If the school is attempting to personalise education then the folowing ladder can be used to gauge how much the aspect of relationships has been addressed.  In this case we are looking specifically at “Who learners work with”

 Link to the other aspects by clicking the appropriate letter  E  O  R  D  E  R
Level 1 – One size fits all – Groups are fixed and collaboration is not used often

  • Schools allocate groups based on age, ability or similar bulk measurement.  These groups remain for a year.
  • If group work is done, groups tend to be chosen for functional reasons or to make the process as efficient as possible such as random, counting or people wwho are closest to each other in the room.  Team sports may be chosen to achieve a balanced contest for example.

Traditionally, the teacher decides where students sit, what tutor groupings they are in, what house they are in etc.  The first step in changing this pattern is to provide teachers with evidence that it is in the long term interests of the learner to learn how to work with a variety of people.  The next step is to encourage teachers to introduce choice into their classrooms.

During a lesson, teachers can set short discussion exercises in which students must ‘form into groups of 4’.  Initially when no further guidance is given, students are likely to choose friendship groups and the restriction on numbers will lead to some friction that needs to be managed in terms of people being excluded.  If there is a view that teachers do not yet have the skills required to manage these issues sensitively then you could opt for directed groups.

The easiest technique here is as follows

  1. The teacher take the number in the class and divides by 4 to find the number of groups.  e.g. if there are 28 in the group then 28/4 = 7
  2. The teacher points at each learner and as they do, say the numbers 1-7 repeatedly
  3. Students who were given number 1 then form into group 1 and so on until you have 7 groups of 4.  These are then given a table each for the activity.
Level 3 – Choice –  Within fixed groupings, teachers allow learners to choose who they work with

  • Teachers use group work regularly and see it as positive that learners always are able to choose the groups they work with.  The role that learners play in these groups and the reasons for their choices aren’t usually considered.
  • There is a chance that some learners will always end up in the same role and not be challenged to extend their skills.  It is also possible that those who lack particular skills may experience labelling such that their lack of self confidence or esteem development is overlooked.
Level 5 – Personalised ‘For’ Groups – Teachers organise groups and may be open about their reasons

  • Teachers use group work for a reason.  They choose activities in which effective collaboration is essential.
  • Teachers use the concept of differentiation to either ensure that each group contains a range of ability or that there are ability based groupings.
  • It is possible that the learners themselves are unaware of the reasons for the groupings except in obvious cases such as splitting up potential behaviour issues or clashes of personality
  • Teachers may involve other teachers, for example online tutors, video clips, discussion boards or ask the expert
Level 7 – Teacher Strategy – Teachers evaluate the progression of skills and try strategies to increase this

  • Teacher is conducting their own research and evaluating what groupings are best for progressing particular skills in particular learners.  They include feedback from the learners to help them evaluate the impact of such choices.
  • Teachers try learners of different ages and different schools or countries working together to try out ideas such as to build understanding of other cultures or other view points or to release learners who are caricatured.
Level 9 – Personalised ‘By’ the learner ? – Learners put together teams based on progressing skills

  • Learners know their current level of achievement in team work competencies and set themselves challenges.
  • Teacher also knows this information and both supports and challenges learner choices to accelerate progression.
  • Learner progression is peer assessed and tracked over time. ‘Qualification’ leads to greater opportunity and ensures that learners can pull together different specialists from different age groups, schools and cultures.

[i]  BECTA Harnessing Technology Review 2008: The role of technology and its impact on education.


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