A slightly more ‘out there’ idea
Recently I’ve been using Myers-Briggs personality tests to help with group organisation and how tasks are orientated to these groups. My basic idea came from hearing a friend’s experience with a dating website, I recognised a ying-yang quality to this system that seemed simplistic enough to be true.
I have always found group work a bit of a drag! My personal tactic at school was to doss about, not co-operate with classmates and then quickly come up with something unusual that no other group had said. It worked! Even at University and during my Masters study this seemed to pay dividends. Perhaps this is why I am naturally suspicious of it as a teaching technique. It leaves a lot to chance and doesn’t allow for the introverted-showman, the clowning-intellectual, the ‘Adrian Mole’ or, and perhaps most importantly, the oh-so quiet girl. The latter can often find her brilliant ideas shouted down or worse, she is given the pen and told to get on with the lacky work.
Of course, many teachers have proposed assigning roles to different students. This often becomes a pyramid management structure, strangely with ‘that boy’ becoming the big-bad boss, and yep our oh-so quiet lands the lacky work! At best it looks something like Brian Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies’ and ends up with the highest ability producing something slightly worse than usual and the low end something slightly better.
I’m drawn therefore to two ideas which are quiet simple: accountability and grouping intelligently. Alex Ferguson, in his naff 2nd biography, states that a managers only role is to pick the best people to work together and stop them being ‘bloody lazy.’
I used these two strategies and found great success.
Simplified Myers Briggs Type Compatibility Chart.
A compatibility match up which seeks to form positive relationships, or where necessary antagonistic groups who question each other to near breaking.
I would say that I am quite good at gauging how to organise groups, however what this does is remove human error and empathy. Obviously, there are negatives to this, but I often found myself ‘giving in’ to emotional students. This system removes me from the equation, and students (generally speaking) accept their groups unquestioningly.
Far better explanations than I could ever give exist here http://www.corndancer.com/tunes/tunes_print/soccirc.pdf and many other places!
This is the one thing I’ve employed recently that I would say has been totally transformative to my use of group work. The students take the lead and I sit back, observe and gawp at their ability to use higher-order questions.
Evidence on both of these things is purely anecdotal, but my honest opinion is that my classroom feels more like a space for enquiry than ever before. I’m hoping the Myers Briggs provides some solid answers for the question ‘who should work together when?’ but time will tell. The main positive is probably my increased use of group work and my rejuvenated confidence in its ability to support student progress.