“I can easily see why teachers would feel a little negative about group work,” says professor Christine Howe. “They must surely think it’s hard to do well, so why should I bother?”Howe is a developmental psychologist and professor emeritus in the faculty of education at the University of Cambridge. She has spent the past twenty years researching how children develop conceptual knowledge, peer relations and communicative competence through working together in groups, and in the latest Tes Podagody podcast, she explains that teachers should not be intimidated by group work. By meeting certain criteria, she says, it’s possible for anyone to make a success of it.
“The crucial thing is that everybody is actively engaged, there are a range of different opinions and these opinions are shared and negotiated,” says Howe.
“It doesn’t matter that much whether the way in which [students] resolve their differences is productive in terms of moving their understanding on then and there...What we’ve found in our research is that the very process of negotiating ideas, giving reasons for differences of opinion and so on will stimulate the students to think about what they’re saying and, perhaps many weeks later, it will twig.”
Howe also discusses some of the biggest misconceptions that exist around group work, how research in the field has developed over the years and what teachers can do to make their group tasks more effective.