A self-funded project set up in 2015 by EMC, to investigate group work in English – what it has to offer, what makes it successful (or less so), what it’s good for (and conversely what it isn’t good for).
We wanted to go beyond the broad, sweep of pedagogical comment and research, which is rarely focused on subjects, and most often offers ideas about issues such as group size, composition, rules and etiquette, structures for group activities and so on. Instead, we are looking more closely and analytically at how group work operates in the subject of English. In doing so, we are exploring a range of other issues, with 10 key themes emerging from our early work. (See below).
The project is led by EMC staff, Barbara Bleiman and Kate Oliver. We are currently working with a group of about 10 teachers in secondary schools. New members have joined along the way, having seen presentations about the work at conferences or in CPD. We welcome others interested in taking part.
It is genuinely investigative and open-ended, responsive to the thinking of the teachers involved, and to what we observe. EMC staff give structure to the project, providing a steer and drawing on our own experience and other research to support its development. The data is largely in the form of classroom filming, observation, reflection, discussion, questionnaires and interviews. It is not based on randomised controlled trials or on quantitative data. It does not start out with a hypothesis to prove or disprove, tied closely to proof of ‘impact’. Rather, it is a quest for greater understanding, a collection of evidence that can be shared between teachers, and a form of research firmly rooted in classrooms that evolves as our thinking changes. It is not looking for a single answer but for answers; it is looking for ways of improving our own reflective and analytical skills when it comes to judging what is good group work in English; it is searching for insights that can help us become more skilled users of it as an element of classroom activity.
This project page collects together some of the material we have been sharing with teachers so far, largely in the form of blogposts on the EMC blog but also some separate videoclips and other material from our work in schools. The blogs are mainly written by Barbara Bleiman but also include a guest blog by Richard Long, one of the teachers we worked with. More blogs will follow.
Barbara Bleiman presented at ResearchEd at Chobham Academy, Stratford on September 9th 2017. Here is her PowerPoint presentation (with the large videoclips omitted but some tasters available on this page). Her handout is also available, offering useful references to research papers, websites and other material about group work and dialogic learning in the classroom.
Email Barbara Bleiman for more information, for details of how to request CPD or a conference presentation on our work, or if you’d like to take part in the project yourself.