Designing Group Work - High School for Math, Science and

Wylie G. Burgan, AP – Supervision - Humanities Department
High School for Math, Science, & Engineering @ CCNY
clearly defined tasks; oral and written directions; students work in small groups; everyone
participates; students teach one another; no direct or immediate teacher supervision; teacher
delegates authority; student accountability; members need each other to complete final product.
Homogenous – ability level only or Heterogeneous – mixed. Always determined by teacher in
advance – either randomly or designed (Do not allow students to group themselves; Do not
assign friends or cliques to work together.)
division of labor (share/exchange)(distinguish from plagiarism); experiential learning; cognitive
and affective skill development; interpersonal communication skill development; social action
skill development – citizenship.
more than one way to solve problem; intrinsically interesting/rewarding; requires variety of skills;
reading, writing, speaking, and listening components; challeng-ing task, variety of components to
allow all unique participation; both written and oral instructions; clear expectations; groups of
five, four, or two.
have one single correct answer and/or solution set; can complete more easily individually rather
than collectively; too low level in skills, involves rote memorization, no written instructions;
unclear expectations; groups larger than five; groups of three may leave one in isolation
ask questions; listen actively; help others by showing/explaining; criticize peers
constructively, all share perspectives.
Direct Instruction:
-lecture and give directions
-tell students how to do task
-monitor students to keep on task
Cooperative Learning:
-provide feedback
-redirect group with questions
-encourage groups to solve its
own problems
-encourage critical thinking
-manage conflict; supply
resources; observe students
-recite facts/knowledge
-lead discussion
Things to
finished product representative of collaborative effort; collect list of group members names and
responsibilities/roles; peer evaluation (students complete evaluations before instructor shares
his/her comments.); rubric; worksheet as a guide to final product.
Preliminaries: (1)
Are the instructions/expectations clear?
Do the students know their respective tasks/roles?
Do the students know to ask peers for help as well as
help one another?
Are there students off-task/not-working/distracting
Are students working collaboratively instead of
Is each student fulfilling his/her role as assigned?
Do you see any evidence of conflict/confusion?
Is any one student dominating the group?
Is any one student isolated from the group?
Wylie G. Burgan, AP – Supervision - Humanities Department
High School for Math, Science, & Engineering @ CCNY
Students to
Have weaker students shown grasp of the problem?
Are low-status students participating? Is anyone
listening to them? Are they playing their assigned roles?
Am I hovering over students and not allowing them to
figure out things for themselves?
Am I spending lots of time keeping students on task?
Am I spending lots of time explaining instructions?
When students ask me questions, do I re-direct them to
the group?
Am I providing feedback by probing students further
with questions?
Do I have an additional dimension of the project in case
one group (or all groups) produce finished product
Class Activities that use Cooperative Learning
1. Jigsaw - Groups with five students are set up. Each group member is assigned some unique material to learn
and then to teach to his group members. To help in the learning, students across the class working on the same
sub-section get together to decide what is important and how to teach it. After practice in these "expert" groups,
the original groups reform and students teach each other.
2. Think-Pair-Share - Involves a three step cooperative structure. During the first step individuals think
silently about a question posed by the instructor. Individuals pair up during the second step and exchange
thoughts. In the third step, the pairs share their responses with other pairs, other teams, or the entire group.
3. Three-Step Interview - Each member of a team chooses another member to be a partner. During the first
step individuals interview their partners by asking clarifying questions. During the second step partners reverse
the roles. For the final step, members share their partner's response with the team.
4. Round Robin Brainstorming - Class is divided into small groups (4 to 6) with one person appointed as the
recorder. A question is posed with many answers and students are given time to think about answers. After the
"think time," members of the team share responses with one another round robin style. The recorder writes down
the answers of the group members. The person next to the recorder starts and each person in the group in order
gives an answer until time is called.
5. Three-minute review - Teachers stop any time during a lecture or discussion and give teams three minutes to
review what has been said, ask clarifying questions or answer questions.
6. Numbered Heads - A team of four is established. Each member is given numbers of 1, 2, 3, 4. Questions are
asked of the group. Groups work together to answer the question so that all can verbally answer the question.
Teacher calls out a number (two) and each two is asked to give the answer.
7. Team Pair Solo - Students do problems first as a team, then with a partner, and finally on their own. It is
designed to motivate students to tackle and succeed at problems which initially are beyond their ability. It is
based on a simple notion of mediated learning. Students can do more things with help (mediation) than they can
do alone. By allowing them to work on problems they could not do alone, first as a team and then with a partner,
they progress to a point they can do alone that which at first they could do only with help.
8. Circle the Sage - First the teacher polls the class to see which students have a special knowledge to share. For
example, the teacher may ask who in the class was able to solve a difficult math homework question, who had visited
Mexico, who knows the chemical reactions involved in how salting the streets help dissipate snow. Those students
Wylie G. Burgan, AP – Supervision - Humanities Department
High School for Math, Science, & Engineering @ CCNY
(the sages) stand and spread out in the room. The teacher then has the rest of the classmates each surround a sage,
with no two members of the same team going to the same sage. The sage explains what they know while the
classmates listen, ask questions, and take notes. All students then return to their teams. Each in turn, explains what
they learned. Because each one has gone to a different sage, they compare notes. If there is disagreement, they stand
up as a team. Finally, the disagreements are aired and resolved.
9. Partners - The class is divided into teams of four. Partners move to one side of the room. Half of each team is
given an assignment to master to be able to teach the other half. Partners work to learn and can consult with other
partners working on the same material. Teams go back together with each set of partners teaching the other set.
Partners quiz and tutor teammates. Team reviews how well they learned and taught and how they might improve the
10. Structured Learning Team Group Roles - When putting together groups, you may want to consider
assigning (or having students select) their roles for the group. Students may also rotate group roles depending
on the activity.
Potential group roles and their functions include:
Leader - The leader is responsible for keeping the group on the assigned task at hand. S/he also makes sure
that all members of the group have an opportunity to participate, learn and have the respect of their team
members. The leader may also want to check to make sure that all of the group members have mastered the
learning points of a group exercise.
Recorder - The recorder picks and maintains the group files and folders on a daily basis and keeps records of
all group activities including the material contributed by each group member. The recorder writes out the
solutions to problems for the group to use as notes or to submit to the instructor. The recorder may also
prepare presentation materials when the group makes oral presentations to the class.
Reporter - The reporter gives oral responses to the class about the group's activities or conclusions.
Monitor - The monitor is responsible for making sure that the group's work area is left the way it was found
and acts as a timekeeper for timed activities.
Wildcard (in groups of five) - The wildcard acts as an assistant to the group leader and assumes the role of
any member that may be missing.
Jigsaw in 10 Easy Steps - The jigsaw classroom is very simple to use. If you are a teacher, just follow these steps:
1. Divide students into 5- or 6-person jigsaw groups. The groups should be diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity,
race, and ability.
2. Appoint one student from each group as the leader. Initially, this person should be the most mature student in the
3. Divide the day's lesson into 5-6 segments. For example, if you want history students to learn about Eleanor
Roosevelt, you might divide a short biography of her into stand-alone segments on: (1) Her childhood, (2) Her
family life with Franklin and their children, (3) Her life after Franklin contracted polio, (4) Her work in the White
House as First Lady, and (5) Her life and work after Franklin's death.
4. Assign each student to learn one segment, making sure students have direct access only to their own segment.
5. Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. There is no need for them
to memorize it.
6. Form temporary "expert groups" by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the
same segment. Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to
rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group.
7. Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.
Wylie G. Burgan, AP – Supervision - Humanities Department
High School for Math, Science, & Engineering @ CCNY
8. Ask each student to present her or his segment to the group. Encourage others in the group to ask questions for
9. Float from group to group, observing the process. If any group is having trouble (e.g., a member is dominating or
disruptive), make an appropriate intervention. Eventually, it's best for the group leader to handle this task. Leaders
can be trained by whispering an instruction on how to intervene, until the leader gets the hang of it.
10. At the end of the session, give a quiz on the material so that students quickly come to realize that these sessions
are not just fun and games but really count.
What Is Think-Pair-Share?
Think-Pair-Share is a cooperative discussion strategy developed by Frank Lyman and his colleagues in Maryland. It gets
its name from the three stages of student action, with emphasis on what students are to be DOING at each of those stages.
How Does It Work?
1) Think. The teacher provokes students' thinking with a question or prompt or observation. The students should take a
few moments (probably not minutes) just to THINK about the question.
2) Pair. Using designated partners (such as with Clock Buddies), nearby neighbors, or a deskmate, students PAIR up to
talk about the answer each came up with. They compare their mental or written notes and identify the answers they think
are best, most convincing, or most unique.
3) Share. After students talk in pairs for a few moments (again, usually not minutes), the teacher calls for pairs to SHARE
their thinking with the rest of the class. She can do this by going around in round-robin fashion, calling on each pair; or
she can take answers as they are called out (or as hands are raised). Often, the teacher or a designated helper will record
these responses on the board or on the overhead.
Why Should I Use Think-Pair-Share?
We know that students learn, in part, by being able to talk about the content. But we do not want that to be a free-for-all.
Think-Pair-Share is helpful because it structures the discussion. Students follow a prescribed process that limits off-task
thinking and off-task behavior, and accountability is built in because each must report to a partner, and then partners must
report to the class.
Because of the first stage, when students simply THINK, there is Wait Time: they actually have time to think about their
answers. Because it is silent thinking time, you eliminate the problem of the eager and forward students who always shout
out the answer, rendering unnecessary any thinking by other students. Also, the teacher has posed the question, and she
has EVERYONE thinking about the answer, which is much different from asking a question and then calling on an
individual student, which leads some students to gamble they won't be the one out of 30 who gets called on and therefore
they don't think much about the question. Students get to try out their answers in the private sanctuary of the pair, before
having to "go public" before the rest of their classmates. Kids who would never speak up in class are at least giving an
answer to SOMEONE this way. Also, they often find out that their answer, which they assumed to be stupid, was actually
not stupid at all...perhaps their partner thought of the same thing. Students also discover that they rethink their answer in
order to express it to someone else, and they also often elaborate on their answer or think of new ideas as the partners
share. These, it seems, are powerful reasons to employ Think-Pair-Share in order to structure students' thinking and their
Three-Step Interview is a strategy that is effective when students are solving problems that have no specific right
answers. Three problem-solving steps are involved in this process. In step one the teacher presents an issue about which
varying opinions exist and poses several questions for the class to address. Step two, the students, in pairs become the
interviewer and the interviewee. Step three, after the first interview has been completed, the students’ roles are switched.
Wylie G. Burgan, AP – Supervision - Humanities Department
High School for Math, Science, & Engineering @ CCNY
After each student has had a turn, the pairs read their interviews to the class. After all interviews have been done, the
class writes a summary report of the interview results.
 (Example: A teacher presents stem cell research as a cure to Alzheimer’s disease then students pair off
and interview each other about this topic. Following the interviews a presentation to the class is made.)
Round Table or Rally Table are simple cooperative learning structures that cover much content, builds team spirit, and
incorporates writing. The roundtable has three steps to it. In the first step, the teacher poses a question that has multiple
answers. Step two, the first student in each group writes one response on a paper and passes the paper counterclockwise
to the next student. Finally, in step three, teams with the greatest number of correct responses gain some type of
recognition. This type of cooperative learning can easily be used in the science classroom. For example, the students may
be asked to write as many reptile names as they can. At the end the group with the most reptiles written down is
 (Example: A teacher displays a picture and asks what are various food chains found within the ecosystem
of the picture. One student writes a food chain on a piece of paper then passes the paper to other
members of the team for them to write a food chain that they see in the picture. Students continue to pass
around the paper until the teacher stops the activity or until a group runs out of answers.)
Three-minute review is used when the teachers stop any time during a lecture or discussion and allows teams three
minutes to review what has been said with their group. Students in their groups can ask a clarifying question to the other
members or answer questions of others.
 (Example: After discussing a multiple step process like digestion, students can form teams and review
the process or ask clarifying questions.)
Numbered Heads
Students should be assigned a number or numbered desk (e.g., 1,2,3,4,or 5) in order to manage student-learning teams. If
there are only 4 members on a team, then one team member is assigned both numbers 4 and 5. These numbers should
correspond directly to the TARGET roles (i.e., 1-Facilitator; 2-Supply Manager; 3-Coach; 4/5-Recorder/Data Manager.
This strategy can be used in many ways throughout the school day.
1. The teacher poses a question. Students huddle up and put their heads together to discuss responses. The teacher
calls a number at random. The students with that number raise their hands. The teacher selects one of the students
to respond. If more information is needed the teacher may call on another student with that number, or may call a
new number.
2. Numbered heads can be used to easily transition team members into other grouping arrangements. For example,
all head #1's for a group, all head # 2's form a group, etc.
Learning Accommodations
 Depending on your needs, you may choose to assign students who need additional support the same head number
within different groups. Therefore, numbers are used to "jigsaw" students into different groups. The special
educator or another adult can provide this group with accommodations or you may choose to retain diversity
across both teams and students with the same head number in order to provide heterogeneous grouping across all
academic instruction.
Team Pair Solo
Team works a problem to completion, then splits into pairs. Pairs work a similar problem together. Then pairs split into
solo students who individually work the same type of problem. This strategy builds confidence when attempting more
difficult content material.
Wylie G. Burgan, AP – Supervision - Humanities Department
High School for Math, Science, & Engineering @ CCNY
Circle the Sage
This structure is a great way to address group questions. The steps are:
A question is posed by facilitator or participants
The facilitator asks for 3 - 4 sages who feel they could answer the question. They do not need to be experts, just
have information to share.
The sages move to different locations in the room. Participants divide themselves equally around different sages.
Sages answer the questions.
Participants thank sage for sharing knowledge and return to teams.
Participants share learning with team.
Primary Reference:
Cohen, Elizabeth, Designing Group Work (Teachers College Press, NY), 1994