How can the engagement of pupils who are lacking efficacy in group work situations be improved in exam classes?

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Mitchell, Graham
Trask, Steve
Donkin, Kate
Educational Level
ISCED Level 3 Upper secondary education
Geographical Setting
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Background and purpose: The purpose of this research is to investigate how the engagement of exam-class pupils, who are lacking efficacy in group work situations, can be improved. The pupils were perceived by the teacher as conducting themselves in an unproductive manner when previously given tasks involving group work.
Aims: To observe a number of different approaches to how students integrate in group work within a DT classroom, and to draw conclusions about the impact of choosing particular group work situations on the oracy skills of discussion, interaction and listening and responding to their peers.
Study design or methodology: The teachers used a research lesson study design and observed classes in three different observation cycles. The observation methodology was to observe dynamic interaction between pupils when they self-selected who they worked with in a group situation, compared with when the teacher selected the groups. The particular class involved was 20 in size, comprising 14 boys and 6 girls, and the same class was observed on each occasion.
Findings: Students who self-selected their own groups often worked well together, despite not placing themselves in a group that their teacher perceived as the most effective. Some students, when allocated a group by the teacher, felt unable to orally participate effectively in that particular group setting, and they did not have the opportunity to demonstrate effective oracy skills in either their small-group interactions, nor in feeding back verbally to the wider class when summarising or evaluating their work.
Implications for practice: Teacher judgement of the effectiveness of groups remains a vital component of effective group work, but it can be tempered with the notion that self-selecting friendship groups may still produce effective outcomes from an oracy and workflow perspective. Other factors, including clear allocation of roles within the group, motivation of the individuals concerned, familiarity with teammates and individual personality traits likely play a part, but were beyond the scope of these observations within the time limit set.
Keywords (free text)
oracy, group work, workflow, motivation, participation
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