul><li>tasks might go from 2 min to 30 min </li></ul><ul><ul><li>or over a semester! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>or as long as it takes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>different groups work at different speeds </li></ul><ul><li>time it takes depends on the aim/outcome intended </li></ul><ul><li>needs time built in for sharing/feedback/hearing others </li></ul><ul><li>groups may persist longer than the tasks they do </li></ul>
  19. 19. Activity <ul><li>Back in your fours for about 3 minutes </li></ul><ul><li>What were the differences between pairs and fours? </li></ul>
  20. 20. Feedback <ul><li>Differences between pairs and fours include: </li></ul>
  21. 21. Feedback <ul><li>Differences between pairs and fours include: </li></ul><ul><li>pairs reinforce ideas, larger groups get diversity of ideas </li></ul><ul><li>allocate roles </li></ul><ul><li>in fours people can hide, pairs force interaction </li></ul><ul><li>bigger group more hiding possibilitie </li></ul><ul><li>roles emerge, leader, spokesperson, domination and submission </li></ul><ul><li>group dynamic becomes foregrounded: teachers need to know when students need help with role emergence </li></ul><ul><li>role differentiation becomes important </li></ul><ul><li>bigger group may force consensus; can this be damaging? </li></ul><ul><li>sub-groups emerge </li></ul>
  22. 22. With thanks to
  23. 23. Groups <ul><li>A gathering of people is a group </li></ul><ul><li>when its members are collectively conscious of their existence as a group; </li></ul><ul><li>when they believe it satisfies their needs; </li></ul><ul><li>when they share aims, are interdependent, like to join in group activities, and want to remain with the group. </li></ul><ul><li>Though groups occur in many forms and sizes, there seems to be a set of characteristics fairly common to them all. </li></ul><ul><li>From: Small group teaching by David Jaques </li></ul>
  24. 24. Characteristics of groups <ul><li>A definable membership </li></ul><ul><li>Group consciousness </li></ul><ul><li>A sense of shared purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Interdependence </li></ul><ul><li>Interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to work as a single unit </li></ul><ul><li>John Adair 1989 ‘ Effective team building ’ London, Gower </li></ul>
  25. 25. Roles <ul><li>Task-based roles </li></ul><ul><li>Personal attributes, styles and preferences </li></ul>
  26. 26. Group (team) roles <ul><li>“ A tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way” (Belbin) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Everybody has a preferred role </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People are likely to take on more than one role </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>team roles are not personality types; they are clusters of characteristics, </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Role orientation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>shaper, implementer, completer finisher </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>chair/co-ordinator, teamworker, resource investigator </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cerebral </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>plant, monitor/evaluator, specialist </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>General group roles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Group building & maintenance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Group task </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Belbin: Team Roles <ul><li>Plant </li></ul><ul><li>Resource Investigator </li></ul><ul><li>Co-ordinator </li></ul><ul><li>Shaper </li></ul><ul><li>Monitor-Evaluator </li></ul><ul><li>Teamworker </li></ul><ul><li>Implementer </li></ul><ul><li>Completer-Finisher </li></ul><ul><li>Specialist </li></ul>
  28. 28. Good education practice <ul><li>encourage student-tutor contact </li></ul><ul><li>encourage student-student co-operation </li></ul><ul><li>encourage active learning </li></ul><ul><li>give prompt feedback </li></ul><ul><li>emphasise time on task </li></ul><ul><li>have and communicate high expectations </li></ul><ul><li>respect diverse talents and ways of learning </li></ul><ul><li>(Chickering & Gamson, 1987) </li></ul><ul><li>independent of the mode of engagement </li></ul>
  29. 29. Activity <ul><li>Self organise </li></ul><ul><li>Four groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>As near as possible along discipline lines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify the common features of your disciplinarity </li></ul></ul>
  30. 30. Feedback <ul><li>Identify groups and common features </li></ul>
  31. 31. Feedback <ul><li>Identify groups and common features </li></ul><ul><li>Odds & sods: Business & technology, arts, professional </li></ul><ul><ul><li>common features </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>skills as well as theory </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>applied theory </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Humanities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>text based subjects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>not factual but negotiable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>study social relationships past present and future </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ability to detach oneself from the field of study </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Science, the ‘ologists’ </li></ul><ul><li>quantification and measurement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>theory-based / evidence-based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>falsifiable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>predictive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>critical thinking </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Activity (simulation) <ul><li>In your groups develop a short group learning activity </li></ul><ul><li>relevant to your discipline </li></ul><ul><li>prepare a presentation of this activity using the flip chart paper </li></ul>
  33. 34. Design for Learning Background reading Individual task Group task Plenary Follow through
  34. 35. Design for Learning (distribute) background reading Individual task: write one sample examination question and explain why this is a good question. Post to discussion area Plenary: presentation by groups Follow through: collate and distribute all questions & criteria Framing: final examination will be composed of your questions Group task Evaluate Critique on discussion board Compile sample examination paper and post Produce assessment criteria For n Groups
  35. 37. Activity <ul><li>Form groups </li></ul><ul><li>In groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify topic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write objective(s) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Plan session </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Plenary </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Present </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Debrief </li></ul></ul>Plan Brief overall Brief groups Group work Objectives <ul><li>Identify topic </li></ul><ul><li>Determine approach </li></ul><ul><li>Inductive </li></ul><ul><li>Deductive </li></ul><ul><li>Kolb position </li></ul>Present Debrief
  36. 38. Aims of your session <ul><li>Agree your activity </li></ul><ul><li>then </li></ul><ul><li>Using circular interview technique to ensure each person contributes </li></ul><ul><li>Identify the aims of your session </li></ul>
  37. 39. Activity (simulation) <ul><li>In your groups develop a short group learning activity </li></ul><ul><li>relevant to your discipline </li></ul><ul><li>prepare a presentation of this activity using the flip chart paper </li></ul><ul><li>20 minutes </li></ul>
  38. 40. Feedback <ul><li>Group presentations of outputs </li></ul><ul><li>key points </li></ul><ul><li>… </li></ul><ul><li>… </li></ul>
  39. 41. Why work in a group?
  40. 42. Summarising
  41. 43. <ul><li>“ How do I know until I hear myself say it?” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Academic knowledge is articulated knowledge” </li></ul><ul><li>Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking University Teaching - a conversational framework for the effective use of educational technology . London, RoutledgeFarmer. </li></ul>
  42. 44. <ul><li>“ Constructivism has at its heart the view that individual students construct or build their own knowledge and understanding rather than simply acquiring it pre-packaged and ready-made. The knowledge that they build will depend on several factors including what they are formally taught…the culture of their discipline” </li></ul><ul><li>Phillips, D.C. (2000) Constructivism in Education The National Society for the Study of Education, Chicago </li></ul>
  43. 45. Factors to consider <ul><li>Group size </li></ul><ul><li>Preparing learners </li></ul><ul><li>Structure of groups & communication patterns </li></ul><ul><li>Learning environment </li></ul>
  44. 46. Ground rules <ul><li>Implicit ground rules in every social situation </li></ul><ul><li>Individuals will come with their own assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>Make ground rules explicit for group </li></ul><ul><li>Rules will help the group to be effective & reduce conflict </li></ul>Rules!
  45. 47. Terms of reference <ul><li>What is the purpose to the group? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the expected outcomes from the group? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the group work assessed? How? Criteria? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the main components of the project? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the deadlines? </li></ul><ul><li>Are there any guidelines? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you suppose to do it on your own? </li></ul><ul><li>Do all group members share the same understanding of the above? </li></ul>
  46. 48. Consider <ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><li>Social </li></ul><ul><li>Decision making </li></ul><ul><li>Roles & responsibility </li></ul><ul><li>Time management </li></ul><ul><li>Task management </li></ul><ul><li>Managing group processes </li></ul><ul><li>Commitment </li></ul>
  47. 49. Learning environment <ul><li>Physical and virtual arrangements have a powerful effect on interaction </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lecturer is standing or sitting </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Distance between lecturer and group </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Position in a group is important: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sitting nervous students opposite sympathetic tutor or encouraging peer </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A dominating student can be quietened by being seated immediately next to the tutor (Griffths & Partington 1992) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  48. 50. Effective groups <ul><li>Contain a balanced range of members whose strengths complement each other </li></ul><ul><li>Are not small or too large </li></ul><ul><li>Members take time to form a ‘group’ </li></ul><ul><li>Members are clear about their own role and that of others </li></ul><ul><li>Members understand and abide by a set of mutually agreed ground rules </li></ul><ul><li>Share out the tasks fairly </li></ul><ul><li>Are organised & self disciplined </li></ul><ul><li>Tackle problems within the group effectively </li></ul>
  49. 51. Teacher Behaviours <ul><li>Teachers’ style and approach influences the approach taken by the learner </li></ul><ul><li>Students taught by teachers with a Student Focussed approach characteristically take a deep approach to their learning - attempting to make sense of the content of their course (Sheppard and Gilbert, 1991). </li></ul>
  50. 52. Thank you