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The Benefits and Importance of Group Work in Schools  Saturday, 25 May 2013

 


The Benefits and Importance of Group Work in Schools

Why is group work important?  What can the justification for implementing a specific programme of group work be?  In an already crowded timetable can we really find time for it?  In a timetable that is demanding on both staff and students can group occupy a space with validity and purpose?

From the moment we are born we are in groups or told we need to be in a group. Whether it is a family group, a toddler group, nursery group, school group, peer or work group.  We experience many different sorts of groups for many different reasons.  Mostly being part of a group gives us a feeling of belonging, being part of and adds to sense of self-worth.  We identify with the group, work for the good of the group, and want to achieve common goals in the group.  It complements our individuality and adds to our sense of purpose.  By the time we reach the age of 4 we are made to be part of one of the most important groups of our lives, a group that will most probably shape our life, SCHOOL.

However imagine not being able to take part in a group, imagine not having the skills, knowledge or experience to take part or be part of a group.  Being in a group is not an easy task and it requires many skills.


Why do we assume children and young people have these skills by default?  Do we think that these skills will naturally occur without any outside intervention?  If this was the case, why do some people go through their whole adult without these skills?  The answer is these skills need to be learned and therefore someone has to teach them to the child and the young person.

We are genetically born to connect with others for survival, but we need to learn the skills above to function effectively in groups.  It is important to understand that the ability to learn these skills is a developmental process.  For example a two year old child will not have developed co-operation skills as they are egocentric and only just learning about themselves.  We will only be able to learn certain skills at appropriate periods of our development and may need to re-visit and update our skills on a regular basis.  It can also help with the development of the five broad aspects of emotional literacy:  self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy and social skills.

Group work is about teaching new skills, and creating the conditions that will support this learning.  In terms of where it can fit into the timetable and curriculum it is a wave 2 intervention.  The following diagram may be helpful.

A well planned intervention group work can facilitate the individual personal development of each pupil/student in the group.  It can help them explore issues in more depth, take risks, be reflective, learn how to make good choices, learn about yourself in relation to others and practice new skills while feeling safe in a smaller supportive environment. 

Group work needs to be part of planned intervention, addressing identified needs with clear outcomes, careful evaluation and monitored closely.  As a wave 2 intervention it needs to be organised around wave 1 topics so connection with the main curriculum is not lost.  Areas such as appropriate assessment tools, identification of need, planning, content, delivery, rules, structure and resources are all important.

Being in a group is complex, but there are a great number of benefits.  These include,

The social, emotional and behavioural benefits of undertaking group work in schools are:

How parents/carers can help develop group work skills

Below are a few tips that parents and carers can do to assist with group work skills

Tips for effective group work interventions

The benefits of group work as a specific intervention can be justified not only as a tool for managing behaviour and developing social and emotional literacy skills, but also to add to overall development including academic of all pupils and students.

Reference:

Exley, K. & Dennick, R. (2004) Small Group Teaching: Tutorials, Seminars and Beyond, RoutledgeFalmer. 

Accessed on 17/02/13 http://www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/AcademicStudentAffairs/CentreforEducationalDevelopment/CurriculumDevelopment/ActiveLearningExamples/GroupWork/