A post from 14 November 2017
I think teachers are often skeptical of group work because they are unsure how they will accurately and fairly assess individual student understanding of the concept being worked on. Towers and Martin (2015) have done an effective job bringing to light a new form of data manipulation from the individual to the collective. There is also discussions around whether best practice is to form visibly random groups (Liljedahl, in press), student choice, or placing students in similar ability groups. I found it interesting that in the Towers and Martin (2015) article, the three students chosen were identified as strong students by the teacher. I liked how the article showed the manuscript in different ways, with the most effective being the colour coded. This method of displaying the data effectively showed the contributions of each group member and how they were working as a collective. I would like to be able to use more video in my classroom to track the conversations within groups. I circulate during a period, but it’s impossible to hear the conversations that are going on between group members at all times.
At a recent math cohort meeting run by the CBE Learning Services team, we worked in collaborative groups and were only allowed one marker to complete the task. We could rotate who in the group was doing the writing, but only one person was permitted to write at a time, and in addition to this, they were only allowed to write what they were told, rather than their own ideas. This was an interesting idea to create a collaborative environment and emphasize the contributions of the collective, rather than just the individual. A certain culture would have to be created within a room otherwise I’m not sure there would be anything that would stop the “smart” kid from giving the marker to another student and forcing them to write their own ideas.
- I’m left with these wonderings:
How could video be used productively in our math classes of 30+ students?
- Would giving each student in a group a different coloured marker create a collective learning experience where everyone works collaboratively, or just highlight those that are contributing more than others and make some students feel worse that their lack of contribution is now extremely evident?
- How would the results of this study been different had the groups been visibly random? How would the groups be different if they were mixed ability?
- My own thoughts here: I have done lots of work this year on having students act as skeptics, often urging them to ask each other why? I’ve tried to create this culture so that students do not just blindly lead the “smart” student and accept their answer as the ultimate truth and to push my higher thinking students to be able to clearly explain their thought process. If random groupings/mixed ability groupings were used, and the “lower” students took on the role of the skeptic, would we be able to see a different form of collective responsibility from the group emerge to what was discussed in the Towers and Martin (2015) article? Would students take the time to explain to one another their thinking, ask critically, re-phrase what they have heard, and then attempt to apply this new understanding as the group continued to work?
Until next time,
Liljedahl, P. (in press). The affordances of using visually random groups in a mathematics classroom. In Y. Li, E. Silver, & S. Li (eds.) Transforming Mathematics Instruction: Multiple Approaches and Practices. New York, NY: Springer.
Tower, J. & Martin L. C. (2015). Enactivism and the study of collectivity. ZDM Mathematics Education, 47(2), 247–256. doi: 10.1007/s11858-014-0643-6