Working in groups

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Most people will be familiar with the term "group" and will have formed or been part of a group at some stage in their lives. For example, a friendship group or a family group will be obvious examples.

For the purposes of this section of the curriculum we will refer to a group as; "A group made up of individuals with shared needs who will benefit from the opportunity to work with, and learn from others in order to develop skills knowledge and attitudes".


Effective groups of young people productively working together do not just happen. I am sure you have all had times where your "groups" have in fact been just the opposite, with perhaps the more vocal individuals taking over and others in the group working individually and protecting the work that they have, individually, produced in a group! Frustrating for you, yes, but imagine how the learners feel?! It requires skill from the teacher to enable the learners to acquire the knowledge and skills of participation. Latest research into learning theory shows that learning is a social activity. Relationships within groups need to be supportive and a healthy level of challenge must be present. Facilitated properly, group work can be a major key to engaging learners in their learning. This Wiki will show you how to use social media to enable you to promote this. Group work is contructivist in nature, but only if it allows each individual in the group to construct their own meanings from the information that they are gathering. Learning involves an emotional as well as a cognitive element. Individuals within a group will possess particular pieces of knowledge, often pieces of knowledge that others in the group will not already possess. Likewise the same individual will have gaps in their knowledge. However, by working together they will be able to gain access to the knowledge that others possess. This is gained through the process of dialogue from all members of the group. This approach is key, as Coffield and Williamson state ‘dialogue is collective...reciprocal... supportive... cumulative... and purposeful’ (2011, p.51).

This section of the Wiki will provide you with some key practical ideas on how to use social media for group work. It could be argued that social media IS group work, a way of seamlessly learning through collaboration and social networking- two heads are better than one, but what about 20 or 200 or 2000 heads? This is the opportunity of group work and social media. Many of you may already be familiar with elements of social media, either in your personal or work life. This section will give you some background on the benefits of group working in a classroom(and beyond)learning environment and the degree to which social media can facilitate this and magnify the benefits of collaboration. Students will always find their own place to talk- so in terms of managing teaching and how this changes teaching, the teacher needs to facilitate and even direct the learners to the places where they can do this.

Social media is empowering and can be very inclusive.

are social media "re-inventing" the classroom?

Many of today's learners have grown up with social media , for example, for many their mobile phone is like another limb - they feel that they cannot function properly without it! Why would we want to tell our students to switch their phones off for example, when they can engage them in some excellent independent learning opportunities- this is one of the barriers that the teacher must overcome- that of what "normally" happens in a classroom.

We need to start to think about how we teach; we need to start to think about how our learners learn- research shows that 99% of young people participate on-line, average learner participation rates in the classroom are 10%. Anybody that is a teacher understands the value of and the buzz you get from full participation and engagement in the classroom - imagine the benefits to the learner?!

We are talking about "Digital Natives" ( a term coined by Marc Prensky, 2001);

digital natives?

What do we want our students to be? Innovative creative ? Critical thinkers, collaborative learners? Where do all the good ideas come from anyway?;

where do all the good ideas come from?

All groups move through certain phases as they form. From the very start, groups work best if people know each others' names and a bit of their background and experience, especially those parts that are related to the task at hand- that is why ice breakers are so important and set out the basics that then allow the group to bond and move forward. Take time to introduce yourselves. Be sure to include everyone when considering ideas about how to proceed as a group. Some may never have participated in a small group in a learning setting. Others may have ideas about what works well. Allow time for people to express their inexperience and hesitations as well as their experience with group projects. Most groups select a leader early on, especially if the work is a long-term project, however, depending on your context, you as the teacher may choose to do this or , initially the group may not have an obvious leader, depending on the task at hand. Other options for leadership in group work include taking turns for different stages or different phases of the work. Everyone needs to discuss and clarify the goals of the group's work. Go around the group and hear everyone's ideas (before discussing them) or encourage divergent thinking by brainstorming- again social media has fantastic sites that can enable learners to do this collectively.

If you miss this step, trouble may develop part way through the project. Some common anxieties that learners have that prevent groups from being successful are; I'm afraid I'll look stupid. Will others like me? Will I make a fool of myself? What if everyone rejects me? What if the group attacks me? Will I tell too much about myself? I'm afraid I'll be withdrawn What will happen if I really open up my feelings? Will people talk about me outside the group? What if I'm asked to do something I don't want to do? What if others can tell I'm afraid and nervous? What if people laugh and make fun of me?

Even though time is scarce and you may have a big project ahead of you, groups may take some time to settle in to work. If you anticipate this, you may not be too impatient with the time it takes to get started. As mentioned previously, Tuckman (1965) talks of four key stages that most groups will go through before they start to perform and become productive;

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing

(adding Adjourning as the fifth stage in 1977)

If a group is functioning well, work is getting done and constructive group processes are creating a positive atmosphere. In good groups the individuals may contribute differently at different times- again this is the beauty of social media- blogs can be added to at any time of the day or night- there are no contraints around timetabled classrooms. They cooperate and human relationships are respected. This may happen automatically or individuals, at different times, can make it their job to maintain the atmospbere and human aspects of the group- a person in the group can be allocated this role- most effectively by the group members themselves. When a group is performing well, all members have a chance to express themselves and to influence the group's decisions. All contributions are listened to carefully, and strong points acknowledged. Everyone realizes that the job could not be done without the cooperation and contribution of everyone else. Differences are dealt with directly with the person or people involved. The group identifies all disagreements, hears everyone's views and tries to come to an agreement that makes sense to everyone. Even when a group decision is not liked by someone, that person will follow through on it with the group. The group encourages everyone to take responsibility, and hard work is recognized. When things are not going well, everyone makes an effort to help each other. There is a shared sense of pride and accomplishment Seeking information or opinions - requesting facts, preferences, suggestions and ideas. (Could you say a little more about...Would you say this is a more workable idea than that?) Giving information or opinions - providing facts, data, information from research or experience. (ln my experience I have seen...May I tell you what I found out about...? ) Questioning - stepping back from what is happening and challenging the group or asking other specific questions about the task. (Are we assuming that... ? Would the consequence of this be... ?) Clarifying - interpreting ideas or suggestions, clearing up confusions, defining terms or asking others to clarify. This role can relate different contributions from different people, and link up ideas that seem unconnected. (lt seems that you are saying...Doesn't this relate to what [name] was saying earlier?) Summarizing - putting contributions into a pattern, while adding no new information. This role is important if a group gets stuck. Some groups officially appoint a summarizer for this potentially powerful and influential role. (If we take all these pieces and put them together...Here's what I think we have agreed upon so far... Here are our areas of disagreement...)

It is important that the teacher has strong emotional intelligence as some learners will feel more confident about working in groups than others.


So how can we use social media with group activities in our teaching contexts?

Well the opportunities are endless- the following will hopefully give you some suggestions - it is then up to you to play around with the various sites to determine which ones will be best for you and your learners. Remember,as with all technology, the philosophy is the same ; "if you don't use it , you will lose it!"

Students can use Google + to discuss their projects- they can even get online video conferencing free for up to 10 people using Google Hangout and to keep a record of the group discussion can even get it posted straight up to YouTube- pretty cool huh?!

Twitter can be used to quickly "tweet" an idea and then get instant feedback within 140 characters as to what other members of the group think of that idea: Twitter

Titanpad is another great way of keeping in touch- in the classroom or out. It would be best to allocate a group member to lead the pad on each occasion as they have to invite everyone else- if this is proving difficult because the group has not yet reached that stage then the teacher can elect to lead the group- but ideally you want the learners to grow to be independent enough to use out of hours (otherwise your time as a teacher will spill over more than it usually does!). They would need to have the email of everyone in the group and then invite them to the pad. Each member then comes up when they type in a different colour and again this can be saved and exported as records of work and participation of different members of the group. See this extract;


Then click the play button to see how the conversation went between who- transparent participation for the teacher. This is a very good use of social media facilitating group work as it removes the loudest voice- an element of group work that freqently intimidates other members of the group.

This conversation can then be saved as a word or PDF file using the "Import/Export" button.

Marketplace; This is a great activity that can be used in the classroom that I am going to adapt to social media. First of all classroom use. Get the students into groups of say 4. The topic that they ultimately have to present on is "key milestones in travel and tourism in the 20th and 21st Century and their impact on the industry." You would choose 4 milestones- for example,the introduction of the cruise ship, the Second World War, the introduction of the jet engine; the introduction of the package holiday, etc. Each student is one of these milestones and has to go around the "marketplace" looking for information on these key milestones to bring back to their group. In an ordinary classroom it would take the teacher quite a bit of time to prepare all of the resources to put around the room at the various "market stalls" for the students to go and look for the information relevant to them. Along the way they would bump into other students that were looking for information for the same milestone as them and they would hopefully share their findings and then take their information back to their teams. The teams then have to present back to the teacher on their findings. To make this more virtual, within the classroom setting the students may all have access to iPads or tablets or computers or could just use their smartphones. Now imagine this with a "virtual classroom" i.e. students having access to all the information and resources on the web- at a time allocated by themselves and you- perhaps partially in the classroom, perhaps to research and collaborate as homework outside of the classroom setting.

Instead of getting students to go around the classroom looking for resources, you could get them to register at ZITE

Zite is an online magazine where you type in themes that you are interested in and it will load articles that particularly refer to that topic or area of interest. Each student could set up their own "Zite" with the milestone that you had allocated them in their minds and type in topics that they feel might bring back useful information and articles on that topic- searching the world wide web for literally millions of pieces of information for the students.

Look at the following for a tutorial on using Zite;

digital natives?

You could sub group the students in to working together on one milestone and swapping articles, peer discussing and peer assessing their articles, through a blog or something similar to Titanpad that we talked about earlier, evaluating them for their impact and relevance on the travel and tourism industry. They then break back into their main groups and pull in all their information from their "Zites" on each of their milestones to create a phenomenal presentation via video that can then be uploaded to the class YouTube site that you as the teacher have set up- with music!Or they students could create their own Pinterest board as a different social media to present their findings.

See this video for a tutorial on how to use Pinterest;

digital natives?

Either of these methods would be engaging collaboration and group work using social media at its best!


There are hundreds of Social Media sites and there is a lot of literature out there on the pedagogy around using social media, group work and why social media is so appealing to us as humans. Take a look at this article that came from adding Neuroscience, Education and Social Media to a "Zite sight";

"This Brain Part decides what goes Viral on Social Media"


Coffield, F. & Williamson, B. (2011) From exam factories to communities of discovery: the democratic route, London, Institute of Education

An interesting resource from Learn Higher Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning that go through some of the advantages and disadvantages of group work;


Tuckman,B (1965)‘Developmental sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399. The article was reprinted in Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal ? Number 3, Spring 2001 and is available as a Word document: "" Accessed January 14, 2005.

Bales, R. F. (1965) ‘The equilibrium problem in small groups’ in A. P. Hare, E. F. Borgatta and R. F. Bales (eds.) Small Groups: Studies in social interaction, New York: Knopf.

Brown, R. (1999) Group Processes 2e, Oxford: Blackwell.

Forsyth, D. R. (1990, 1998) Group Dynamics, Pacific Grove CA.: Brooks/Cole Publishing.

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner, London: Temple Smith.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965) ‘Developmental sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399. The article was reprinted in Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal ? Number 3, Spring 2001 and is available as a Word document: Accessed January 14, 2005.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1972) Conducting Educational Research, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Fifth edition 1999 by Wadsworth.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1979) Evaluating Instructional Programs, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1984) ‘Citation classic – Developmental sequence in small groups’ Current Concerns. Available: as a pdf file: ""

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1988; 1998) The Long Road to Boston, Tallahassee, FL: Cedarwinds Publishing.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1996) Theories and Applications of Educational Psychology, New York: McGraw Hill. Third edition with D. Moneth published 2001.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (2003) ‘Homepage’, Ohio State University,, Accessed January 14, 2005.

Tuckman, Bruce W., & Jensen, Mary Ann C. (1977). ‘Stages of small group development revisited’, Group and Organizational Studies, 2, 419- 427.

Tuckman, Bruce W. and O’Brian, John. L. (1969) Preparing to Teach the Disadvantaged, New York: Free Press

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