I've tried group learning on several occassions and look forward to trying it again implementing some of the ideas I am reading here. I found that it worked best with high ability students, adequately with advanced students and poorly with the slower students. The advanced students resented having to "share" and the slower students were so concerned about personal problems - like who likes whom - that they couldn't get along with each other. Has anyone else had this experience?
I also found that many students didn't feel like I was doing my job in requiring them to exhibit some independence in their learning. They really wanted me to "tell it at them" all the time and felt very insecure in making and testing their own conjectures. This was especially true of the advanced students. Frankly, I gave up and resumed the old lecture technique. They were bored, I was bored, but they were happy and comfortable.
I have had success with group work on "extra" projects. One thing I have used with great success is "The dManor House Mystery". We have also had group projects involving field trips.
I'm hoping to see some very concrete ideas about using group work. Also, for those of you who have used it extensively, what do you do about the one or two students who refuse to participate and how do you handle the students who are problems to their group members?