Creating Group Cohesion in a Sixth Form Class

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Allison Laine
5 April 2018

Creating Group Cohesion in a Sixth Form Class

 

Narrator

As a teacher and head of subject at a local secondary/sixth form college, I was struck by how distinct the learning styles are of students between Year 11 and Year 12.  I have taught in similar settings for five years at this point, but never where students had such access to IT equipment. 

 

Situation

In Year 11, the students appear to be isolated in their revision, where everyone is focused on their own results. In my Year 12 class, which is a smaller cohort, I wanted to develop a space where students collaborated on projects in order to enhance the learning as a group, rather than as individuals. I know most of the students from Year 11 as they transitioned into Year 12, and wanted to develop a collaborative and cohesive space in my Year 12 class.

In my Sixth Form, the students have one-to-one iPads. I decided, therefore, to establish spaces where they could use these iPads as a tool for collaboration, rather than individual note-taking and research.  

Task

Students were assigned a weekly 'response' to their readings set in lesson. These responses were originally just submitted to me for feedback, but this quickly became strenuous on my marking schedule and did not allow the students to collaborate on tasks. I therefore created a blog space - similar to Cloudworks - where the students could respond to each other's weekly responses. I wanted each student to provide at least three comments or questions for reflection on their classmates posts before returning to reflect on how this shifted their views of the tasks.  

Actions


1. I set up a Wordpress blog space for my classroom. Each student would sign in on their Google logins. 

2. Each week, I would post the tasks for student response. They had to respond in a blog post themselves. This was challenging, as some students' responses became quite personal (even if the questions were not intended to be like that), and some students fell behind. 

3. I would provide space in lesson (1 hour each week) for students to read each others' responses and post questions/reflections based on this. At the end of the week, I would ask the students to then write a reflection (as a comment on their own post) and would mark their responses at this time. For some students, this hour was enough time, whereas others wanted to really consider their responses before moving on. 

4. I ran this as a pilot for one half-term (six weeks). I then asked the students to complete an anonymous questionnaire about the process. 

 

Results

While this did cut down on my marking, I found the administration of this task too difficult to maintain while teaching full time. Similarly, the students who completed the survey did not find it a useful exercise, as they wanted feedback from me and felt that the responses to the questions were too repetitive to find anything useful from a peer responses. However, it did allow the students to get to know each other better, which later did help when working on larger group tasks.  

Reflections

I would not continue with this programme again, although I am pleased that I pilotted it. The students felt as though it was a waste of time, and that one hour each week (from their potential 8) was not worth the marginal benefit to their cohesion and learning. From this, however, I developed smaller strategies in sharing and peer reviewing work before it approached me; however, I did this in a more structure manner at integral intervals. 

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