There have been multiple occasions throughout the course when we were assigned to work in groups of varying sizes. For this task we were asked to reflect on how group work can enhance learning in a classroom environment.
During the course we have often been put into small groups of two to three people to conceptualise ideas for tasks at the beginning of units, one such occasion was during our Professional Photographic Practice unit. We separated into our groups and were asked to generate possible photography briefs, asked to think about practicality, scheduling, purpose and ethics of each brief. Being in a small group required us to discuss our ideas and enabled us to approach each brief from all angles. Ideas were generated quickly and with enthusiasm, I believe we came up with many more ideas collectively than had we done individually. Within our groups we were asked to share our ideas with the class, and each of us were required to share at least one idea individually, this allowed each person an equal amount of time and space to share ideas – the final result was a varied list of briefs that were well thought out and conceptualised. I believe this was the best approach to the task and later helped generate my own ideas for my individual work.
Another example of group work which I felt benefitted me was during the Using A DSLR unit. The unit was formed of highly practical tutorials, learning exposure and aperture and applying them with creative intentions. As this unit would ideally require a lot of one-to-one individualised instruction from our tutor, which was simply not achievable within our class time with our class size. Therefore, we were broken down into pairs or a group of three to complete photography tasks relating to the tutorial. I was already familiar with camera controls, however I was using a camera new to me so had to get to grasps with it. I was paired with a student who had little experience with DSLR and therefore required help and support, through supporting my peer I actually got to grips with the controls quicker and repeatedly showing how to work functions really reinforced the knowledge for me. I think this was a successful learning method for me, and probably the group as a whole as the tutor was able to supervise weaker class members and divide her time with students more accordingly. Upon reflection, I realise that although working with someone else in this manner may at first be uncomfortable or not my preferred method of working (especially as an introvert), it was extremely effective for me and something I will have more confidence in doing so as I go further with my education and into the professional world.
We were asked to watch the following video and to make notes:
I made notes and reflected on the effectiveness of working in a group through the following questions:
- How does one achieve consensus about group goals and evaluate the effect on the group’s performance?
Successfully achieving a consensus about group goals, requires and encourages communication between students. It opens up a dialogue about the task at hand and allows students to begin to process material and be actively engaged in their learning. Students are able to share how they think about concepts and in turn receive other perspectives, allowing them to learn from each other. In order to achieve this consensus it also requires the students to learn about their fellow peers, and over time realising the strengths and weaknesses of all members of the team, to be able to tackle problems at hand in the most effective way.
Teachers and tutors can evaluate the effect on how well a group is performing by assessing the output of a group, perhaps in a class discussion where each group can share their work. Individual accountability is also an effective way to motivate students into being an active member of the group, by asking a student to produce a report or answer questions reflecting on the group activity. The construction of group work, how the groups are formed and what they are asked to produce are all excellent ways to evaluate a group’s performance, as well as listening to group discussion to ensure the groups are on track.
- How can a group monitor and evaluate its own effectiveness in relation to its goals and methods of operating?
A group can monitor and evaluate its own effectiveness by generating conversations amongst themselves, discovering their peers strengths and weaknesses and assess how to move forward in the most effective way. Peers sharing and receiving feedback enables the students to learn from each other, and process the material differently. Stronger members of the team may be able to teach other members of the team who do not yet grasp the concept, which enhances the learning experience for everyone.
In order to operate as an effective group, students need to trust each other, this can be done by working with the same group regularly over long periods of time, and encourages trust. A group should facilitate fair discussions where every team member is heard, to ensure they are using each team member to the best of their ability. A willingness to disagree is a vital component in evaluating effectiveness as it helps students resolve conflict in a comfortable way.