Brogan’s Corner: Are Two Heads Always Better Than One?

By Brogan Hennesy, Sixth Grade

In sixth grade at the Mahomet Seymour Junior High, I have two out of four of my core classes where other students and I frequently work in groups.

I can see what teachers are trying to teach me beyond the lesson. Things like communication with others, listening, and sharing my ideas.

I have been in multiple groups where all of this happens. However, some of the time, groups don’t work well with each other. I often see students not paying attention, arguing, and sometimes everyone is confused.

Curious to learn a bit more about what a teacher’s perspective is on group work, I reached out to a teacher who uses team-based learning in their classroom.

During the day, a typical classroom hour is simple. We all get into our groups, which have four people assigned different positions: the resource manager usually grabs papers and homework, the recorder/reporter tells the teacher what our answers are and how we found them, the facilitator grabs the math books, and the task manager’s job is to keep everybody on task. After this happens, our teacher goes over homework, assigns problems, and then lets us work.

I do not enjoy group work because sometimes, only one person is doing all the work, and others are copying. Or nobody is on task at all. In group work, if most people think an answer is correct, that is what the group writes down, even if one person feels for certain that it is not correct; and sometimes that person was right!

In my opinion, group work helps with education, but it is not needed all the time. Say that there is a multiplication problem that needs solving. I know that my math teachers have taught me how to solve a multiplication problem many ways. So, why should I choose the way that makes the least sense to me? Why should I isolate myself to one method, when there are many ways to choose from?

There are some things about group work where I agree with teachers about it being useful. We agree that working with other classmates can be beneficial. If a student can “teach” the lesson, then that may not only help the other students that are confused, but also the student teaching will begin to understand the material better.

My teacher says that she likes group work because if she took it away, there would still be some kids not paying attention and talking. But, if a student works with an on task and well-working student, then the student lacking attention might become more engaged and influenced by the on-task student.

Then again, there will always be inattentive students, no matter what the situation. No matter how many times some students are moved, there will still be problems. In my eyes, this is why group work isn’t great.

I see everything that group work is trying to teach us as students, it can provide certain skills we will need in our adult lives. I would like to be a writer when I am older.  I need to state my opinion clearly, or my work won’t make sense. I need to work well with others and listen to other people’s ideas; lots of times when I write other people work with me.

When I write, I usually brainstorm my ideas and do my first drafts by myself. I seek out advice and edits from my family or mentors. When I am happy with what I have, I send my article to the editor, and then the publication team gets it ready for print.

I do not constantly work with others on every step of my writing process. It is all in moderation. Within my writing process everyone in the group is working on a task, but everyone also does their own set of tasks. Because this experience works so well for me, I don’t believe that group work should not be the only method of learning in a classroom.

Group work is simple and gets the job done, but there are different ways to teach a class, like learning by yourself or learning as a whole class.

My solution to the behavior issue of group work is a variation to something we already do in math class. In math, we have green, yellow, and red colored cups for assignment purposes. If you have a green cup on top, it would mean that your group is doing well. Yellow means that a group is having a problem, but everybody is still getting work done. Red is the cup that shows a teacher that there is arguing, someone is not doing anything, and the group is stuck. It would be great to see this process happen in other classes that do group work.

To solve the problem of students getting confused, I feel that talking to a teacher after class, or seeking more help is the only thing possible. As a fellow student, I feel it is up to a teacher, not me, to make the decision on what do when a student needs help. Besides, it is okay to be confused in class. If you were never confused, you wouldn’t be learning anything!

I feel that if all these approaches to group work were used in combination with each other, then there would be less arguing, less confusion, and a better learning environment.  In my opinion, if teachers could contemplate doing these things, then students could have a learning environment they deserve.

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I may do it all, but I have not done it all.

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