Talking and Learning in Groups

Talking and Learning in Groups

Talking and Learning in Groups

Talking and Learning in Groups


Group work has in recent years become the object of considerable controversy. This workbook shows teachers how effective group work, flexibly used, can be and how to discover what works for them.


This book is about changing your classroom practice. We are not pushing a teaching approach that is impossible to manage, or ‘another terrific idea’ devoid of theoretical support or classroom evaluation. Instead our aim is to allow you to set up effective cooperative groupwork by giving you the necessary rationale, knowledge and skills to do so. These are linked to a series of classroom activities presented in a sequence designed to take you, step by step, towards implementing it yourself.

Several of the ideas in this book may be new to you, but the idea of children working in groups will certainly not be. Unfortunately, as we shall see, most classroom groups are not cooperative, and fall short of the aspirations that the Plowden Report, for example, envisaged nearly a quarter of a century ago. This report was very enthusiastic about the benefits to children, both socially and intellectually, of working collaboratively. We present evidence in the book in support of these views. Furthermore our work over several years with teachers, over the full primary age range, has provided additional evidence that children’s learning and social relationships can substantially be enhanced by this approach. However, we do not claim that cooperative grouping is a panacea, or that it should be used all the time, but we do believe that classrooms can be more lively, exciting and effective places for learning through such means.

We have tried, wherever possible, to avoid jargon. However, this has not always proved possible because some technical language is a useful, and understandable, shorthand; for example, we use the term ‘post-task interview’ to save writing, each time,—‘after the children had finished their work we talked to them in order to ascertain the extent to which they had understood the task’.

We have organised the book in the following units.

In Unit 1 we provide the justification for cooperative grouping from theory, research and the demands of the National Curriculum.

Unit 2 illustrates the different forms of grouping available and the design of tasks.

Unit 3 provides advice on choosing groups.

Unit 4 focuses on group management and training, including the creation of teacher time.

Unit 5 concentrates on the critical role of monitoring and assessment. and finally,

Unit 6 provides guidance on the specifics of setting up groupwork in the classroom.

We would like to stress that cooperative groupwork should be used as one strategy among other forms of classroom management, so that teachers achieve a balance between individualised tasks, group work and class activities.

How to use this book

The five sections of this book constitute a substantial course in groupwork. Each section provides a text together with written and discussion activities suitable for in-service or professsional studies courses.

The text may be read as a book in its own right; all the activities can be undertaken either individually or as a focus for a group.

The discussion activities are intended to be central to group meetings, though an individual reader will find the discussion questions useful as a prompt for reflection and planning.

The written activities are intended to be worked on individually but also lend themselves to group discussion when completed.

The practical activities included in the final section are designed for individual teachers to take into their own classroom.

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