Teaching Treasures™ Group Learning Article

Group Learning

The teacher's job.

Not so long ago, especially in rural areas, there were classrooms with one teacher responsible for teaching children aged between six and fifteen years of age. All these students were in one room being taught by the one teacher. Those were the 'old days'. The days of discipline, manners were taught and practiced, politeness was the norm, literacy and numeracy was at its peak. If the teacher was busy and a younger student needed help, an older student was asked to pitch in and lend a hand for a little while. The older student was never asked or made responsible for teaching younger students or students with learning difficulties on a regular basis. This was the teacher's job!

These days outcomes based education states that group learning must be achieved by all students. Most teachers found this a wonderful opportunity for students to get together and learn from each other as a team. Social integration was covered, the age segregation gap lessened a little and this should have made everybody happy. Has it! How are high achievers coping with their continued efforts of being responsible for the students with learning difficulties. Is this one of the reasons so many bright children drop-out of school?

What is group learning?

Students grouped together working on usually one project. The group mostly consists of a fast learner, a student with learning difficulties, and two average students (sometimes more).

Who does it benefit?

More likely it would benefit students with learning difficulties, but it could hinder a high achiever because that student will be forced to learn at a slower pace. Group learning encourages peer dependence, especially by the students with learning difficulties, because they become dependent on others to do their work for them, which could become a serious problem for the students with learning difficulties in the future. High achievers are often placed in a responsible teaching position for getting low achievers to the end of the project, this should be the teachers job not the job of another student. There is nothing wrong with students helping each other but some of these group learning projects are taken to the extreme with possible dangerous results of students with learning difficulties being reliant upon others all the time.

Is group work as beneficial as what it is cracked up to be?

Teachers often give group assignments and group grades to cover certain outcomes specified by the outcomes based education system. Each student is usually given a different task. When these tasks are put together with the other assignments, they make up a complete project. No student will be required to do the entire assignment. That can be very beneficial in a factory on an assembly line, but school is not a factory. Cooperative learning does not accurately reflect students abilities and really deceives the low achievers, when allowing the fast learners to do all the work and rewards both of them the same. The fast learners are robbed of their reward just the same as low achievers who are awarded for the little work done, receive a false self-confidence of their ability which could lead to potential misconceptions in future life.

Does group grading cause dislike, dissatisfaction and impede high achievers?

Group grading could be troublesome and cause resentment between students. Students know that specific grades for individual work completed is fair, while the same grade for all is unfair. It could impede high achievers and cause students with learning difficulties to rely on others to do their work. School drop-out might be a serious predicament for high achievers who are not justly graded and restricted to excel in the present system, mental frustration will be exhibited, misbehaviour, drug use and even worse... despair.

Is it fair to give an entire class or group the same grade?

In my opinion, no! Group grading the high achievers who often work harder and faster than the others receiving only the same grade, causes high achievers often to feel cheated, cynical, disadvantaged, destitute..... name it what you like. They are often left with a 'no satisfaction' feeling and attitude. The low achievers get the same grade, feel good about themselves and have a false sense of achievement for work they didn't really do. Deep down though they know this, but are usually contented to think that they did alright, until they are placed in a situation were they have to perform, this is when the real problem begins for them.

What happens next?

The low achievers finally pull through the education system, receive their bit of paper stating they are competent to enter the workforce, obtain a job.... but what happens next? Who is there to rely on to do the work for them! Soon the boss works out they are not competent enough to perform the job set before them. These low achievers who received their certificates and passed the exams more than likely find themselves out of work or always between jobs.

What happened to the high achievers?

These students were bright, showed promise, they were creative, independent workers. Many of these were dumbed down and dropped out of school at an early age. Those who have a driving self-esteem and are supported by caring families continue their studies outside of the current schooling system and acquired qualifications from other independent sources. They obtain jobs and are esteemed in the workforce because they can do the job. They don't rely on others to do the work for them, they are independent, hard workers.

Other high achievers though, have felt so down trodden and are so disgusted by the system they become like the low achievers, having lost their drive for learning and the self-esteem they once had. The desire to want to make something out of their lives has been driven away. Once bright students, now have become a burden to society because they can't get a job or worse... have lost the desire to want to work because they were taught in school that ALL get rewarded the same. Whether they worked harder or faster, it made no difference.

Are home schooled children robbed of their rewards?

Some educators are fair and grade accordingly. They are excellent and honest tutors, respecting each student's achievement and rewarding them fittingly. Some parents choose to teach their children at home and those children probably won't encounter this problem, although it is possible for it to happen even in the home learning environment. An older brother or sister can be kept back (dumbed down) unwittingly by the parents, to help with younger brothers or sisters. Older children should be encouraged to participate in certain learning activities of their younger family members but they should never be made responsible for regular teaching. This is the parents job!

My hope is that those responsible for teaching children will treat each child as an individual, not as a group, teaching each one suitably by working with their abilities and building upon them, rewarding each student according to their achievements. Have group learning sessions... but don't overdo it!

Psalm 62:10-12 Trust not in oppression and become not vain in robbery. If riches increase, set not your heart upon them. God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God. Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.

© 2005 Griggs I. M. - Teaching Treasures Publications Other Articles by Ingrid Griggs



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