Our most recent focus has been guided group learning. Each of us explained how we have used guided learning in our lessons already, with the aim of sharing best practice and identifying areas for future development.
RP uses guided learning with her low-ability year 9 group, in their weekly reading lessons. She chooses to work with her “middle” students who may still stumble or lack confidence in their reading. They read in groups for about 20 minutes of the lesson, to encourage independence and equal participation. This works particularly well now that the students are established in a routine.
CS tends to put the lower-attaining students together as her guided group, since these students are usually more reluctant to perform in a group with more able dancers. She also differentiates by giving higher-attaining students a different task altogether. In P.E, higher attaining students may be used to coach other students, leaving the teacher to guide particular groups as needed.
IJ uses set groups in 10ES. This results in three groups of three being placed with an LSA each, and two remaining groups of 3 and 4 students. IJ works with the group of 4 students, who are the highest attaining, in order to challenge them further and give them more difficult tasks.
Finally, DB uses guided groups with 9ES. One of the merits of this approach is that it avoids the teacher ‘racing around’ to solve the queries of individual students. This is a particular feature of SEN groups that guided group learning can help to discourage.
After sharing our current practice, we reflected on the fact that higher ability groups as a whole don’t seem to currently benefit from guided groups – it is more likely that guided group learning is used within lower-ability classes or with lower-attaining students. We felt that there was an argument to be made for incorporating guided group learning with all classes, regardless of ability, since the ultimate aim of guided learning is reduced dependency on the teacher, and this is relevant to all students. We discussed the possibility of a rotational system, whereby the teacher works with a different group each lesson (on a weekly basis, for example). This would ensure that over time, all students in the class would benefit from quality discussion and increased teacher time.
Our top tips for guided group learning so far are:
- Build it into your lesson structure so that it becomes routine. The more the students are used to it, the more helpful it is likely to be in terms of progress.
- Provide coping strategies for the students who are not in the guided group, so that they do not have to come and interrupt you when you are working with other students. For example, provide hint sheets, guidance cards, checklists, extension tasks. Encourage students to use techniques such as “Ask 3 B4 me” (ie. use your brain, your book or a buddy before asking the teacher for help).
- Display visual reminders of the task on the whiteboard, possibly with a timer, to keep the students on track.
- Build co-operative structures into your groups, so that each student is accountable and can make progress.
- Similarly, model good “group work” and set out clear expectations for your students.
- Ensure rigorous AFL opportunities throughout the lesson, for example through peer and self-assessment.
- Get feedback from your students on what they feel works well, and what could be improved.