Expectations for Individuals in Small Groups
My 10 years working with 7th-grade language arts students taught me that establishing clear routines and expectations makes a world of difference in all areas, including group work. In particular, I found that assigning roles to each member of the group (recorder, time-keeper, etc.) is not particularly effective. What I discovered is that if each person is responsible for a specific product they tend to focus better, and it’s easier to hold them accountable for participation.
- Specific work assignments could be:
- their own sheet of answers/discoveries,
- their own word document,
- their own construction of an item, or
- responsibility for a specific part of the construction, etc.
Even if all they do is listen to everybody else and record things on their own document, they are learning more than if they have a task like making sure the group is aware of the time.
Also, the groups tend to cooperate more when they have something at stake individually. For example, in my language arts classes when students shared their rough drafts in small groups, the author was required to take notes on oral feedback they received and the listeners were required to record their observations and suggestions on their own listening document.
This doesn’t mean I object to teaching students the skills involved in performing such roles as facilitating the discussion, etc., because learning to do such things are valuable skills. It just means that without individual responsibility for a specific product, my students overall tended to be far less focused during group work.