Essay for Unit 2 is nearly complete and has proved hard work to get going and then harder work to take learning and teaching (the title) to consider the list of criteria that cover Behaviour Management, Group Work and Resources. For ages I couldn't take what my head thought of as teaching and learning and develop an essay around the criteria. Needs must though and criteria have to be met through the essay including the feedback from the last essay that I need less description and more analysis. This to a person who is constantly reflecting and analysing daily ... quite an irony actually. Well the effort to change direction has lead me in a number of directions and yesterday resulted in me checking out the psychology section of the library rather than the education section. I wanted something about working in groups. I have a strong belief that although group work is useful, allowing people to work individually is also important. The feeling from our PGCE lessons and the various documents given suggests that group work is good because it is active and can help the quieter ones come out of themselves working with peers and so on. But I know from experience that in a group we conform and sometimes won't speak up in case we are wrong or go against the grain of the group. So now to find some quotes which support both arguments and support overall my teaching philosophy that variation of teaching styles is key to success with a group of students or even with one. So Hayes (1993:55) says
Asch's studies of conformity, and Milgram's research into obedience, show how people can act quite differently when they are with others than they do when they are on their own. The study of how people behave in groups has become an important area within social psychology - not least, because so many decisions which effect our day-to-day lives are made by groups or committees of one kind or another.
Hayes goes on to define a group as opposed to a collection of people as having the following traits:
  • People interacting over a sustained period of time, rather than just minutes
  • The members of the group perceive themselves as part of a group
  • Norms, roles and responsibilities are formed as part of the group, where there are expectations for behaviour and sanctions for those that don't conform
  • There is a shared sense of purpose or a shared goal for the group
  • Relationships are formed between different members of the group
I can think of many groups that I am part of. On facebook I belong to the Cockapoo Owners Club and there are definite rules which members abide by. Some are written on the club website. These have evolved over time, with an underlying push from the founder members. If anyone goes against the grain or makes a comment that the majority don't like, or pushes someone to feel they want to leave, but hasn't in the eyes of the majority done anything wrong it is fascinating watching and reading the defences and encouragement or even the nicely worded "You can't say that - well you can but it is just an opinion and remember the rest of us think differently!" ... if the one who has made the untoward comment does not retract or justify their comment then there can be a collective push! Fascinating!! As the club has grown that has also created some issues, but the hardy core keep everyone on the straight and narrow ... i.e. following the rules!!

Within a classroom I think this also happens, which is why when we ask the new class to come up with the rules and take ownership of them, this can be very effective. This still needs a facilitator (the teacher). If the group agrees the punishments or rewards then everyone will conform as long as they want to stay members of the group.

However when you want creativity, group work may not help if the rules are not to be outspoken or come up with random solutions ... so groups could prevent new ideas or allow individualism if not carefully managed. Sharing can help, but might equally stifle a less confident but hugely imaginative brain. Hayes (1993: 58) discusses "Groupthink"
As has already been seen, groups tend to develop their own norms and ideas, and members of the group are expected to conform to these. This can present difficulties if the norms within a group become strong as to restrict deviant information from outside. When this happens, the process of groupthink may mean that the group becomes closed to essential information, and can end up making decisions which are disastrously unsuccessful.
Hayes goes on to talk about leadership and how a strong leader can influence "groupthink". In a classroom, mixing up the smaller groups for group work is a must and perhaps changing the leadership role or presenter of information each time. This could help reduce too much groupthink and encourage individuals, whilst increasing creativity through springboard ideas sessions. As well individuals learn about different roles within a team - leadership, follower, ideas person, doer, etc. This brings me nicely onto team roles and Belbin springs to mind Belbin(2012:1) - [Accessed 26/3/13] tells us that:
A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them.
So what is the difference between a group and a team and what do we create in teaching? Wisegeek: (2013:1) explains
A team's strength depends on the commonality of purpose and interconnectivity between individual members, whereas a group's strength may come from sheer volume or willingness to carry out a single leader's commands. ...

A group may use equal parts discussion, argumentation and peer pressure to guide individual members towards a consensus. ...

A team, by comparison, does not rely on "groupthink" to arrive at its conclusions. ... The members use their individual abilities to arrive at a cohesive result. ...

Group building can literally take only a few minutes, but team building can take years. Individual members of a group often have the ability to walk away when their services or input become unnecessary. A team member's absence can seriously hamper the abilities of other members to perform effectively, so it is not uncommon for individual members to form an exceptionally strong allegiance to the team as a whole.
I think in the classroom we create a mixture of groups and teams, and as a teacher I think we need to know the difference ... the whole class will form a group, the common purpose of which is to study for the same outcomes. Groups can be formed for group work, but perhaps as teacher's get to know their students better they can create teams for specific purposes where all members are important to achieve the task at hand ....

What do you think?

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