Pairing or grouping students does not automatically mean that collaborative learning is occurring. For effective group work there needs to be a group goal(s) and individual accountability. In this way the students will work as a group and know that everyone in the group may be called upon to report back to class.
For group work to be effective students need to be taught explicitly how to work together in different settings, such as pairs or larger groups, and they need to practise these skills. Assigning roles to the students in a group helps to clarify for each student what they are supposed to be doing and reduces the risk of one student dominating the group. Similarly, the selection of the members in a group and the structuring of the task are important if the activity is to be successful.
Here are some strategies to encourage collaboration:
- Think, pair, share
- Number talks
- Jigsaw activities
- Peer review/assessment
- Mathematics investigations
Example of the strategy in action