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In Math, I try to use group work on a daily basis. After introducing new material, I find it works well to have the students work on some given problems in a group so that they can brainstorm together and talk it over. That way I can also float around the room and help the groups as they work.
I design my curriculum using Universal Design of Learning. One of the principles of UDL is that teachers should try to foster collaboration as an act of scaffolding and to increase student engagement. That being said, students collaborate at least every day. Sometimes is may be on a do-now; other times it's to learn material, express understanding of material, or jigsaw new content. You can research more about UDL from the National UDL Center as they have some great tips on how to utilize groups to increase student learning. www.udlcenter.org
I use group work all the time regardless of whether I am teaching AP English Lit or Calculus BC. The trick is to have particular roles and expectations for each individual member as well as group expectations.
The corrrect question should be "why use group work?" and Katie mentioned verbatim "to foster collaboration as an act of scaffolding and to increase student engagement". The caveat is in how well you coordinate/orchestrate/facilitate your students in collaboration and in its objective. For example you wouldn't want to have students work in teams or study teams if the work can be done as individuals and get them to produce individual products. But it's a whole different ball game if you instruct them to finish a page of math exercises while in coordination with each other. They will ask of each other, okay, who's doing which part? How should be divde up the work so it's fair?
What if I can't do my part? It becomes a question of cooperation, collaboration, and a different mindset so that a study team may produce a one-work per team product or be engaged in a true dialogue of learning while turning in one-work per individual product as a result of true collaborative effort. I apologize for all this jargon but I think I got the "most bang out of my buck" when I started to get my students to work as a study team especially EAL learners. I enjoy hearing the math talk and the management component is now more difficult. Again, I apologize for my nonesense. Sorry if I caused you or anyone more confusion.
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