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Topic: Re: Group dynamics- getting started
Replies: 1   Last Post: Jul 9, 1995 12:32 AM

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Posts: 133
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Group dynamics- getting started
Posted: Jul 8, 1995 4:21 PM
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Jerry Albani has identified an important aspect of group dynamics when he

<<<I also feel that Cooperative learning is not for everyone at all times.
Several of my students had to be allowed to continue to work by
themselves in a group setting until they felt comfortable and ready to
join the group. I found that by respecting their right to go it alone
permitted them to eventually become active group participants -- and at
the end of the year, even they extolled the merits of groups in allowing
people and them to help each other and discuss ideas.>>>

I have found that they strength and positive nature of group learning
and activities is so strong that it eventually draws all students into the
process. When they see others actually having fun discussing and debating
and even arguing about mathematical solutions and approaches they get
interested in what is going on. When they also see that they are in a safe
environment to make mistakes and that analysis of mistakes helps everyone
instead of penalizing them they begin to open up. I find that most people
do not want to participate out of fear of looking foolish or worse stupid.
Jerry's other point about respecting peoples right to chose their learning
approach is very important. If we want students to behave responsibly and
act like adults then we need to trust their judgement. Especially with
adolesents who like to exert their independence, you will not be able to
force them into a group approach. Keep in mind that there is an individual
accountability with group work so the students who persist in working alone
still has an opportunity to demonstrate that they have mastered the material.
Sometimes you can encourage hold outs through a reward or bonus process for
the group work assigned, something that does not directly penalize the
student working alone.
Some other aspects of group work that encourages loaners includes their
being able to get extra help in class from their peers and the teacher, they
see other students developing a very positive relationship with the teacher,
that the teacher cares about each student and gets to know everyone on a
personal basis, and in some cases they try helping others and get a big lift
out of it when they find that can indeed tutor other instead of always being
tutored. I often hear squeels of delight (literally) when people who have been
math phobic all their lives suddenly realize that they are actually teaching
someone else math. I get little chills when that happens even though I am
expecting it.
One final note: Not everyone participates 100% of the time every day.
I have students who are having a bad day or have other pressures on them
who you can tell are not involved on a particular day. They will usually
tell you if you ask them (individually, not in front of the class) and by
accepting their honesty you gain their confidence. I had a student once
who literally dragged into class one day. I asked her how she was doing
and she replied that she was totally distracted with another course and
probably wouldn't be able to learn much in algebra. I suggested she go to
the library to finish her research and I would work with her later if she
needed help. Later many other students commented in a writing assignment
on that interaction very positively, that I respected her feelings and
It just seemed very logical to me.

Ted Panitz

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