Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork, and Promote Understanding

Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork, and Promote Understanding

Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork, and Promote Understanding

Productive Group Work: How to Engage Students, Build Teamwork, and Promote Understanding

Synopsis

The benefits of collaborative learning are well documented--and yet, almost every teacher knows how group work can go wrong: restless students, unequal workloads, lack of accountability, and too little learning for all the effort involved. In this book, educators Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Sandi Everlove show you how to make all group work productive group work: with all students engaged in the academic content and with each other, building valuable social skills, consolidating and extending their knowledge, and increasing their readiness for independent learning.

The key to getting the most out of group work is to match research-based principles of group work with practical action. Classroom examples across grade levels and disciplines illustrate how to

• Create interdependence and positive interaction

• Model and guide group work

• Design challenging and engaging group tasks

• Ensure group and individual accountability

• Assess and monitor students' developing understanding (and show them how to do the same)

• Foster essential interpersonal skills, such as thinking with clarity, listening, giving useful feedback, and considering different points of view.

The authors also address the most frequently asked questions about group work, including the best ways to form groups, accommodate mixed readiness levels, and introduce collaborative learning routines into the classroom. Throughout, they build a case that productive group work is both an essential part of a gradual release of responsibility instructional model and a necessary part of good teaching practice.

Excerpt

Groups are smart. From the earliest interest in how groups work at the beginning of the 20th century to research today, evidence gathered has shown that “under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them” (Surowiecki, 2005, p. xiii). We are not suggesting that teachers turn their classrooms over to student collaboration in the absence of instruction, but we are suggesting that productive group work be considered a necessary part of good teaching.

The key to getting the most out of group work, to having groups be truly productive, is creating those “right circumstances.” In this book, we hope to show you what those favorable conditions are and how to produce them in your classroom. When teachers get the circumstances right, something remarkable happens: Students educate one another and end up knowing more than they would have working alone.

What does productive group work look like? You might see it, as we did, in Amber Johnson’s social science class, where students were studying American Indians and their food supplies. One of the productive group tasks involved researching food sources. Each group was assigned a different food source, and every member of . . .

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