Group Work – Top Tips Part III – Reflection

Ken Templeton | 01.2.2014

This post is the last in our three-part series on group work. You can read the first two parts here and here.

Today’s topic: debriefing and reflection. It can be very effective or deadly boring. Some teachers have seen the deadly boring experiences and so they elect to skip this important step altogether. As John Dewey so famously said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” Here are a few tips to have post-group sessions that build on and expand upon the small groups’ work.

1. Don’t let the group work fizzle out

If students have down time between their group and the debrief, it can be hard to restart. When you feel the energy of the group work start to peak in class, that is often a better time to bring the class back together as a whole group than after each group is done. You capitalize on the energy of the class’s thinking and inform a larger discussion.

2. Use common questions or problems

from the group work to frame a debrief. Some teachers summarize what they heard in small groups before posing a bigger question for the full group–this practice clearly signals that the class has completed the small group portion, but there is more to investigate as whole class. Other teachers ask each group to write a provocative question on the board for the class–the full-class discussion is then driven by questions from the students, and not by rehashing the small group work.

3. Keep reporting-out concise and focused

If you choose to have groups report out their thinking, one minute to share their work is plenty of time and doesn’t kill the momentum of the class with rambling, or overly detailed accounts of everything the group worked on. Build in time to  group work for students to write down 3-4 talking points–and at least one question–to share with the class.

4. Take time to discuss how students worked in their groups

Some teachers point out times the groups were effective at solving a problem together. Others ask students to write down something they personally did to make their group work more effectively and something they could do better next time to improve their group’s work. The Buck Institute has developed a great collaboration rubric to guide feedback and self-assessment.

How do you help students reflect on their work or come back together as a class after working in a small group?

Featured image was created by the Duke Innovation Co-Lab and was downloaded from The Noun Project.


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