Group learning is a critical component of classrooms, whether physical or online. A deeper understanding of the dynamics of group learning can make teaching more effective and take learning from passive to active and engaging.
Research is unequivocal that students can and will learn from each other when put in groups. However, it’s not always that positive learning becomes the inevitable outcome– poorly understood group dynamics and forced interactions may well create mental blocks and render any teaching ineffective.
Some factors that make learning in small groups advantageous are:
Higher chances of collaboration
Group learning, when set right, can encourage collaboration between students over a common topic. This sparks creativity and, just as importantly, allows students to explore perspectives that wouldn’t have come up had they been studying alone.
A holistic approach to any topic must involve listening to and accepting multiple perspectives. Concepts don’t exist in silos; economics, social background and upbringing can all have an impact on how one student perceives a topic differently when compared to others. Group learning also encourages students to accept different degrees of agreement or disagreement, which will come in handy in the real world.
Group learning has the potential to motivate students to participate and share their ideas. This can be competitive or collaborative, depending on each student’s learning style. In general, it is easier to encourage speaking up in a group than on one’s own, to an audience. The consensus of equal participation, along with an encouraging stage to voice opinions and not be judged, makes groups much more motivational.
Positive peer pressure
Peer pressure in some settings can be debilitating. However, in group learning, the pressure to speak up and contribute is offset through better engagement with the learning material. Students know they will be expected to speak, so they’d rather go in with information and confidence. As a result, they pay more attention to the learning material and internalise it rather than just read through it.
As psychologist Albert Bandura found, learning takes place in social setups, through direct instruction and observation. Humans are social animals and are more inclined to work better in groups than individually. This is an evolutionary trait, borne of generations of interdependence and co-existence. As in any group, having assigned roles and following a process will likely lead to better outcomes than a free-for-all.
Group learning thrives on healthy dynamics
It is important to note that group learning is only effective on the above-listed fronts if the group itself works well together. Stiff groups with one dominant speaker, or free-riding students who poach on others’ hard work, will not lend to a productive group learning session. Instead, it will only discourage quieter students from speaking up and leave hardworking students dissatisfied with the outcome and less likely to participate.
Understanding the undercurrents of a group and encouraging equal participation, as opposed to forcing it, will make for a better group learning atmosphere.
Modo offers Python Coding online classes, where children of ages 11-14 years participate in small groups and every child gets a chance to participate. Hurry! Next batch starts 24 Aug, limited seats available.
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