Culturally Diverse Learners: April 12 - 30, 2010

Team work - large class size

Team work - large class size

by Lynda Rodwell -
Number of replies: 5
I was very interested in the Team work video. There were some good ideas about forming groups however the class size illustrated was quite small. I have classes of 120 students and wonder how best I can achieve an integration of generally 10 or 12 Chinese students into group discussion and workgroups. Lynda (Plymouth U.K.)
In reply to Lynda Rodwell

Re: Team work - large class size

by Beth Moran -

I also thought this video was interesting. With larger numbers I suppose the same principles apply in that we need to value diversity and look for ways of promoting the strengths of the students. I like the idea of the students providing some information about themselves so that they become more 'real' to one another. I wonder if you could devise an activity which gives the students an opportunity to learn something about each other as a starting point. It must be difficult with such a large group to promote individual identity.

In reply to Lynda Rodwell

Re: Team work - large class size

by Vivian Neal -

Hi Lynda,

Large classes are becoming more common and so this is an important topic.  You said that you have some Chinese students, but you haven't mentioned what other cultures make up your class.  

The video really hits home for me and it seems like the exact same thing happens in my classess. I've found with my culturally diverse classes that more direction in how to form the groups is always beneficial - team work designs that give each person a specified and active role can help. When learners know exactly what's expected of them, they tend to be more comfortable.

I've recently been much more prescriptive about how I establish learning sets membership (these are course-long study groups) and I've spent a good deal of time attempting to make each group is as diverse as possible. I use all of the knowledge I have about the students, plus some of my own presumptions and assumptions, to mix them up. It takes me more than an hour for 20 or so students, but it's an investment of time that has been very worthwhile. 

For shorter activities I often ask learners to pair with someone they have never spoken to before (you saw me do that last week :-)), or I will group people using cross-overs where, say, 6 groups of 5 become 5 groups of 6.  With pair work, everyone is participating. These kinds of activities can be done with a class of any size.

I hope this is helpful.

Viv (Plymouth, UK and sometimes BC, Canada)

In reply to Vivian Neal

Re: Team work - large class size

by Kassandra Clemens -
I was very interested in the conceptualisation of why students may react differently to group tasks. I do not have much experience with culturally diverse groups but have found that similar problems have confronted me with home students: some taking the lead or dominating while some telling me they do not understand what is asked of them, though the rest of the groups are already hard at work. Therefore, putting into place some of these activities would benefit my learners just the same as well as making the classroom tasks more accessible for culturally diverse students.
In reply to Kassandra Clemens

Re: Team work - large class size

by emma bourassa -
I agree that sometimes there are group issues with domestic students as well. One thing I have found critical in working with students is to tell them why I'm grouping them (e.g. they bring different life experience and knowledge so it builds on what I offer, how it leads to the next task etc.). I believe it is also necessary to include the piece on the value of diversity (rather than assuming this is known) , as the instructor in the video is demonstrating. I have to constantly remind myself that it is not the task that is paramount, it's the learning, so by telling students why, I reinforce my own reasons for the groupings.
In reply to Lynda Rodwell

Re: Team work - large class size

by Emma Duke-Williams -
In terms of preparing students for the work place, I worry about always ensuring you've got a good balance of students in each group (leaving aside issues of having too many of one 'type' in a class) - as at times individuals will have to perform many different roles - and may be in very unbalanced groups.

I tend to vary between directed groups, random ones & self selected. I think it depends on the nature of the task; the proportion of marks they're going to get for the group element vs. the individual element of the task, how long the task is going to take etc.