EFFECTIVE GROUP SIZE FOR MAXIMUM LEARNING
Group teaching and learning has played an important role in education over the last forty years, as it has become a great way of encouraging students, and enhancing the process of deep learning through collaborative work.
Advantages of Group teaching/learning: Learning in group settings seem to have countless advantages. It is believed that group teaching and learning sessions benefit students by increasing their interest on the subject matter, improving critical thinking and knowledge retention. These sessions also help develop students’ interpersonal skills as they require students to work in a team. Hence giving them an oppurtunity for peer-peer interaction and thereby improving their communication skills. Such group activities encourage students to articulate their thoughts with confidence and foment views, laying the groundwork for self-directed learning, thus eventually (and idealistically) gaining independence from their instructors or teachers.
However, it is essential that teachers bear in mind the ways in which groups may interact regardless of their size or composition. While there are a host of external factors such as the nature of the physical environment and seating arrangements that may influence group dynamics, it is the the size of the group that seems to play a vital role. Group sizes are crucial points of consideration, as they play a key role in placing limitations on the tasks and functions that the groups are expected to perform. Hence, a good understanding of this area will be useful to teachers when they work with a small number of learners or when they plan activities that involves breaking larger groups into smaller teams.
Effective group size: The abovementioned benefits of group teaching and learning can be maximised with an effective group size. It has been found that effective group size develops better investigation of issues as it allows students to test their knowledge and higher order thinking skills such as analysis, evaluation and synthesis. It also fosters the ability to reflect upon learning activities, cultivate self-regulatory skills and accept responsibility for one’s progress; all necessary components of lifelong learning. On top of that, students also learn transferable skills such as leadership, teamwork, organization, prioritization, problem solving and time management; all of which will come in handy througout the learner’s various life experiences. Studies have shown that the most effective group size to reap these benefits would range between 3-6 students.
Small group teaching methods: Small-group teaching may require the educator to have a repertoire of teaching techniques. However, despite the availability of a range of small-group teaching methods, the instructor will have to make the appropriate choice based on the expected learning outcome. Nonetheless, there seems to be a commonly used approach that has proved to be rather effective- problem-based learning. This technique requires the teacher to develop stimulus questions on which the group should work on before discussing and sharing their findings. This adaptable method has gained popularity as it can be applied to various subject matters and age groups.
On the whole, small-group teaching and learning sessions build a productive academic environment and is an effective strategy for dynamic and collaborative learning. These sessions also foster a positive learning attitude in the student making them more receptive to knowledge; they also serve an important role in cultivating the growth of higher order thinking skills, which are vital to deep learning. Such interactions arm students with important soft skills, which they apply outside the classrooms as well. This is reason why Brainworks Education believes in conducting group tuitions with smaller group sizes. Our tuition groups consist of no more than 6 students per class to ensure the effectiveness of each and every session.
Source: Sultan A.M. (2013). Basic steps in establishing effective small group teaching sessions in medical schools. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 29(4). 1071-1076. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3817785/
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